Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deicide - Legion (1992)

Not too long after acquiring Deicide's self-titled debut album, I found myself eager for more of the same and ended up returning to the record store and buying Legion, their sophomore effort. It seems that a lot of people had difficulty adjusting to this offering, as it was far more technical than their first album; however, I seemed to appreciate it with no problem. At the time, I liked the intense and brutal approach, though the primary attraction came from the blasphemous and Satanic sentiment that was present in each track. At the time, I was finishing the process of killing any expectations that certain relatives had, regarding religion, and bands like Deicide and Slayer helped in some odd way. After burning a bible that was given as an insulting Christmas gift, Legion was among the albums that filled the rest of the night as I 'cleansed' myself of even having to touch such filth.

Released in June 1992 on Roadrunner Records, this album represented somewhat of a departure from the style present on their first L.P. The songwriting is much more complex, to a degree, though the truth is that it is still as simplistic as ever, in other ways. The music is much more percussive than on the first record, resulting in the drumming becoming as prominent (if not moreso) than the guitar riffs. While the Hoffman brothers unleash several fast riffs, the drums rarely follow along at top speed; rather, Asheim spends more time playing around with the double bass. In fact, blast beats are found few and far in-between. This can be frustrating for listeners that continue waiting for the band to pick up the tempo. The guitar riffs rarely ever get an opportunity to stand on their own, as there is never a moment where the double bass is not filling up space where it really is not necessary. "In Hell I Burn" may be the most enjoyable song on here, since things actually speed up during the verses. As well, "Revocate the Agitator" maintains a fairly fast pace, though it is not entirely bereft of the more useless passages. The lead solos are very short and seem to be tossed in out of obligation, rather than to add anything to the songs, taking an influence from Reign in Blood. There are evil riffs, here and there, such as in "Repent to Die", but the potential is totally wasted. One can still tell that it is the same band, for whatever that is worth. The vocals represent another problem, as Benton opted to utilize a much lower pitch than before, killing off one of the best elements of Deicide's sound. He still employs the higher-pitched growls for the over-dubbed parts, but it is not quite the same. His voice sounded much more evil in the past, while his sound on Legion is more akin to that of an angry bear. Many of the vocal patterns are too catchy, like "Dead But Dreaming" and "Holy Deception".

The production is a source of complaint, as well. This sounds far too modern and clean, which matches the cover art, quite well. The percussion is way too high in the mix, though that may be somewhat necessary due to the poor songwriting that makes the drumming such an integral part of the music, instead of focusing on the guitar riffs. The overall tone of Legion is much less serious than the band was striving for, partially due to the bass and drums being so loud, which creates an almost comical effect. The guitars never stand out enough to really make much of an impact, which is as much of a flaw of the production as it is of the songwriting.

Legion is an average album. It is not terrible, but it really is a good example of how Death Metal was transforming, at the time. Already in 1992, bands were moving away from the dark atmosphere and guitar-driven material and opting for a brutal and modern sound, deep vocals and overpowering percussion. If you are into Satanic Death Metal in the vein of the early albums from Hypocrisy and Necrophobic, this should suit you.