Friday, December 23, 2011

Deicide - Once Upon the Cross (1995)

Once Upon the Cross is the third full-length album from Deicide, and displays a certain amount of regression in musical style. Released in early 1995, this is the sort of record that works well as an introduction to Death Metal, due to its accessible nature. Though not an awful release, this record marks the beginning of Deicide's decline and the point where the band became a caricature of itself.

The material is very average and boring, at times. None of the riffs possess even the slightest hint of evil or darkness, a far cry from the band's self-titled debut. The songwriting is very simplistic, when compared to Legion, and some have intimated that the change in direction came as a result of the previous album being too much for many listeners to wrap their brains around. That does not seem too likely, since their sophomore effort was not as complex as some believe. Whatever the reason was, Once Upon the Cross would appear to revert back to the band's original path, yet it would be unfair to put this anywhere near the first record. For one, the music rarely ever moves at a decent pace; everything seems to drag a bit. There is no intensity to the playing. So, without any energetic feeling or dark atmosphere, the only thing that prevents this album from being completely ignored is the fact that it is rather catchy. That is not a quality that is really desired within Death Metal, but it is safe to say that is the main reason why people continue to listen to this. It is very rhythmic and the vocal patterns are easy to digest as they follow along with the main riffs, more often than not. Benton's style is even deeper than before and it is at this point where he really begins to lose his identity and to sound like most other generic Death Metal vocalists.

The lyrics are, of course, concerned with Satanic and anti-Christian themes. Naturally, it would not be Deicide without a great deal of disdain shown for Judeo-Christian mythology, which ties in well with the cover art that depicts a bloodstained sheet over a disemboweled Christ. The band's lyrics were never all that intelligent or articulate, yet something about Once Upon the Cross comes off as less serious. The thing is, as long as the song titles are more creative than "Kill the Christian", the actual content would matter a little less. I would be lying if I said this was not all sort of appealing as a fifteen-year old, when this first came out, but it wore thin quite quickly.

As for the production, it sort of matches the lethargic pace of the music. The guitar tone is thicker and goes along well with the beefed up bass and drum sound, along with the deeper vocals, in creating a dense and heavy sound. Everything is a little too polished and this does not help the album out, much. Still, with the simplistic riffs and the catchy choruses, even the most underground production could not have salvaged this record.

Once Upon the Cross is not the worst that Deicide has ever offered up, but it is less interesting than those that preceded it and the one that followed. Most Deicide fans will probably approve of this, and it serves well as the type of album that one would use to ease someone into Death Metal. That said, it really lacks in quality and is quite laughable when compared to the band's first L.P.