Monday, December 26, 2011

Deicide - Serpents of the Light (1997)

By 1997, it was quite evident that Glen Benton was very serious about serving the will of his evil master. The only thing was that his master was not Satan, but the almighty dollar. Deicide's fourth full-length album, Serpents of the Light, was released in October of that year and was even more accessible than their previous effort. This, combined with the fact that they embraced the Black Metal trend that was hitting American shores that year, and it was very clear that the band was merely a vehicle for the four members to line their pockets, instead of possessing any true desire to spread the message of Hell.

Such an assertion is backed up by the poor songwriting. Now, in many ways, this is more enjoyable than Once Upon the Cross. The overall pace is faster, though the music is not lacking in the memorable groove parts. It still has a rhythmic feel, very much driven by the percussion and vocal patterns that follow closely along. While there are certainly more fast riffs than on the last record, none of them really have a feeling of darkness or evil. Deicide never had much in common with the early Death Metal bands, so it is not as if they lost that type of atmosphere. However, at least on their first album there was an aura of evil. Serpents of the Light is somewhat gloomy, but that is about it. Some of this may be due to the droning riffs and the melodic lead solos that do their best to give some kind of life to the songs. The vocals are even more boring than before, getting deeper and more generic. Furthermore, the vocal patterns are fairly uniform, throughout the whole album. The lyrics are basically interchangeable, in structure and content.

Speaking of the lyrics, it seems that there was some sort of shift this time around. Most of the songs carry a strong anti-Christian sentiment, which is expected. However, there really is nothing Satanic about this. The whole approach is more reality-based and ends up coming across rather tame, especially compared to a song such as "When Satan Rules His World", which was on the last L.P. There is one track that sticks out, which deals with things from a different perspective. "The Truth Above" deals with the topic of mankind coming from aliens, maybe because the band spent a little time listening to Hypocrisy's The Fourth Dimension or Abducted. It does show a little development in lyrical themes, and ends up being on of the most interesting songs, musically, as well.

The production is the main point of different between Serpents of the Light and Once Upon the Cross. While the latter was boring and typical, resulting in a flat and uninspired sound, the former appears to take some influence from Black Metal, which was becoming popular in the states around the time this album was being worked on. The guitar tone is thinner and has a sharp sound instead of the blunt tone from the previous record. Everything is more crisp, though the vocals really sound out of place with this sort of production. It would have made more sense for Benton to return to his earlier style, emphasizing the higher-pitched parts and leaving the deeper stuff for other bands.

Serpents of the Light is the last Deicide album worth bothering with. Really, the first one is the only one that is essential, while the three that follow are merely for those that need a bit more from the band. This was the final release to have any real continuity, before the guys kept trying to reinvent themselves or figure out how to recapture what they lost many years earlier. This is not really recommended as, by this point, the band's act had grown stale and watered-down.