With the uncanny, preternatural strength of a freshly-awakened zombie’s cold, undead grasp, Deceased have maintained a tenacious grip on death metal ever since the crude beginnings of the genre in the early '80s. And although it’s been a few years, like all the best reanimated, B-movie horror monsters, Deceased are impossible to keep down and have risen again, grizzled and grotesque and ready to wreak havoc. Back with a vengeance, their new album 'Ghostly White' returns to their much-beloved themes, with all the indulgently lurid trappings of their searing, self-proclaimed ‘death metal from the grave’.
Kicking off the album is a macabre meditation on one of horror’s most ghastly apparitions that is perhaps the most accomplished offering, blending the brilliant technical skill, raw metal and sinister, cult-horror undertones that have enabled Deceased to claw out their niche. Named for the creepy spectral villain of '70s schlocky horror film Burnt Offerings, the shudder-some 'Mrs Allardyce' mingles wonderfully dark and twisted atmospherics with splenetic thrash, touching on the most morbid, lingeringly human obsessions of a mind beyond the veil of death. With expectations high, it’s a shame that 'Germ of Distorted Lore' follows this near-masterpiece. At an overly self-indulgent 13 minutes, this track doesn’t have the strength or structure to fully support its unwieldy length and despite some wickedly powerful guitar solos, all but the most persistent listeners will be tempted to skip along. Instead of dragging this one out, the band might have been better focused on creating some more new material.
As the album gallops on through 'A Palpation’s Warning' to 'The Shivers', there’s little variation in the scalding heavy metal, a heady assault of death, thrash and guttural, growling vocals that scorch the synapses, and while it’s all great fun it can feel like yet another overly extended 'Germ...'. However, a couple of numbers swim against the rambunctious tide. Even with its backdrop of demented drumming, 'Thoughts of a Leaking Brain' seems to slither along at a more contemplative pace, with some melancholy tremolo work and riffs that echo like cathedral chimes. 'Final track Pale Surroundings', with its invocation to ‘stay forever my love’ is the only one that comes close to 'Mrs Allardyce’s' chilling fragility of sound. Balancing eerie, siren-like vocals from guest star Jillian Smith with King Fowley’s habitual raging raptures and some leaden, seductive chords, the track races along at a frenzied beat before enfolding into lurid, velvet darkness, the perfect denouement.
Although 'Ghostly White' ticks all the Deceased boxes and has been greeted with rapturous praise from the band’s hardened, hardcore fan base, they haven’t quite captured the devilish wizardry of their glory days. But while this flawed creation is no 'Fearless Undead Machines', it’s still worth the hard-earned cash and is a boisterously decadent treat.
'Ghostly White' is out now via Hell's Headbangers