Contrary to what is commonly the credo of mainstream culture, there is a point where shock value becomes redundant and bands that were once thought the epitome of culturally dangerous need to be judged on their musical merits. In keeping with this, it is important to note that DEICIDE tends to rate high amongst bands blacklisted as being “a threat to the children,” and have been decried by culture warriors the world over for more than 2 decades. Some might argue that those crazy Norsemen who took to church burning are the real outcasts, but this band tends to have much more name recognition amongst prohibitionist enthusiasts, though I’m sure MAYHEM and BURZUM might enjoy similar infamy should they become better known to these sorts. But for someone like me who just simply likes good Metal, it is little more than poetic aesthetics, and ones that don’t really demand a look at the lyric sheet despite the words not always being clearly enunciated from Glen Benton’s throat.
As a band, DEICIDE has always struck me as fairly predictable, and pretty well locked into the SLAYER to CANNIBAL CORPSE paradigm, though sticking more closely to the orthodoxies of the former than that of the latter. “To Hell With God” is another exercise in revisiting this tried and true formula, reminding somewhat of “Once Upon The Cross” in it’s simplicity, but having a crisp modern production and a more refined guitar performance out of those players who are noted as not being the Hoffman brothers. There’s more blast beats, the riffs cross back and forth between wandering Teutonic Thrash and MORBID ANGEL-like sludgy tremolo madness, and the lead work has a markedly mature and organized tendency to it, in spite of Ralph Santolla’s slight tendency towards self-indulgent shredding. This is a mean, lean, highly compacted machine of bruisers that is about as tight and together as they come, complete with one of the more minimalist and percussive vocal performances out of our favorite Big Foot eyewitness.
The greatest enemy that this album has, and one that kind of keeps it boxed in towards a solid yet somewhat anti-climactic nature, is how methodical it is. Each riff, each combination of deep and slightly higher pitched barks, every blast and breakdown comes in exactly where it’s expected, leaving very few wow moments. Within this somewhat overly limited collection of brutal possibilities lays a few really good songs that lend themselves more to individual obsession, the most obvious of which are “To Hell With God” and “How Can You Call Yourself A God” for a greater supply of twists and turns that tend to come with slightly longer songs. There’s a few intercessions into slower, sludgy sounding riff work before the high tempo pandemonium ensues, and some of the leads flirt with being melodic. “Hang In Agony Until You’re Dead” also has a couple of nice punchy yet dissonant grooves to change things up amidst a mess of shorter songs that fly at warp speed in a manner reminiscent of the unrelenting sameness of “Reign In Blood.”
At the end of the day, this is an album that warrants few complaints, but falls just a tiny bit short of a full blown love affair. It beats the hell out of their middle era nonsense, but that in itself isn’t a massive accomplishment. This is Death Metal by the numbers, putting the pedal to the metal, and frontloading the vehicle with the usual assortment of dissonant and chromatic goodness. Guitar solo enthusiasts will find a better version of what CANNIBAL CORPSE attempts on every single album, something that actually might be close to as memorable as the brilliance normally heard out of Trey Azagthoth circa “Blessed Are The Sick” or even Santolla’s own work on with DEATH on the "Individual Thought Patterns" tour. Unfortunately, the solos tend to upstage the rest of the songs, which normally shouldn’t be the case on an album like this. Nevertheless, a good pickup for fans of old guard Death Metal before the pig squeals and ham slamming.
(Online February 16, 2011)