Deicide - Once Upon the Cross (1995)Release ID: 2439
A simplified Deicide that's decent enough without being much to write to Satan about.
After the obliterating album that was Legion, I sure as hell wondered how Deicide could possibly get any more furious and downright nasty. As it turned out, they didn't try. Once Upon the Cross is a more straight-forward affair that brings to mind the bands brilliant debut, but without the pure energy of youth. The riffs are designed to be crushing and memorable rather than technically jaw-dropping or anxiety inducing. Asheim's drumming is also far more simplified after the chaotic splendour that pervaded Legion's blasphemous output. My initial reaction was one of sheer disappointment back in 1995 as I guess I expected the band to raise the death metal bar with this release but listening to Once Upon the Cross today I find it to be reasonably enjoyable, if not particularly outstanding in any way.
Despite the simplified structures, the album still doesn't pull any punches. Glen's vocals are brutal throughout and the album cover and lyrics are filled with the sort of evil blasphemy that the band are known for. Yes, it's all immature stuff and won't be converting anyone sane into bloodsucking Satan worshipers, but it's Deicide, and who doesn't like a bit of Christian baiting here or there anyway. Unfortunately, the leads are no better than they were on the previous two albums, meaning crappy scales and random squeals are the order of the day. It's amazing how great the Hoffman brothers were at writing awesome death metal riffs and yet they were completely unable to learn how to produce an interesting, memorable solo after years of attempting it. Oh well, I guess we all have our limitations (unless you're Chuck Schuldiner of course may he rest in peace).
So, I've established that Once Upon the Cross has many similarities to earlier Deicide work, with all the positives and negatives that go with that statement. Yet it lacks a certain something that made their previous recordings so powerful, plus the album really nosedives towards the end, where the band appear to be merely treading water. After a cracking first half that includes the title track, Christ Denied and Kill the Christian, the second half loses steam, with tracks like To be Dead and Confessional Rape just plodding along with no real energy or passion. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come I guess, with the next few albums ranging from disappointing to downright ugly. Still, Once Upon the Cross has its moments and certainly doesn't overstay its welcome at only 28 minutes in length.