When London Burns (DVD)
Controversial satanic metallers unleash first ever visual release
For a while there, it was looking like Deicide would be one of those very rare bands that maintained its line-up throughout their entire career. Prior to Deicide's November/December 2004 European tour, that all changed as the band's guitarists, brothers Brian and Eric Hoffman, left the band (or were fired from the band depending on which version of the events that you side with). The ill-fated tour was on-again-off-again at times and drummer Steve Asheim's father passed away during the tour. But the show must go on. Vocalist/bassist Glen Benton and Asheim recruited ex-Cannibal Corpse guitarist Jack Owen and Vital Remains guitarist Dave Suzuki into the fold. Owen, who is now a permanent member of Deicide, and Suzuki, who has since returned to Vital Remains and has been replaced by Ralph Santolla (ex-Death, Iced Earth), had a mere two days to learn the hour long set that Deicide played on that tour.
With no big intro or any kind of fanfare, the live set begins with a very quick guitar and drum check and the band immediately launch into the title track of their then most recent album, Scars Of The Crucifix. The video footage is an interesting balance that blurs the lines of bootleg vs. pro-shot with several cameras both on and off stage around the venue doing a good job of capturing the intensity of Deicide live. Benton and Co. blast through a 17 song 60 minute set that is very heavily skewed towards the bands earliest material which many consider to be their strongest as well. The band's classic self titled debut from 1990 and their highly regarded 1995 offering Once Upon The Cross represent the bulk of the set with Lunatic Of God's Creation, Sacrificial Suicide, Dead By Dawn, Deicide, Crucifixation and Oblivious To Evil being lifted from their debut and They Are The Children Of The Underworld, When Satan Rules His World, Once Upon The Cross, Kill The Christian, Behind The Light Thou Shall Rise and Christ Denied getting a showing from the latter. Rounding out the set is Dead But Dreaming (from 1992's Legion), Bastard Of Christ and Serpents Of The Light (from 1997's Serpents Of The Light) and When Heaven Burns (the only other track other than the opening title track from 2004's Scars Of The Crucifix). Both 2000's Insineratehymn and 2001's In Torment In Hell have been completely ignored by the band; a motion that somewhat mirrors fans' responses to those albums as well.
The digital surround sound audio component of the live set is for the most part consistently strong and balanced. On rare occasions, the guitars are lost in the mix and need to be brought out a little more overall and it's a touch bass heavy with the subwoofer getting an unexpected workout. However, those niggly points do not detract from the intensity of Deicide live. What does however is some of Benton's inflammatory verbal barb's that he fires at the crowd between songs. Deicide have always embraced controversy so his banter comes of no surprise, but there are times that it just seems silly as Benton relies heavily on “Mum” references and jokes. When they let the music do the talking, Deicide are still a live force to be reckoned with. Guitarists Owen and Suzuki are flawless in their execution of the material given the time frame in which they had to come up to speed with it all. Asheim is like a machine behind the kit and Benton's vocals are brutal and gruff along the lines of his modern deep sounding guttural growls.
Rounding out Deicide's first official DVD release is a 30 minute documentary that is based around candid footage and interviews with the band taken around the time of recording their last studio album, Scars Of The Crucifix. Some parts are interesting such as the Hoffman brothers talking about the band's formation and Benton talking about the band's allegiance to Morrisound Studios in Florida. Other parts are a good laugh such as Asheim's gun hobby and trip to the firing range in Las Vegas (NV) and some of the tour stories about the band's notoriety. Others are what you'd expect from Deicide when they talk about their religious beliefs and Benton's infamous forehead upside down cross burning. The doco jumps around a bit from time to time and doesn't necessarily flow too well but with a running time of just over a half hour, the disjointedness isn't that much of a negative affect. Overall, it's an interesting insight into the band as a whole and themselves as individuals but I suspect it's something that more hardcore fans will appreciate rather than the casual listener.
For a first foray into DVD releases, Deicide's When London Burns is a decent and enjoyable effort. Whilst I doubt it'll do anything to change the minds of the band's detractors, there's enough on here to satisfy long time fans of the band, particular those who favour the band's early material.
(Earache Records/Shock Distribution)