In a cursory, very informal, and half-drunken study of all the adjectives I usually toss around in regards to death metal bands, I noticed that most of those descriptors, while absolutely meant to be positive in the moment, aren’t typically ones that would be described as such. We’re talking word like these: brutal, grinding, harsh, pounding, furious, violent, razor-sharp, destructive, and so on. But, by me or by others, there’s one adjective that ultimately gets applied only to the best of extreme metal, and it’s a word that applies to Deceased as much as to any metal band in existence. In fact, it is quite literally the first word that comes to mind when I think of Deceased.
That word is “fun.”
Because, more than anything else, Deceased is unquestionably fun, as much so as any other metal band around. Yes, they’re plying a trade largely defined by a certain type of ugliness, by an anti-commercial aggression and by tones universally held to be punishing, but they balance it against a very melodic sensibility and the spirit of true all-encompassing metal-ness. In the end, when the proverbial needle hits the proverbial vinyl, when those tunes and King Fowley’s growl come barreling out of your speakers, there is and will forever be absolutely no denying the sheer fun of this. There is no downplaying the energy or the enthusiasm; there is, in that moment, nothing at all but the lifting of your drink, the banging of your head, and the complete succumbing to the overwhelming awesomeness of the whole damn thing.
This Virginia-based outfit has been an underground fixture for over a quarter-century now. The first band signed to Relapse Records, Deceased started out in slightly heavier waters – the earliest Deceased efforts are pretty straightforward proto-death metal, but by the time of their fourth record, this one, originally released in 2000, Fowley and company had added elements of thrash and NWOBHM melody to their palette. In the process, when all of those disparate elements came together, they created an absolutely infectious blend of gleeful horror-themed heaviness, one that falls somewhere between Venom, Nunslaughter, Slayer, and King Diamond.
The fun is evident from the start, with opening track “The Premonition” standing as one of the best on hand — its an absolutely joyous collision of Iron Maiden-tinted melodic guitar leads and the band’s now-signature raw death/thrash, all topped with an irrepressible chorus that is custom made for sing-along head-banging. (All together now: “Black shadows! Black shadows!”) From there, there is no bad track on hand, nothing but different shades of killer melodic death/thrash, with further highlights in “Dark Chilling Heartbeat,” “Frozen Screams,” and the stuttering “Elly’s Dementia.” Each of these tunes is lyrically based upon some classic tale of horror – Edgar Allan Poe, for example, although there is also a Blair Witch Project sample, to keep things current to the recording. The band rips through these eight tracks with grin-inducing abandon; guitarists Mike Smith and Mark Adams especially shine, their melo-shred riffs and soloing reminiscent at times of perpetually underrated King Diamond sideman Andy LaRocque. The production of Supernatural Addiction is on the rawer side, but not underwhelming or under-developed – everything is appropriately sloppy in that Venom-ous manner. Whether or not Supernatural Addiction could benefit from a sharpening of tones is debatable, although the looseness of the affair certainly matches the overall aesthetic.
As a bonus incentive, Hells Headbangers has added six demos to the original running order – each of those six is a track from the album proper, and though each demo is interesting (a few feature minor differences from the final product), none is anything more than a curiosity in the long run. The selling point here is the album itself, which is stellar enough in its own right. All other accoutrements are merely icing on the proverbial death/thrash pastry.
I feel pretty positively that there are two kinds of people in our extreme metal world: those who love Deceased, and those who just don’t love them yet. (I concede that I spent too long in the latter camp, not really picking up on the band’s genre-encompassing genius until the last few years.) How anyone could listen to Supernatural Addiction and not get an adrenaline rush and a mile-wide grin is beyond me. This is simply one of the most fun albums I own, and it is damn near mandatory for anyone who loves metal, in all its ugly forms. Supernatural Addiction is a post-millennium classic, pure and simple heavy metal fun. If you don’t like this, then there’s probably something wrong with you.