Deicide. Noun. The act of killing a god, or the perpetrator of such.
This death metal quartet are a band that live up to the definition of their unhallowed name. For 31 years, the fiery stalwarts have been purveyors of concise, anarchic tracks that hammer at the listener with unyielding growls, incessant percussion, mind-melting riffs and gloriously blasphemous lyrics. The impact of their aural insanity has been immeasurable and dates all the way back to their self-titled debut album, which formed an acclaimed cornerstone of Tampa, Florida’s burgeoning and now-infamous extreme metal underground of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Three decades down the line, Deicide currently stand as an iconic figurehead of raw musical aggression, boasting a career that has seen them release nothing but the goriest, evilest destruction possible, with no compromise to be spoken of. Their upcoming twelfth album, Overtures of Blasphemy, continues their status as heroes of death metal’s old guard by supplying 38 minutes of no-nonsense riotousness that feel just as intense in 2018 as they would have in 1992.
To chat all about this aggressive new record, as well as Deicide’s relationship with death metal and the Devil, I got to spend some time with drummer and co-founder, Steve Asheim.
Matt Mills: “Overtures of Blasphemy is your first studio album in five years. What took you so long?!”
Steve Asheim: “It’s a good question! Technically, the last album [In the Minds of Evil] came out in very late 2013. It wasn’t quite five years, technically. I like to point that out. We could have been on time to have it out in a three-year period, but, when we were writing the tunes, they were not sitting well. I didn’t feel they were as good as they could have been and Glen [Benton, bassist/vocalist] didn’t either. So, after a while, it was like ‘Something’s gotta be done about these,’ so I took it upon myself to rearrange the songs and make them what they became.”
“Before that rearrangement, what did these new songs sound like? What was it about them that made you want to change them?”
“We tried to do a collaborative effort, get everyone into the room together and work on the songs all together. And we did that and wrote twelve or thirteen songs, but it was just kind of a mishmash of parts put together and they were just all over the map. I felt they were not cohesive ideas. They didn’t relate to each other in that sense, they were just ‘Here’s one part, here’s another part and there’s the end.’ So they were made cohesive and made to be relative.”
“Overtures… is an album that stays true to the core Deicide traits: short, heavy songs, with lots of fast-paced percussion, growls and a little bit of melody. What is it about that recipe that has made it so successful for the band over the years?”
“We don’t go out of our way to write short songs, it’s just that our songs are pretty quick: the drums are fast and the pace is pretty fast and up-tempo. We don’t have a lot of slow numbers. But I don’t think they sound short: they sound like complete songs to me. There’s one song on the record, the last one [‘Destined to Blasphemy’], that’s two-and-a-half minutes. That’s shocking to me, because I thought it was longer. It just sounds like a complete idea: it fulfilled its purpose. The idea ran its course as well as it could.”
“When you were making this album, did you go back to any early Deicide material for inspiration?”
“We were pretty much in the now. I haven’t listened to the old stuff in a while. I think trying to recapture that would be hard: we’re different musicians and our writing has changed somewhat. But I think we’re trying to be current and keep our ideas fresh and try not to repeat ourselves too much. But, also, we don’t want to lose our style. We definitely try to keep it relevant; we try to be as original as we can within our structure.”
“And there are hints of melody on this record in the lead guitars. When writing, was that melody something you actively strove for?”
“When we set out, I was not thinking ‘Let’s make this melodic’; I was just thinking ‘Let us make this diverse, let’s layer it and let us be skilled musicians.’ And the lead playing, I think that just comes from having skilled musicians. They are not gonna play atonally because they are smarter than that. This is a skilled musician doing his thing, not some guy barely pushing on a whammy bar. That’s the difference: we don’t set out to be melodic, we set out to be skilled.”
“There are some Satanic and anti-Christian lyrics on this record in songs like ‘Excommunicated’ and ‘Compliments of Christ’. They’re regular themes in heavy metal, so why do Satan and metal have such a good relationship?”
“They just go hand-in-hand: the darkness and the heaviness of the musical material, it’s obviously for sinners. People are going out into the dead of night to experience this, to drink and to party, to mingle and sin. The imagery, the overall malevolence of the whole thing – it’s just a natural accord.”
“I want to finish off by talking about the original Florida metal scene. Did it feel like something really special was happening while you were a part of that movement?”
“I thought it was special that there were so many bands in that area that were into writing original material. They were everywhere! Obituary, Nasty Savage, Savatage, Morbid Angel, Death, us and a lot of bands that people haven’t heard of: Nocturnus was around and there were bands and musicians everywhere doing their own thing [and] not being cover bands. Because, in most scenes, there are just cover bands everywhere! Tampa was exceptional at the time.”
Overtures of Blasphemy is out on 14th September via Century Media Records.