Beyond the Pale
Deceased cement their legacy as an American treasure with the years-in-the-making Ghostly White
Longstanding death-thrash combo Deceased aren’t out to prove anything to anyone on Ghostly White. They’ve had a good seven years to refine and rethink their approach, but the final versions of these songs were stitched up over the last year by mouthpiece Kingsley “King” Fowley, songwriting partner Mike Smith and “newcomer” Shane Fuegel. Nevertheless, it’s not about when the songs were written so much as the quality. And if we’re being honest, this is some of Deceased’s best work since Supernatural Addiction turned the new millennium on its proverbial head.
What’s different about the horror movie freaks in 2018 is that they’ve put controls on their normally manic output. They haven’t “matured,” though. Rather, they’ve focused on writing exceptional songs, the kind that influenced Fowley and Smith as wide-eyed, tombstone-toppling teenagers. Stuff along the lines of Voivod, Iron Maiden, Nihilist and even U.K. new wave darlings the Fixx.
After all these years, what Deceased convey on Ghostly White is that there ain’t no substitute for individuality. It’s not that they’ve earned it by existing over the course of six U.S. presidents. They’ve built on it, slowly, surely, and without the pomp and circumstance most bands need (or require) to function album to album. That is to say, leadoff track “Mrs. Allardyce” and “A Palpitation’s Warning” are bona fide ragers—underground in spirit, metallic in soul—in their active, riff-first construction. Smith and Fuegel’s ceaseless cavalcade of memorable riffs are a wonder to behold against Deceased’s bedrock rhythm section of bassist Les Snyder and drummer Dave “Scarface” Castillo. Fold in Fowley’s gravely snarl about ghoulish things and it all starts to make sense. This is what heavy metal, at its core, is all about.
But it only gets better. Tracks like “Germ of Distorted Lore”—clearly, the record’s centerpiece and highlight—“To Serve the Insane” and closer “Pale Surroundings” are three of Deceased’s most significant to date. Throughout all three, Deceased put on heavy metal clinics, as if to show not just the newcomers of the world how it’s done, but veterans as well. The sheer insanity (and melancholy) of the solos on “Germ of Distorted Lore” is one thing, but the hook (of the main riff) and voice-over sample on “Pale Surroundings” are on a different planet.
Normally, a production like Ghostly White would be a negative. It’s distant, full of treble and sometimes a little messy at speed. But it’s the same production Iron Maiden had on Killers, Queensrÿche had on The Warning and Trouble had on Psalm 9. While most bands spend ages trying to sound vintage, Deceased are by nature. It’s in their songwriting, their recording and their choice of T-shirts, though it’s difficult to imagine anyone wearing an Angel tee without being paid handsomely for it. Really, Fowley (as producer), Mike Bossier (as engineer) and Oblivion Studios don’t have name recognition, but they (along with Deceased) delivered on Ghostly White. The minute Smith and Fuegel’s solos pierce the din, it’s over. The tones, the placement and the feel Bossier is able to invoke are endlessly great. A single sit-down with “Endless Well”—a godly track—“Germ of Distorted Lore” and “The Shivers” is all it takes to understand the relationship between Bossier and Deceased. Hand-in-glove stuff.
Deceased won’t get the recognition they deserve on Ghostly White, but that’s par for the course. Ever since Luck of the Corpse peeked out of the shadows in 1991, the group has been an afterthought, a relic that won’t go away. Whatever happens between now and the world discovering the humble brilliance of Ghostly White is in the hands of Lady Fortuna. This review, however, should be enough to point heavy metal punters in the right direction.