The Cyst on Your God’s Holy Lamb
While revisiting the more extreme roots of my own personal history within the realms of heavy metal, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve never quite understood the hype towering all over DEICIDE’s earliest output. I honestly never gave a fuck about “Deicide” or “Legion” – so maybe they ARE influential and important to the evolution of the sub-genre, that’s fine, but apart from having a few interesting segments here and there – ultimately – they’ve left me unimpressed, even after subsequent revisits.
I cannot quite say the same thing about this very album here, as “Serpents of the Light” is a rather different offering. Some do call it “watered down” and okay, these people are probably RIGHT about that accusation, but I personally prefer this record over their predecessors any time, any day.
It’s a little tough to describe though, since this album has a lot of things going AGAINST it, at least from an objective point of view:
- Simplified songwriting & average musicianship
- Benton’s lyrical wizardry ranging from comical to fucking stupid
- Considering the time of release, this album was not terribly original
- The album starts recycling its own previously used riffs after a while
Not exactly a cocktail for a fan-favorite, right?
But then why the hell does my bloody car-media-assistant insist on blasting it? Seriously, more often than not, when I’m telling “her” to play a specific sort of album, all I hear is a robotic voice asking me:
“Did you say Serpents of the Light?”
No ma’am, I DID NOT but HELL, PLAY IT ANYWAY!
So obviously, “Serpents of the Light” was MADE for driving. It doesn’t require much thinking, deciphering (“FUCK YOUR CHRIST” seems pretty clear in its message) or even focused attention, it just pummels you with blunt, unpretentious riffcraft, sturdy doublebass-drumming and loud, obnoxious Christ-hating vocals by the one and only Glen Benton, who delivers his ultimate career performance on this record. Back in 1997, only he could make lines such as “He fucked himself to save you” and “I’m the cyst on your lord’s holy lamb” sound like satanic poetry, like the unquestionable truth. Benton radiates confidence in his delivery, he’s spiteful and commanding – no matter how dumb some of his words actually are.
OK, truth be told – not every release needs to be highly original. There are no experiments here, no 3/9 or 12/18/whatever-offbeats, no syncopated start/stop-riffage and no highly technical soloing is to be found. No keyboards, no wanking. Just death metal. I don’t hear much black metal influence here, just a few higher-register tremolo-picked riffs, but if those qualify as BM, then “toque/flamenco” is BM-influenced too. Do Spanish guitars with lots of distortion warrant a black metal influence label? But I digress…and leave that issue for others to decide.
In the end, the only thing that truly hurts “Serpents of the Light” is that the riff-pool is very…limited, to say the least. The Hoffmann brothers aren’t exactly my favourite guitarists in the world and while they add some nice flavor to this record with their quasi-melodic lead fretwork (especially shining bright on the album’s title track), the guitar riffs themselves “feel” immersed in their repetition. Surely, they do offer headbanging opportunities in abundance but there’s not much of a unique, lasting appeal to them, no little flourishes to be explored further and no risks are being taken. Like a caveman repeatedly beating his woman’s skull with the very same club, the listener’s brain activity is forcefully reduced to a bare existential minimum. By the time you’ve started laughing about the well-known fact that “Slave to the Cross” is basically “Blame it on God” part II, you’re one step away from realizing that the album starts devouring itself after about two-thirds of its run time. Certainly by now you’ll see that the joke is actually ON YOU, because even though “Serpents of the Light” is only about 30 minutes long, its blatant self-plagiarism forces me to skip the last three tracks at almost every single listen. It’s a shame that “Father Baker’s” is actually the best track out of the closing trio, because it really falls prey to the redundancy of its two immediate predecessors.
However, despite this number of flaws previously mentioned, the first 20 minutes of this disc offer highly entertaining, brutish and raunchy death metal of the highest caliber. Back in 1997, nobody could know that DEICIDE were in imminent danger of totally losing it over the next few years and that it would take them another decade and a fresh pair of guitar virtuosos to finally realize their full potential with the fantastic “Stench of Redemption”, after recovering from a string of dreadfully inferior and insipid releases.
Mandatory tracks: “Serpents of the Light”, “Bastard of Christ” and “Blame it on God”.