Deceased – Ghostly White (2018)

In classic heavy metal manner, Deceased make evocative songs centered around instantly identifiable melodies. The band has ever been at pains to distance itself from all death metal references, at least as they are conventionally understood, and Ghostly White only reaffirms that strange reclusive mindset. More apt instead to consider Deceased a heavy metal band with an overwhelming fascination for death itself, in allegorical, mythological, literary and literal senses, always presented through the band’s distinctively traditional and classy take on horror. Band founder King Fowley experienced serious health troubles in the time between Supernatural Addiction and As The Weird Travel On; intentionally or not, a palpably tragic tonality entered the band’s songwriting at about the same time. Lyrics, always underrated with this band but a cut above average too, began embracing a more stoical view of life and death. The outcome has been surprisingly layered and poignant and a treat for heavy metal fans.

As ever, Voivod‘s first three albums¬†remain an integral part of the Deceased DNA on Ghostly White in the way they make use of dissonant chords and punk/grind rhythms to advance those chord progressions. The perfect fifth of the rock power chord is used only at the onset of a blatant melodic motif, but the meat of these songs is composed almost entirely of clanging note combinations. Like Immolation but in a completely different context, Deceased find a way of giving shapeless dissonance shape; the band’s approach, unique in heavy metal, is to disregard that they are in fact using atonal sounds by making phrases out of them as one would from more harmonious elements. An isolated dissonant chord by its own makes little musical sense, but by ringing a number of them into viable formations, Deceased enforce their own peculiar logic on the listener.

The narrative development on Ghostly White is atmospheric rather than structural. It is an important distinction, perhaps best summed up by the difference between hearing and listening. While listening entails conscious attention, hearing simply happens as a byproduct of existing. Deceased in my opinion are better heard than listened, an observation that might subject the band to accusations of inertia and fans of being happily passive in their appraisal of music. But there need not be any disrepute in this; yes, Deceased use many speed metal tropes inherently containing a certain amount of filler, but the way to develop an appreciation for this band is by letting those same tropes wash over you as tension-building devices while anticipating the one moment of delicious dread that creeps in from the fringes of awareness.

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