“Wait, this this isn’t a movie”, I hear you mumble, half-drunk on a Sunday night (why else would you be reading this?). Why you’re right, dear reader. But, the joke’s on you, I’ll let you know. I’m half drunk on a Sunday night, and I’ve got a hankerin’ to write about some music, so write I shall. I used to write a lot about music on a now defunct blog of mine, but between the nostalgic read-through I did this morning and the day drinking I’ve been doing since lunch, it’s about time I picked it back up in the same, inconsistent way I’ve always blogged. I think I’m going to try and keep the music reviews shorter than the movie ones, but we’ll see how things pan out.
Our inaugural music review: a modern death metal classic that I seem to have totally slept on for the last fifteen years. Dechristianize, the 2003 album by Vital Remains.
Since most of the movies I seem to cover here are kinda weird, kinda fucked up, mostly gory horror movies, it shouldn’t surprise you that I like death metal. Out of all styles of death metal, I seem to gravitate towards old school death metal (Death, Possession, Morbid Angel, etc.) and brutal/ technical death metal (Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Dying Fetus, etc.), and since I’ve only heard the name Vital Remains shouted about the internet in passing a couple times, I figured they were just another run of the mill band that some people seemed to like but were otherwise unremarkable. Boy howdy, was I wrong. Dechristianize marks the first Vital Remains album I’ve heard, and Jesus crispy Christ do I need to do a deep dive into their discography as soon as possible.
Dechristianize was allegedly Vital Remains’ breakthrough album, and for good reason. It blends the hyper-heavy stylings of brutal death metal with the catchiness of old school death metal, and the hooks and guitar leads of some top tier melodic death metal. The first thing that threw me off before I even started listening to it was the runtime. Over sixty minutes, and nine songs including an intro track. The shortest song, Devoured Elysium, here pushes six minutes and Entwined by Vengeance, the longest, clocks in at exactly ten. Now, I like death metal as much as the next guy, but ten minutes straight of blast beats before the next song starts sounds like fucking torture. Turns out, Vital Remains seem to eschew the blandness that an hour non-stop blast beats and tremolo picking normally entail. I have to credit guitarists Tony Lazaro and Dave Suzuki (no, not David Suzuki, but I really wish it was) for laying down some of the catchiest riffs and lead guitar work I’ve heard on a death metal release in a long time. Considering that the drums (also played by Suzuki) are actually almost non-stop blasts for an hour straight, and the bass is pretty much inaudible, this album is truly the Lazaro, Suzuki, and Benton show.
Did I forget to mention? Glen fucking Benton from Deicide contributes vocals on Dechristianize. Yup. Strap in kids, this album now has death metal pedigree associated with it, and boy does he deliver. Benton offers his usual gamut of growls, shrieks, and screams which by themselves aren’t anything too special, but paired with the amazing guitar work on the album become greater than the sum of their parts. Lazaro and Suzuki will add some melodic riffage here or there under Benton’s growling offering an implied melody over top of the chugging rhythm guitar work. When Benton really brings in vocals to the front and center, the guitarists have the sense to lay back on technicality (but not the aggression) and bring simpler riffs into the mix. Otherwise, Dechristianize is an album that is turned up to ten the entire time and doesn’t let up until the last mid tempo (actually very, very, fast for any other band) section of Entwined by Vengeance ends.
This album is extremity incarnate (not to be confused for the actual band, Extremity, who also totally rules) and despite being an hour straight of the exact same thing over and over again, it’s powerful enough in it’s songwriting and execution to make that hour fly by like fifteen minutes. Even on a first listen (which I have as of now put in many more listens all the way through all day) you can understand why this is considered a benchmark in extreme music. After having spent years of listening to every subgenre of death metal new and old and slowly getting bored with it, Dechristianize genuinely gets me excited about the genre again and makes me want to seek out more music like it, which is probably the greatest thing I piece of art can do.
The only fear I have is that nothing I find will excite me as much as Dechristianize has.