One of the pioneers of the Florida death-metal scene in the Nineties, Deicide cemented their legacy as much with wild antics as with bludgeoning music. Frontman Glen Benton declared he'd kill himself in the year 2000, threw animal guts at audiences, shot a squirrel in front of a journalist and burned an inverted cross into his forehead — and regularly rebranded himself to make the mark deeper.
About 25 years later, Benton shrugs dismissively at such behavior, especially the inverted cross, which has garnered almost as much press coverage as his music. "I just use the indent to hold my pen, now," he jokes. "I stick my pen on it when I'm sitting there at the computer. Even the people around me don't even notice it anymore. It's just another battle scar. That's all it is."
Deicide's career has been full of battles, whether they were lawsuits, inter-band turmoil, conflicts with animal rights organizations or struggles with promoters who refused to book the band because their music was too satanic or there was too much violence at their shows. But Deicide have also experienced numerous triumphs including their career-defining second album, 1992's Legion, and position as one of the best-selling death metal bands of all time.
But while Deicide's followers may be all about celebrating the band's three decades of insanity, Benton has little interest in such hoopla or nostalgia. He prefers to focus on what he's doing at the moment, and the musicians he's currently working with — not the ones he played with in the past, including brother guitarists Eric and Brian Hoffman or guitarist Jack Owen, all of whom underwent periods of friction with Benton. The veteran vocalist insists the band's current lineup — Benton, guitarists Kevin Quirion and Monstrosity's Mark English and drummer Steve Asheim — have brought a new level of professionalism and enjoyment to making heretical albums.
"There's no tension in the band anymore, which is great," Benton says. "That was all old and it sucked. This is way better. It's more of a fun thing now, man."
The smooth working relationship Benton has with his bandmates likely contributed to the gleeful ferocity of Deicide's new album, Overtures of Blasphemy, the group's first release since 2013's In the Minds of Evil. It's old-school Deicide for a new generation, traditional Florida death metal embellished with new flavors and modern production (courtesy of Jason Suecof) that keeps Deicide relevant in an era when even the band's past extremism has been upstaged by more self-destructive acts.
That's not to say Overtures of Blasphemy isn't brutal. As fun as it was to create, it reflects an inner hatred that boils inside Benton and manifests itself more as he ages. The frustration and rage that comes from experiences with death, betrayal and ignorance roar through the 12 songs on Overtures like a tidal wave uprooting cars and houses, drowning the ignorant masses simply because they were in the way. To gain some insight into the gale-force destruction that has emerged from Benton's practice space in Sanford, Florida, Revolver talked to the veteran musician about the tragedy that accompanied the creation of the album, the advantages about not giving a fuck, the scourge of Mormons and the days of blood, guts and bomb threats.
OVERTURES OF BLASPHEMY HAS AN OLD-SCHOOL SOUND THAT COULD HAVE COME FROM 1995.
GLEN BENTON Part of that is because Jason [Suecof] spent a lot of time mixing that thing and he knows our sound from back then so he gives it more of an old-school sound but with more updated technology. Plus, we really went for more of a natural feel on the record. That's why you'll hear me sucking for air while I'm screaming. And there are natural acoustics on the drums. We used a Fender Jazz Deluxe bass on the album so the bass is ominous but not overbearing. And Kevin and Mark work great together, man.
THERE'S AN EXCITING, ALMOST FREEWHEELING ENERGY TO THE MUSIC.
This was our last contractual record for Century Media so we went into it and said, "Let's do a record that's fun to play and fun to listen to and is simplistic, but creative." We went for the hooks, the groove and took from the past albums things that worked for us.
THIS IS DEICIDE'S FIRST ALBUM IN FIVE YEARS.
It's been a long process to get the record done between scheduling at the studio and doing shows. Working with Jason, he's booked up. He's fitting us in here, he's fitting us in there. So it has taken a while to get this thing together. But we're pretty happy with the way it turned out.
OVERTURES IS CLEARLY A DEATH-METAL ALBUM, BUT THERE ARE ELEMENTS OF TRADITIONAL METAL, THRASH AND EVEN PUNK.
You know what works best for me? Whenever I develop this soured-ass I don't give a fuck attitude — whenever that's intensified for whatever reason — I just have a tendency to come up with my best stuff. Say you're at a casino and you've spent your whole night losing. You're like, What the fuck? So you put in your last quarter in the machine and you win all your money back and then some. That kind of fluke is, in a way, why this worked out. I kind of look at it like, "Hey, what the hell do we have to lose anymore? We know it's not going to go anywhere. So let's just do it for us and focus on what we like. Let's take the music we grew up on and just have fun with it."
THE VOCALS SEEM DEEPER, OVERALL.
Well, there's not a bunch of high screaming all over it because it just didn't fit. I didn't hear that when I wrote it so I did more of a straightforward vocal. And in all honesty, the high-vocal thing has been done. I think I've done that one a few times.
AND SO HAVE A HUNDRED OTHER BANDS.
YOU'RE 51 NOW. HAVE YOU MELLOWED AT ALL WITH AGE OR ARE YOU ANGRIER THAN EVER? ARE YOU "CONSUMED BY HATRED," AS THE SONG SAYS?
Absolutely. So much stuff pisses me off, but I start stepping on toes when I talk about things like that so I try to avoid those topics. Life is definitely a journey. I guess the older you get, the wiser you get. But getting older has definitely made me a more intense individual.
SOME SAY WISDOM COMES WITH AGE. OTHERS ARGUE THAT YOUNG PEOPLE THINK THEY KNOW EVERYTHING AND WHEN THEY GET OLDER THEY REALIZE THAT, IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS, THEY KNOW VERY LITTLE.
Yeah, you know what I've found out in life? The last 10 or 15 years for me have been hard, man. I've lost a lot of dear friends and family members. And what I figured out is it doesn't matter what you know or what you have. At the end of the day, the only thing you have left on the table is death. I like to be knowledgeable and keep myself up with the present technology and all that fun shit. But I've found out that I only see darkness because the older you get, the more you're constantly grieving. It's like this person's gone, that person's gone. They're dropping like flies around me. It's a very disheartening feeling and it makes you very numb to life, man. So you just try to make the best out of everything, I guess.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT OR PAINFUL LOSS?
I've lost so many people I couldn't start to tell you. They're all the same to me: My parents all my family, all my friends. And it's just been to everything. You got your cancers and then you've got your people that just want to burn the fuck out early. It's everything, every fuckin' scenario. I'm not gonna get specific.
FORMER DEICIDE GUITARIST RALPH SANTOLLA DIED EARLIER THIS YEAR OF A HEART ATTACK. WERE YOU AFFECTED BY HIS PASSING?
Of course, man — just like everybody else. Ralph had a way about him. He was that Marshall-head-turned-on-11 kind of guy. We had a lot of laughs. But that's the case with everyone. You have your good times ... you also have bad times. And then the bad times turn around and outweigh the good times.
YOU'VE SAID THE SONGS ON OVERTURES "DIG DEEP INTO MY PERSONAL DARKNESS. IT'S WHAT I AM." CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT DARKNESS ENTAILS?
That's why I call it "personal darkness." It's personal. I don't feel like I'm speaking to a psychiatrist right now, so ...
ARE THERE LYRICAL THEMES ON THE ALBUM OR TOPICS YOU'RE ADDRESSING?
I'll tell you a story about "All That Is Evil." You ever see those guys on the bicycles with the white shirts and the fucking crash helmets riding through your neighborhood banging on doors wanting to talk about Jesus? Well, I was out here in my garage working on my car. It's pitch black, right? And I've already warned these fucks, "Stay the fuck away from my house." So I was bent over the front of my car putting some parts on my Camaro and all of a sudden it felt like someone was breathing down my fucking neck. I turned around and there was this fucking dickhead in his crash helmet and his white shirt and tie and his backpack and he's trying to talk to me about Jesus something or other. All I know is without touching him I threw him off my property like a lunatic. "If you ever come back here, I'll fucking shoot you, you fuck!"
THE GUY PROBABLY PISSED HIMSELF AND QUIT BEING A MORMON THAT NIGHT.
I know! It's like, what is it with you guys? You're like 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 years old. You should be out banging pussy and having a fucking blast with your buddies. What the fuck are you doing riding around my neighborhood on that bike offending all the people that don't buy your bullshit?
WERE THERE ANY OBSTACLES RECORDING THE ALBUM?
No, man. But it's a long drive for us to go back and forth to practice. Me and Kevin did a lot of our ideas, a lot of our brainstorming driving back and forth [to Sanford, Florida]. You've got almost five hours a day driving back and forth to the studio. That's how we came up with the title and a bunch of other ideas.
THE TITLE OVERTURES OF BLASPHEMY IS PRETTY SELF-EXPLANATORY. DOES IT HAVE ANY PARTICULAR MEANING FOR YOU?
All the songs are catchy and have their own character and personality. When me and Kevin were talking we said the way it plays out it's almost like an opera written out and orchestrated. That's when we started throwing around ideas like it's a musical composition. I think my first idea was Overtures of Evil and Kevin came back with "Blasphemy!"
DO YOU EVER MISS THE DAYS WHEN SEEING DEICIDE WAS A GENUINELY DANGEROUS EXPERIENCE FOR YOU AND THE CROWD? BOMB THREATS AND MOSH PITS FILLED WITH BLOOD AND PAIN?
Are you kidding me? Would you miss that? I don't want that kind of excitement at my age. I just want to get there, get through the gig, play, have a good time and get the fuck out of there.
BACK IN THE DAY, YOU WORE GIANT SPIKED ARMBANDS THAT INFLICTED PAIN ON MORE THAN A FEW STAGEDIVERS.
They would come smashing into me! That's why I was wearing that shit — to keep them idiots from jumping on top of me. I used to wear all the armor, but nowadays things have changed, man. Once you've been sued a few times you learn to roll it back.
YOU WERE TOSSING ANIMAL INNARDS AT THE CROWD WAY BEFORE WATAIN STARTED THROWING BUCKETS OF PIG'S BLOOD.
We all do stupid shit when we're kids and people at record companies made more out of it than was there. Yeah, it was sensationalized, stupid stuff. And I just played into it like I was being asked. As far as the animal guts I threw into the crowd and everything, yeah, we did that shit in the early days. When you're young and you're a kid all you think is just, "Let's be as sick as fuckin' possible!" But you're not thinking about all the people you might harm in the fuckin' process. And then when you get a little older you go, "Wow, man. That was really fuckin' stupid of me to throw all that shit on fuckin' people. It could have made some of them really sick." So you grow up. We all grow up.