Upon hearing that Deicide’s sixth album In Torment In Hell was a potential selection for Justify Your Shitty Taste our Editor-in-Chief responded with a simple: “Oooh, that’s bad.” No other words were uttered. But is it really?
For well over a decade since its 2001 release the consensus on In Torment In Hell is that it’s the biggest turd in Deicide’s career, a woeful album excreted by the band to fulfill obligations with Roadrunner (who they hated) at a point where the relationship between Glen Benton and the Hoffman brothers was nearing a low. Any time the word “obligation” is thrown around listeners either receive an album of cover songs or something recorded during a monumental bender. Speaking to the blog Metal Storm almost a decade ago drummer and songwriter Steve Asheim said the following of In Torment :
I think that whole period was brought on by being burnt out, but not on music or the business, just burnt out on each other. I kind of always thought we were being kept down by our record company and stuff like that, but after we did In Torment and were finished with our deal and moved on to a great deal with Earache, we were still not up to 100%. By then it was obvious to me that it wasn't the record company's fault, it was us. We were sick of each other, well basically the Hoffmans and Glen were totally sick of and hated each other, and the quality of the band's work and the fans suffered for it.
Benton told interviewer Mark Pringle that the band did not want to play nice with Roadrunner when they would do nothing to promote the record:
They were shelving all the records. What’s the point of fucking putting all this effort and all this hard work into something that’s gonna get thrown in the fucking garbage can? We had reached our point with Roadrunner where we just stopped cooperating. Our last two records with them were just obligations, just throw ‘em the fuck out. And to me, those records are repetitious and redundant and I just, you know – to me, it was either that or give them a country record or a fucking Gospel album.
Listen; we’re not deaf. In Torment In Hell is not close to Deicide’s best. We’ll reserve that for their debut, the death/speed opus Legion or the virtuoso comeback The Stench Of Redemption, Benton's kiss off to his former bandmates featuring hired gun Ralph Santolla and former Cannibal Corpse guitarist Jack Owen. But In Torment In Hell does not suck. Well, some of the songs suck, particularly the dreadful "Worry In The House Of Thieves." And there are shortcomings, many of them. Asheim’s drums have a tinny St. Anger sound when they normally sound like artillery. Glen’s vocals are too called in, like he practiced and picked up bits from his best songs. The band doesn’t switch the pace so there is a too much uniformity, even for a death metal band.
More: the guitar solos are absolutely dreadful, possibly the low point; it sounds like Glen farted on one of the Hoffman brother’s whammy bars and pressed record. The production is paper thin; shit, way more ProTools could have helped. And there is the inconceivable: listen closely and you hear Benton utter a Tom Warrior-esque “ooh” and “ow!” to disastrous results on "Vengeance Will Be Mine." We're pretty sure that's a deliberate troll. And how about the cover art? Is that a ten-minute Photoshop job for a Deicide bootleg?
But there is also good stuff. The obvious; Deicide doesn’t get nearly enough credit as one of the founding fathers of death metal. So the below average material on In Torment In Hell is still largely better than the hundreds of Deicide/Cannibal Corpse clones that followed in the ensuing years. And some of the songs are much better than you would think. The opener would stack up well live (even though it will never be played). “Vengeance Will Be Mine” -- despite Benton's vocal preening -- is one of the better Deicide songs ever; it pushes the pace like the classic “Dead By Dawn” or “Satan Spawn The Caco-Daemon.” There's also a classic soundbite of Benton jousting with radio preacher and exorcist Bob Larson bookending the whole thing. Benton soundbites are always gold.
Most of the songs on In Torment In Hell are pretty damn good, actually. It’s like an architect had a design for a beautiful home, spent two weeks building it, tried to burn it down and then moved in. A lot of In Torment stacks up favorably against a few albums that followed, particularly some of the offerings after Santolla departed like To Hell With God.
The metal fans and the Internet peanut gallery haven't been kind to In Torment In Hell. Truthfully, they aren't kind to Benton even if he's actually one of the funniest guys in extreme metal, someone who once joked to me that when he got food poisoning he thought he would rip his taint. We aren't suggesting In Torment In Hell replace Legion in the playlist. But give it another chance? Yes, you should. For all your squirrel killing and Bigfoot hunting expeditions In Torment In Hell is required listening.