DB HOF NO. 86
The making of Deceased’s “Fearless Undead Machines”
Formed in the Virginia/DC area in the mid-’80s, a region then more known for its hardcore punk than metal, Deceased slowly built a loyal local fan base as that decade came to an end, kids attracted to the band’s unique take on the nascent death metal sound. All the shows and demo recordings would eventually lead to Deceased becoming the first act to sign with upstart label Relapse Records after it was created in 1990. A series of releases would follow over the next five years, including the full-length debut Luck of the Corpse and its 1995 follow-up The Blueprints for Madness, as the foursome of drummer/vocalist King Fowley, guitarists Mike Smith and Mark Adams, and bassist Les Snyder slowly continued to hone their own sound amidst the early ’90s death metal explosion.
After years of trying to sound “brutal,” the eureka moment for Deceased came when they realized how pointless it was to follow the death metal bands’ leads, and how good their music sounded when incorporating elements from the music they grew up on—that being classic heavy metal and early thrash from the first half of the 1980s. It would all build up to the kind of perfect storm every band strives to achieve: the concept was inspired—the Night of the Living Dead-style storyline had never been attempted in such detail—guitarist Mike Smith emerged from out of the blue to become an absolute riff machine, Fowley’s arrangements and lyrics were stronger than ever, and the band was very tight thanks to constant rehearsing over the course of two years. The end result would be 1997’s stunning Fearless Undead Machines, as unique a hybrid of early death metal, thrash and traditional heavy metal as there ever was, the product of hard work, greatly matured songwriting skill, a big argument over the artwork, and some truly bizarre recording sessions held in rural Maryland featuring a band that didn’t know how to make an album sound right and a flaky, shoe-throwing producer from California whose mind was clearly elsewhere. It’s only fitting that an album so one-of-a-kind was created under such odd circumstances, and all four musicians who played on it, some scattered as far away from Virginia as Texas and the Virgin Islands, were more than happy to tell the inspiring, often hilarious tale of how this Romero-esque masterpiece was brought to life. And, now to the Decibel Hall of Fame.
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