Deicide were one of the first true death metal bands, roaring out of Florida as the 1980s ground to a close. Their original lineup of bassist/vocalist Glen Benton, guitarists Brian and Eric Hoffman, and drummer Steve Asheim stayed together until 2004, a period which encompassed their entire tenure with Roadrunner. Their sound, which combined Benton’s multitracked vocals (high-pitched screams laid atop guttural roars) with the Hoffman brothers’ squealing guitars and Ashiem’s hammering blast beats, was massively influential on countless bands, and their relentlessly blasphemous and anti-religious lyrics set new standards for provocation in metal.
Deicide’s first two albums, 1990’s self-titled debut and 1992’s Legion, set them up as one of the most important bands in the global metal underground. Their third Roadrunner release, though, was a journey backward, into the band’s gnarled roots. Amon: Feasting the Beast, released in January 1993, was a compilation of their two demos, originally recorded in 1987 and 1989 under their original name and disseminated across the global tape trading network that helped bands gain a reputation in the decades before the internet.
Roadrunner’s legendary A&R guru Monte Conner was responsible for this release, as he was for signing the band in the first place. His memories of Deicide, and in particular their always controversial frontman Glen Benton, are very vivid indeed.
Recalls Monte, “One day back in the fall of 1989, when our office was at 225 Lafayette Street, Glen Benton barged in unannounced (we had no receptionist back then as we were an office of five or six tops) and walked over to my desk. I was on the phone. He threw an Amon demo on my desk and said “Sign us, you assholes,” or something rude along those lines. Before I could even get off the phone, he turned right around and left. We never even spoke. The demo he left me was their second demo, as recently recorded by Scott Burns (the first 6 songs on the Amon compilation). And those same songs were all later redone for the debut album. The performances are better on the debut album but the sound quality is actually better on those Amon demos.
“Anyway, after he left, I popped it in and was blown away. Luckily he included his phone number. There were no cell phones back then so it must have been his home number. No internet either, so as I said, it’s good he wrote his number down. I liked that the band used blast beats, as I had never signed a band with blast beats. But it was really all about Glen Benton. He was the star and magic of the band to me. And the way he double-tracked the high-pitched vocals (what some call ‘demon screams’) over his deep death metal vocals was pioneering. Crazy as it sounds to say that today, no one had done that prior. And to this date, no one has done it better. In my opinion, Glen on those early Deicide albums (Deicide, Legion, Once Upon the Cross and Serpents of the Light, plus Amon of course) gives the greatest death metal performances of all time!"
Once the band had signed to Roadrunner, Monte asked them to change their name. “Don’t forget, this was 1989, and one of the hottest records out there was King Diamond’s concept album Them–an album I was very intimate with as I was King’s A&R guy back then. The storyline of that album revolved around the character Grandma and the house pictured on the album cover, which was called Amon. There was even a track on the album called ‘Amon Belongs To “Them”’. So to me, sitting there in my Roadrunner universe where King Diamond was our biggest artist, it felt like the name Amon was known to the entire world as this house in this story…Of course out in the real world, most metalheads had no clue what Amon was because while King Diamond was the biggest artist on RR, he was still fairly underground in the grand scheme of things.
“So the band changed their name to Deicide. I am not sure if they got the name from their song ‘Deicide’ or if the song was created after the band name. Either way, it really helped that they had a song called ‘Deicide’ and that in this song everyone could hear Glen say the word ‘Deicide’ clear as day. So there was never much confusion about the name, unlike Sepultura for example, which is still mispronounced by fans to this day.”
Some might argue that it was too soon to release a compilation of demos, after a band had only put out two studio albums. And with most bands, that might be the case. But this band brought a whole bunch of special issues, mostly related to the members’ personalities. “Deicide was such a powder keg back then, with Glen and the Hoffmans constantly at war and Glen also fighting with me and the label on a daily basis…it seemed like the band would implode any day. I never thought they would last long enough to do 4 more studio records and a live record for us. So I wanted to grab all the Deicide real estate I could, figuring this magical death metal band would be very short-lived.” Fortunately for fans worldwide, that turned out not to be the case. Deicide are still active today, and Amon: Feasting the Beast still demonstrates just how powerful and groundbreaking their music was, even in its earliest days.