King Fowley looks back on the first 10 years of Deceased

Deceased has received a lot of coverage from D.U. over the years, from music reviews to live photos to interviews and features. It’s one of our favorites and, as one can guess from the band name, it’s a death metal group, one which has altered its sound and lineup over the decades but hasn’t stopped yet, even after all of the years and the mileage.

Death Metal From the Grave is not only the band’s motto but the title of a CD compilation of demo and live tracks (and a cover of a Venom song) that was released by Last World Records in 1996. Bandleader King Fowley penned a history of the band for the CD sleeve, in which he covered the years 1983 to 1995 and the highs and extreme lows he and the rest of the band passed through in that period. D.U. is reprinting the history and notes below for anyone that hasn’t read it. At the end is some discography notes Fowley included in the original.

The band Deceased means an awful lot to me! Not only is it one of the most important things in my life, but it is also a creative outlet to give our musical share to the heavy music world as well.

I co-founded Deceased along with Doug Souther and Mark Adams in early ‘85. We had grown up listening to all the heavy metal greats such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, etc., and quickly became involved in an unknown world of even wilder, heavier, and more aggressive metal music known as “the underground.” Coming across such instant classic bands such as Motörhead, Venom, Exciter, Manowar, Slayer, and Voivod, just to name a very few, we immediately knew this was what our lives were going to revolve around: metal!

Sometime in ‘83, Doug and I started hearing about shows by bands we loved like Twisted Sister, Queensrÿche, Raven, and Anthrax, and made sure we got in to see them no matter what. It was at these shows that we discovered there were other people that, like us, lived for metal. One of these people was Mark “Chainsaw” Adams, a die-hard Venom and Slayer fanatic on first meeting. Well, as it turned out, he too was looking to form an “over the top” heavy band. Doug and I hyped our so-called band up as “faster than Slayer and Metallica” and “sicker than Venom.”

Mark got our phone numbers and eventually made it to one of our practices. With Doug and I having no real knowledge of how to play any musical instrument, it didn’t take Mark long to figure out we were lying. We didn’t actually have a real band. You know, the kind that has a full lineup, songs, and above all knows how to play their instruments. Mark could play pretty good guitar, but me and Doug were just awful! I was attempting to play bass and sing while Doug had just recently bought his first guitar and was beginning lessons. Instantly it was decided that we should get together and, with some time and effort, become a real band. As for a drummer, I knew an old friend from school named Marcel Dosantos who could keep a steady beat so we asked him to join up.

We tried all kinds of musical styles. Slow and heavy, fast and aggressive; nothing wasn’t attempted. It seemed that Doug, Mark, and I really enjoyed the “faster than the speed of light” style, while Marcel preferred the more traditional heavy metal approach. We quickly saw that Marcel was losing interest in the band, and eventually he left. It really didn’t affect us, though. I was already playing his drums at practice when he wasn’t around and was constantly thinking about making the switch to drums anyway. After the switch, we started getting more serious as a band. We were without a bassist, but we were becoming a decent unit as a three piece. We cut a few rehearsals and even played a few parties. I was the singer as well, but I hadn’t mastered the skill of playing drums and singing at the same time so we just played instrumentals for the time being. We were doing covers by bands such as Slayer, D.R.I., and Hirax, mixed in with our earliest originals. People didn’t know how to take our music. Some laughed while others praised us. It didn’t matter to us. We were doing what we loved.

The time finally came when we needed to get a bass player into the ranks. That bassist was longtime friend Rob Sterzel. He was a headbanging freak who always came to our shows, and one night we noticed he was playing Kreator on an acoustic guitar at a party we were at. We instantly asked him to join us on bass.

By the end of summer ‘86 we had nine songs ready to be recorded for our debut demo, The Evil Side of Religion. We called a friend who owned an 8-track portable studio and asked him to come over to our practice space (which was in another friend’s attic) and record us. For $20 and a case of beer, he did! As one can instantly tell by the songs included on this release, the quality is lacking due to the fact that no one, including the guy who owned the portable studio, knew how to properly record. We decided after it was done that we would give the tape away for free. It turned out to be a great promotional move! People got word of a free tape and the orders poured in from everywhere. Some people even wrote back, sending a few bucks and thanking us for our honesty and positive attitude for sending out a free tape. The demo took a lot of critical beatings and criticism which it truly deserved, but we made some really good contacts with people, mags, and bands as well.

Deceased 1986-1988

After the demo’s release, we started playing out more often. It was nothing fancy or high key, just friends’ parties and get-togethers. It was important to us to start our live experience somewhere. Slowly we started building up a name for ourselves. People were now asking us for tapes and shows instead of us forcing ourselves upon them.

We started ‘87 off strong; then disaster struck. I started feeling very sick and run down. I was using heavy drugs all of the time and it was now catching up with me. I started experiencing anxiety attacks, nervous reactions, all kinds of awful things. Drugs were trying to take my life away from me. I was in and out of hospitals with drug-related incidents. My only way to fight back was to take some time off from the outside world and regain my health. The rest of ‘87 was spent in my house going through heavy withdrawals. It had to be done! Nine months passed with little contact from any of my friends, including the band. Then I was ready to start my life again. I slowly got back in stride.

Early ‘88 saw the return of Deceased. My mom helped me buy my first real drum set and I was ready to get back to it. Doug, Mark, and I played together for the first time in close to a year (Rob couldn’t make it due to transportation problems) and, you know what, it sounded good! We called Rob right after practice and told him we were back.

Then the nightmare returned. What happened that night will haunt me forever. Doug had decided to go out later that day to hang out with his brother and a few friends, including Rob. Mark and I wanted to stay at home and call it an early night, but luck wasn’t with the rest that day. Around 10 p.m., Doug was driving his car through town when he got a flat tire. Pulling to the side of the road, everyone got out to help. Doug went back into the car to get his flashlight. In an instant, a van came speeding over a blind hill and hit everyone but Doug. Of the four people struck, three died instantly, including Rob, and the fourth victim was crippled for life. What made everything even worse was the driver leaving the scene of the accident. Doug tried running after the van on foot, but it was too late.

When I received word of what had happened, it was close to six hours later. I was talking with a friend when my sister came in and told me that Mark was on the phone hysterical. I instantly went into shock when he told me what had happened!

As time went by, I waited for Doug to piece his life back together as he and Mark had done for me during my drug troubles. We eventually got in touch and decided to go on with Deceased. We deeply felt that Rob would have wanted it that way. We started rehearsing and preparing new material as a three piece just like in the beginning.

We played our first party in a year and a half to over 400 people and that’s where we met Les. A friend introduced us to him and said he played bass. We got his phone number and went on with our set, which included Les diving off our amps. We called him a few days later and he came up to our practice spot, which was now at my house. He arrived with an amp bigger than him and an eager attitude towards learning our songs. He instantly was in time with what we wanted to do musically, even if he was about four years younger than any of us.

We only tried one other bass player out besides Les, but when he started putting funk slap bass over our tunes the choice was obvious. We taught Les a bunch of Deceased “standards,” just to get him worked into the band, and then began writing our new demo. The songs came together as a concept dealing with the classic tale of the dead returning to life through man’s scientific errors. We called the tape simply Birth By Radiation.

Deceased 1988-1990

We realized immediately that we needed to record in a proper studio if we wanted to be treated as a professional band. We started looking around locally for a place that was fairly priced yet had a name for itself. Inner Ear Studios was just that. We had known that all the local punk bands had gone there, so we figured they must have some idea on how to record aggressive, raw music. The demo was recorded and mixed in October and was officially released on Halloween 1988, which tied in nicely with our creepy ideas. When you hear the tracks taken from this session, you will instantly notice better playing within the band, better songs, and above all a quality recording that we were trying for.

The demo was received very well in the underground. People were seeing that Deceased wasn’t your “run of the mill” death metal noise but a band that was musically adventurous and striving to be unique. Some people did miss the raw, under-produced sound we had obtained on the first demo, but we knew deep down this was a step in the right direction.

A few months passed and we started preparing a live set to play for the growing death metal masses. In April of ‘89 we played our first club show ever. It was quite different from the parties we had done. The lights, the sound; it was really strange to actually be on a stage. The show was a learning experience for sure. We kept obtaining slots on concert bills with other local metal and hardcore bands and slowly but surely started getting a nice following of supporters for our music. It seemed people were craving our very over the top, aggressive style of music and the local crowds started getting bigger and more dedicated to death metal. Soon we were headlining locally and setting up our own shows. We were even playing out of state.

We met up with lots of different bands and made new friends along the way. Back on the home front, we were writing a bunch of new songs that were going to continue the concept we had started on the last demo. Exactly a year after the last demo was released, we again booked time to record at Inner Ear. We had just one thing on our minds: our best demo ever! We wanted to keep the clarity and crispness of the second demo’s sound but return some of the raw edge that the debut tape had. The demo was named Nuclear Exorcist and the final outcome of the recording was a bit of a letdown! We really thought the songs written were our best yet, but the demo’s sound was more sloppy than heavy and the mix just wasn’t up to par. It was obvious: we hadn’t mastered producing our music yet. There are three songs on hand [on the CD] from this demo; you can judge for yourself.

Our concept storyline was furthered on this release with hints of religious sacrilege, little trust of mankind, and a whole lot of morbid science fiction. While my lyrics were becoming more visual and imaginative, the demo went on to sell very well (around 2,000 copies worldwide) and we again charted out to all the bordering states to play. There were lots of rewarding gigs during these times including out-of-state death metal festivals with Morbid Angel, Sacrifice, Prime Evil, and Immolation. We felt very good for a band barely three years old.

1990 rolled in with word of a compilation record offer from none other than Relativity Records. It was to feature all the up ‘n’ coming U.S. death metal bands, and somehow we were now considered one of them. The LP was to be called Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, and we even went in and remixed what we considered our best track from the Nuclear Exorcist demo, “Planet Graveyard.” But in the end it never happened. We were all a bit down on this news, but what happened next eventually killed all our negativity. A longtime pen pal, Matt Jacobson, was starting a new record label and he wanted us as one of his very first acts. After months and months of me pretty much talking the other three guys into signing with a record label that had absolutely no credentials, we did! This record label became Relapse.

Immediately we started preparation on our debut record. We had been writing tunes for a fourth Deceased demo, but they instantly became band favorites and beat out some older songs for inclusion on the album. After a few tough weeks narrowing down all our favorite Deceased songs, we had it ready to go.

In what would seem the band’s finest hour, it was really just the opposite. Doug was now slowly fading away from the tightly knit friendship of Deceased. Being that I was looked upon as the “leader” of the group, Doug and I were getting into disagreements and arguments all the time. A lot of it was really stupid and forgettable while some of it was very serious to the band. Doug was starting to drop out of playing out-of-state shows for whatever reasons, and I complained that we were losing valuable opportunities to further us as a live band. The end result was playing a few shows as a three piece, drastically cutting down our set list to compensate for songs we couldn’t play without a second guitarist. When it came time to record the record, we as a band had lost our edge.

Due to financial funds and still feeling a bit discouraged by our third demo’s sound, we decided to record away from Inner Ear Studios. Mark had a friend in Maryland that could get us a good deal at a 24-track studio called Oz. It was definitely a bad decision! It turned out to be an hour drive to get there and we had to record late at night till early in the morning. It affected all of our playing. We couldn’t relax. We couldn’t get it together. We were coming in at 10/11 p.m. and staying till dawn. I’ll never forget having to put down vocal tracks at 4:30 in the morning. When it was all over, the record sounded out of sync.

The feuding increased between Doug and I during and after the studio; then it all came down. Doug Souther left the band in late 1990. Mark, Les, and I knew it was coming; we just didn’t know exactly when it would. We instantly regained our thoughts. Mark called in another old friend from shows named Mike Smith to give it a go on guitar, and somehow it all worked out great. Within weeks we were playing out again. We introduced the locals to Mike at the infamous “Deathbash” house where we played his first Deceased show to a bunch of insane, drunk death heads and he handled it all to perfection. It was the start of a new era for Deceased.

Deceased 1990-1995

Meanwhile, Relapse was getting their business in full stride, even relocating to Pennsylvania from Colorado to join up partners with Bill Yurkiewicz, who was also trying to get a sincere yet professional record label going. A 7” single was decided upon to give the record-buying market their first taste of Deceased. Gutwrench was the outcome, a three-track recording featuring the “Planet Graveyard” remix along with two live tracks. I think it shocked everyone when the first pressing quickly sold out. A small-quantity repress was done to meet demands and that too went quickly.

After the usual industry delays, Luck of the Corpse was finally released in early ’92. I must admit I was half hearted when I cheered its release. I was very happy to see our efforts released on a wide scale, but I knew all the problems and downs that were involved with it, and that really left sour thoughts for me. The LP was met with mixed views. While some were praising our continuing different approach to death metal, others were instantly turned off by it. We believed there was melody, odd timings, versatility: something that in 1992 was very rare for death metal. It has sold around 20,000 copies to date.

Seeing that the LP was recorded close to two years earlier, we wanted to quickly return to the studio and record a follow-up. We decided on an EP of a few new songs and a couple old tracks to show how far we had come as a band in this time. This project turned into The Thirteen Frightened Souls. We got back to Inner Ear Studios and recorded five tunes, including our rendition of Voivod’s theme song. It was obvious to us that we were starting to create a slightly different approach to death metal, and when the EP came out in mid-‘93 it was received with a bunch of positive reviews. It seemed a lot of people were now ready to hear something with more than one-dimensional vocals, sub-par playing, and songs that went nowhere, which to us most death metal had become. This release gained us some much-needed respect.

We went back out on the road to new states including Illinois, North Carolina, and the U.S. death metal state of Florida. It was really nice to see and meet people who enjoyed our brand of musical mayhem. Eventually we settled back down and started preparing for our next really important task, The Blueprints For Madness. This was going to be our real test as a band. We needed to create a follow-up to the EP that delivered on all cylinders musically, but we weren’t going to jump the gun. We kept fine tuning, changing, and even demoing new songs (something we had never really done in the past) to make sure they were 100 percent up to par.

In the summer of ‘94 we returned to Inner Ear with our best recording budget yet. We now had plenty of time to make sure this record was how we wanted it. The outcome has yet to be heard (the LP isn’t due out till April ‘95) but we feel that this is truly our finest release to date. As I write this, we are preparing for a whole lot of projects which include our first-ever U.S. tour, a video (rest assured it’s just for the underground legions), and a couple of cover songs for various releases. We also have long-term plans to release a live record, an EP of old, classic metal songs, and our next over-the-top “concept” LP, Fearless Undead Machines.

Closing out this historical story, I feel there’s just one final word that must be said to all the underground mutants who, just like us, feed off of and enjoy heavy music and all it stands for. That word is thanks. Thanks to Relapse Records for believing in us, Last World Records for getting involved with this release, and to all our worldwide supporters for the letters, praise, criticism, friendship, and helping hand throughout our first 10 years as a band.

Always and forever, death metal from the grave!

King Fowley, March ‘95 ■

Deceased discography [1986-1995]:

The Evil Side of Religion 1986 demo #1
Birth By Radiation 1988 demo #2
Nuclear Exorcist 1989 demo #3
One Night in the Cemetery 1989 official live tape
The Day of Death 1990 official live tape
Live With the Legions 1990-92 official live tape
Gutwrench 7”
Luck of the Corpse LP
The Thirteen Frightened Souls EP
The Blueprints For Madness LP

Compilations featuring Deceased:

Corporate Death
Five Years of Nuclear Blast
Death is Just the Beginning Volume II
Death is Just the Beginning Volume III

More Deceased coverage is here at the blog, including a track-by-track discussion of The Blueprints for Madness by Fowley.

Images: taken from Death Metal From the Grave


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