|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Terry Taylor|
|Record Label: Intense/Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1992/2014||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 65:24|
When Deliverance released Stay Of Execution, its fourth full-length album on Intense Records from 1992, it ushered in a period of change for the group. The transition started in the aftermath of the melodic speed metal and thrash of the groundbreaking Deliverance 1989 self-titled debut and every bit acclaimed 1990 follow up effort Weapons Of Our Warfare with the 1991 release of What A Joke. The album found the group at a crossroads musically. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jimmy P. Brown, burnt out from performing speed metal and thrash since the mid-eighties, wished to go in a different musical direction. Lead guitarist George Ochoa, on the other hand, was just getting his feet wet as far as either style was concerned and wanted to maintain a similar course. With the two classing over musical direction, it led to an uneven effort in What A Joke, an album that in the words of Brown “inevitably it was”.
The departure of Ochoa following the release of What A Joke marked the first change, with his replacement Mike Phillips joining Deliverance in time to record Stay Of Execution. The second found the group abandoning much of its speed metal and thrash ways and pursuing a sound I might describe as ‘uniquely Deliverance’. Stay Of Execution reveals a darker and more somber side to Deliverance (albeit not falling within the Gothic and doom metal genres) rooted in a straightforward but technical brand of metal (retaining much of the group’s trademark heaviness at the same time). A more progressive facet to Brown’s songwriting abilities make its presence felt in the process, which should not surprise when factoring how his progressive side started to emerge on Weapons Of Our Warfare tracks “Flesh And Blood” and “Solitude”.
Stay Of Execution has been an out of print and hard to find collectors item for years, with eBay prices for the CD version approaching the unreasonable (I was one of the lucky few to obtain a cheaply priced used CD copy). The good news, however, is that Stay Of Execution was re-mastered (courtesy of Sid Garcia) and re-issued by Roxx Records in the fall of 2014 with a multi-page mini booklet, that includes vintage band photos, lyrics and detailed liner notes from Brown. Credit Roxx Records for sticking with the original album artwork, with the lone change being a light green font used to highlight the album title and band name as opposed to purple from the original. That said, an eye catching alternate ‘skull guy’ cover is located on the back of the mini-booklet.
Three quality bonus tracks are included in re-recorded versions of classic Deliverance songs “Flesh And Blood”, “In U” (a quality deep cut from the groups 1995 release Camelot In Smithereens) and “What A Joke”. First two feature Mike Phillips and initially appeared on the 2010 Deliverance tribute CD Temporary Insanity - A Salute To Deliverance. The third includes George Ochoa (Brown and Ochoa buried the hatchet some time ago) and was specifically recorded for the Stay Of Execution re-issue.
While Deliverance downplays its speed metal and thrash roots on Stay Of Execution, it is not unreasonable to expect either area to still play a role with its songwriting. Consider the albums Herculean title track, fleet and brisk (but not to the point of speed metal) while yielding the guitar driven muscle I see appealing to those into embracing the first two albums. The sophisticated soloing from Phillips leaves little doubt as to why many consider him the best guitarist to grace a Deliverance line up. Later leaving Deliverance after the release of Stay Of Execution, Phillips resurfaced following the turn of the century with the hardcore group Fasedown prior to releasing a solo album (Mirrors Within Mirrors from 2009 also on Roxx Records) and returning to Deliverance for its two most recent offerings, As Above, So Below (2007) and Hear What I Say! (2013).
Likewise, “Words To The…” delivers some driving riffs that highlight an understated thrash quality, albeit not crossing the threshold of thrash (a similar heaviness exists regardless). The song otherwise proves keyed up in capacity, with the burly freight train momentum and emphatic low end combining for an imposing effect. Vocally, Brown switches gears with a new doom-laden and melancholic style (almost baritone) that has often been compared (and accurately I might add) to a combination of Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) and David Bowie. Previous albums found him singing in a higher register, which lent to critics of the time describing Deliverance as having a ‘Metallica meets Queensryche’ sound
That darker but technical side to Deliverance reveals itself on “Windows Of The Soul” from its joining of lighter guitar tones and mega crunch rhythm guitars with a melody based emphasis (chorus is overriding in its catchiness). Note how the song starts to a resounding scream from Brown that proves he has not lost the ability to go for a high note! “Self-Monger” slams front to back its short (3:28) length with a swarthy bass guitar driven groove in playing up some of the albums heavier moments. An almost industrial tincture manifests itself on the song. “From Once Was” opens hauntingly with an ethereal joining of bass and acoustic guitar, with the acoustic lacings sustained until implacable guitars enter in to shoulder the unflagging verses and impassioned chorus. Another intricate shred guitar solo from Phillips.
The progressive aspect to Deliverance stands out on two of my favorite Stay Of Executions tracks, “Lord Of Dreams” and “Ramming Speed”. Former plays up time changes galore, ranging from lively moments reflecting a mirthful feel to others in which the groups thrash flavorings rise to the surface, as the boisterous refrain aptly attests. Multiple complex instrumental moments further reinforce the progressiveness at hand. Equally notable is the aggressive drumming of Kevin Lee. Latter, in my opinion the greatest Deliverance song of all time, opens its first two minutes to an ominous merging of ethereal guitar feedback and acoustic guitars. Acerbic rhythm guitars step forward and dominate moving ahead, powering the anthem-like verses and somber but intricately woven chorus. Crucible Divine did an absolute killer cover of “Ramming Speed” for the aforementioned Temporary Insanity….
Speaking of which, Deliverance has a history of recording covers, including songs by Black Sabbath (“After Forever” - What A Joke), David Bowie (“Beauty & The Beast” – Camelot In Smithereens) and Iron Maiden (“Where Eagles Dare” - Hear What I Say!). The group has even covered Daniel Amos, with “Sanctuary” (off Vox Humana from 1984) appearing on the 1993 release Learn and “Horrendous Disc” (from the 1981 album of the same name) re-recorded for Stay Of Execution. The Deliverance rendering presents with a cinematic if not theatrical interpretation of the song (I am somewhat reminded of Brown’s Jupiter VI project) with its use of grand piano, big choir-like vocals and orchestral arrangements. Musically, this one is a bit outside the box as far as Deliverance is concerned but is good nonetheless.
For those wondering Deliverance has not completely forsaken its speed metal past, as indicated by the not so subtle “Entombed”. Hard-hitting, fast and merciless, the song hearkens back to the first two albums with its front to back angst (it probably should have been included on either in that it sounds out of place here despite not being a bad song). A remixed version of the metal and thrash hybrid Weapons Of Our Warfare title track was also added to extend the life of the video that had been receiving play on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. In terms of comparison, I prefer the original with its more forthright guitar presence- not to mention a minute has been cut from the length of the Stay Of Execution version.
In terms of the re-recorded material, “Flesh And Blood” comes across faster and heavier (credit the full production in terms of the latter) while Brown sings in the lower register. Musically, it remains an eight-minute progressive thrash anthem that brings to mind the more progressive material from Barren Cross such as “Living Dead” (off Atomic Arena) and “2000 Years” (State Of Control). “In U” showcases the darker and melancholic side to Deliverance with its atmospheric milieu and bass line literally breathing of life. Several exquisite guitar runs help carry it out an extra minute in comparison to the original. Besides the much-improved production allowing for a firmer guitar sound, “What A Joke” features a wonderful extended lead guitar break from Ochoa (I would love to hear a Deliverance project featuring Ochoa AND Phillips). The song continues to stand out with its essential catchy hook and biting (if not sarcastic) feel.
I always was disappointed with the low-end production to the Intense release. When listening to both versions side by side in the car stereo, for instance, I had to maximize the bass and subwoofer to the original to achieve a barely adequate low end sound; with the Roxx Records re-issue, however, I had to turn down both significantly in that low-end now comes across that much more pronounced. Guitars, at the same time, give rise to the greater metal edge and bite. To say that the re-mastering makes a profound difference would be an understatement.
Stay Of Execution might not be concept related, but according to an interview with Brown back in the day, the album has an overriding theme of “…death to the flesh. It’s all about humanness. For all these years we’ve been putting people on pedestals and we forget to realize that they’re human beings. They’re prone to fall. They’re prone to be sinful, because our nature is sinful”.
The albums title track best embodies this - Strong is your hold, Oh mortal flesh. And now I've fallen to you again. Mighty's the faith that overcomes. But somehow you always seem to win – as does “Entombed”: Knowing this, that our old man. Was crucified with him. That the body of sin might be done away with. We should no longer be enslaved to sin. We are not to live as the damned. Other topics covered include dealing with the past, such as on “From Once Was” - Faith gathered from once was. Hope gathered from once was. Peace gathered from once was. Love gathered from once was. I dream the past, the burning bridges. Old photographs, discarded pages. Unanswered prayers, the childhood endings. The bitter tears, the new beginnings – and spiritual warfare, embodied on “Ramming Speed”: War against sin with the weapons of our unity. Right on the mark with a love for humanity. Building up to ramming speed. The power of God is ramming speed. The sea is raging, there's the enemy ahead. On fiery waters float the bodies of the dead.
Roxx Records sets the standard when it comes to re-issues with Stay Of Execution in that no detail has been overlooked in terms of packaging, re-mastering and bonus tracks. If you have been frustrated over the years due to an inability to obtain the album then now is your chance- noting how Roxx Records has limited the re-issue to a limited run of only 300 copies. Likewise, if you own the Intense version then pick up the re-issue due to the bonus tracks and improvements from re-mastering. I always have found Stay Of Execution to hold up quite well in comparison to the Deliverance back catalog in that while I enjoyed the aggressive leanings of the first two albums, the at times darker and others progressive but always technical sound to Stay Of Execution provides a welcome change of pace.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Stay Of Execution” (4:37), “Windows Of The Soul” (5:01), “Words To The…” (4:27), “From Once Was” (3:58), “Self-Monger” (3:28), “Horrendous Disc” (5:28), “Lord Of Dreams” (5:07), “Ramming Speed” (5:48), “Entombed” (3:46), “Weapons Of Our Warfare” (3:41), “Flesh & Blood” (8:16), “In U” (6:22), “What A Joke” (5:24)
Jimmy P. Brown II - Lead Vocals, Rhythm & Acoustic Guitars
Mike Phillips - Lead, Rhythm & Acoustic Guitars
Brian Khairullah - Bass
Kevin P. Lee - Drums & Percussion
Rob Watson - Keyboards
Gene Eugene - Rhodes
Mike Grato - Bass