The Phantom Tollbooth

Street Corner Queen
Artist:  Deuteronomium
Label: Little Rose Productions
Time: 12 tracks/55:02 refreshing this album is! Street Corner Queen is for every metal fan that gets tired of the every-song-the-same tendency of most extreme metal bands, as Deuteronomium joins Necromanicide in the "let's play as many styles of hard music as we know how on one album" approach. Except Deuteronomium does a much, much better job of it. This is unquestionably one of the best Christian-made metal albums ever. The variety is astounding, the quality consistently excellent.

They're obviously very aware of the progressive melody-driven sounds that permeate most European death metal these days--cranking out melodic death a la fellow Finlanders Sentenced, raspy vocal black/death from the In Flames/Dark Tranquillity school, very melodic recent Paradise Lost-ish gothic metal-gone-rock, and gravel-voiced hooky death grooves like more friendly Entombed or Napalm Death. The last two songs, "Northern Praise" and "Blue Moment," feature the favored fad of gorgeous female vocals alongside the rougher (but clean) male ones, with the soaring classical sounds of Swedish death ("Blue Moment" also appeared on the band's previous Tribal Eagle EP). Then they've got the oddball tunes like "Druglord," a desperate, slurred-voice freak-out, and the killer "Bonsai People," one of the coolest alterna-groove songs I've ever heard, with distorted vocals, a slammer of a chorus, and some weird mellow sections that play with the dynamics of distance and trippy tones in the mix.

The variety will undoubtedly frustrate some fans, but Deuteronomium does have a definite personality and musical style that draws the whole album together. It doesn't have the fragmented compilation feel that one would expect. They rely heavily on rhythm guitar, with few leads, and melody is king on pretty much every song. There is no acoustic guitar, but they include just the right amount of quiet atmospherics, distortion-less guitars, and solo bass parts. The drumming is great and as varied as the rest of the album, depending on the song. The tones are nice and chinka-chinka crispy, with clear production all around. Occasionally the mix allows for a noticeable separation, with one sound a tad louder than others, but not at the expense of the other instruments. Listeners' personal production tastes will determine how they like that (it sounds cool to me).

The only glaring weakness is the few times when Miika Partala tries clean vocals and his Euro accent sounds kind of silly and awkward. The worst (and oddest) example of this is at the end of "Human Nature," when the band experiments with rap and reggae! It's horrible. So horrible it's hilarious--too bad it's right when he's giving a serious message of  true love and sexual purity.

Variety describes the lyrics as well--some are more poetic (but not quite poetic enough), while others are direct and uncreative. Most are Christian enough to cause much gnashing of teeth in satanists, but the delivery and musical landscapes in which they're set makes it easy to never even notice the blatant messages, which deal with those swimming in the misery of dark streets who need to recognize the glorious Christ as the way out. "Druglord" is quite moving when you read that the lyrics are apparently the words written by a young girl before she was slain by her addiction:

Those who like their death/black metal straight with no chaser will find little to love here, as will those looking for deep bottom-end or harsh heaviness. But those who are enjoying the recent European elevations of death metal into realms of beautiful art and accessible grooves will be instant fans. Deuteronomium has struggled in the past with whether or not to continue their musical endeavors, but hopefully their success with Street Corner Queen will keep them experimenting, breaking conventions, and carving out cool songs for some time to come.

By Josh Spencer (9/8/98)