Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dustbin of Demos: Vol VIII

The flavor text of this week's dustbin comes at the end, because the last demo provoked thought about the nature of the dustbin. 

Legionnaire - Legionnaire
Heavy metal from Finland

Their logo looks like Enchanter's and their medieval name is shared with a Liege Lord song, can I judge this tape by this cover? Yes! Legionnaire invokes the mid-80s, a little past the NWOBHM when imaginative heavy metal bands channeled the grandeur and glory of fantasy into an evocative sound. Reminiscent of the Liege Lord and Brocas Helm's debuts - that triumph and that medieval vibe - mixed with the twin guitar harmonies of NWOBHM and German speed metal. The vocalist is relaxed and narrative yet pleasantly melodic, he reminds me of Kevin Nugent of Legend and Clutch Carruthers of Tysondog, and a bit of Liege Lord's Andy Michaud minus the high shrieks. These guys love their twin guitars and galloping beats as much as I do. I really like what they're doing, but the recording leaves something to be desired- it has a damp practice room sound which lacks the natural shimmer that this music has.

Yeah, I mentioned Liege Lord three times in that paragraph. We love Liege Lord here at CTP, and if you don't, you might be on the wrong page. 

Fiend Candle - Funeral Dimensions
Bedroom "black metal" from USA/Germany

I'm impressed! This manages to be unbearable in three different ways! Track one, 7+ minutes in which an inept guitarist repeatedly stumbles through the same three notes and trails off before starting over. Track two, ever turned a radio on with the volume up and no reception? That blast of distorted static cuts in and out before over a drum machine and guitar fizz with more reverb than the entire Dark Descent catalogue. The last few minutes are lousy somber synth strings. Track three is the nightmares of Guitar Center employees, a kid who picked up a guitar and starts slowly pecking out scale fragments with the treble and distortion turned all the way up, then keeps attempting "expressive" bends which are horribly out of tune and phraseless. Exemplary of this ambient "depressive" crap, it is nothing more than a solitary personal expression of how worthless the creator is.

The Arcbane - Demo I
Melodic death metal from Shanghai, China

Well, not quite melodic death metal, as this demo doesn't have vocals, but it falls well in line with later melodic death metal. The roots of of hard rock and heavy/power metal are on full display, turned "death metal" by basically downtuning the guitars. The music is like later-90s Swedish melodeath, cleaned up of most of the influence of death metal and instead focusing on a groovy style with prominent power metal-esque riffs and a ton of solos. Unfortunately, this is nearly the most sterile, inoffensive "melodeath" one could find - there's none of the punk influence in Carcass, none of the aggression and force of metalcore, and it really doesn't translate the power metal influence that a band like In Flames did. It's basically easy versions of softened-up Arch Enemy riffs pressed into a hard rock song structure.

Primitive - Raw Primitive Black Metal
Black metal from Brazil

Finally, a shitty demo band that doesn't lie to me! I really appreciate it. This is another one from Cvlminus, who releases 20 CD-Rs of wretched shit like Fiend Candle. However, this band executes the basic components and assembly of black metal. The aesthetic of unwavering ticky drums, two-string tremolo riffs with lots of distortion, and screams with a ton of reverb is pretty hard to not physically accomplish, yet to so shamelessly and directly churn it out is like hanging wallpaper and declaring it to be an artistic expression because you like the pattern. This is merely the latest generation of increasingly mediocre imitations which strives to distinguish itself with unabashedly derivative and appropriated outward aesthetics.

Fundente - Demo 2014
Melodic heavy metal from San Juan, Argentina

Extremely melodic, poppy heavy metal which demonstrates a degree of honesty in a dry and bare, yet engaging recording. The songs are simple, and despite the prominence of big pop melodies, the band doesn't use the recording to add any sheen of polish - a single guitar and single vocalist with occasional backing. The first song has a great riff akin to Queensryche's NM 156 and vocal lines that remind me of... erm... Green Day's "Basket Case" in their upbeat melodic pop style. The third track has a bit of an alternative rock vibe going on, but these guys mostly have their hearts on simple melodic metal. While the music isn't anything special, I appreciate this demo because it has an unusual feeling to it. It is a modern 80s-style band which doesn't use two common tools to enlarge the band's sound - there's almost no reverb in this remarkably dry recording, and there are no vocal harmonies nor layering aside from an occasional backing line, same for guitars other than the solos being overlaid.

The value I find in digging through the dustbin is exemplified by Fundente - not every listen is something special, but the different approaches, different results, and varying degrees of success and sound require me to consider what goes into good music. The appreciation of music isn't simply a sliding scale from good to bad, examining what goes into and comes out of it helps me understand and appreciate the bands who do everything the best. In the case of Fundente, it took me a few listens and a few revisions to examine what made the band's sound unusual to me. The lack of reverb contrasts this vintage style to the reverb-soaked retro of the Witches Steel demo from last week, and the lack of layering and harmonizing contrasts the sugary overproduction of Olathia. While this band's sound is bare, a rarity in this day and age, there's no studio trickery to do them favors, and an honest, undoctored recording of a band is a rare thing that makes me appreciate what bands do, even if they're not all that good. 

1 comment:

Orion M. said...

A lot of times, the effects which bands employ in their recordings simply attempts to cover up the flaws in their songwriting and their lack of a matured style. In the case here of Fuendende, as you discussed, their goal on their demo is to continue to shape their songwriting and overall style. Essentially, this is what a demo should be - a band not fully set in it's ways working towards final tracks. Demos are like writing drafts of college papers and sometimes it takes several of them before the actual sound has been set down in stone.

I think to a lot of modern bands who put out a good debut and then drop off with their follow ups - the problem isn't that they wrote a great debut, but that their follow ups finally revealed the true nature of their songwriting. Most bands, especially in metal, attempt to go way too complex and it's not necessary. With debut recordings of past, that was never an option because of studio costs and debuts were the more energetic of recordings naturally due to time constraints.

I like these modern demos which are quickly recorded with that almost rushed energy. It's usually much closer to what a band REALLY sounds like.