A dozen dustbins deep. Sixty demos reviewed. A few worth picking through the dustbin for, but most importantly, many lessons in the strengths and weaknesses, the successes and failures of music. Fortunately, there was a good one in this batch.
The Third Eye Rapists - Hets Mot Allt
Black/death/thrash metal from Sweden
Riffs with a healthy influence of Hell Awaits and early Celtic Frost with gruff shouts and howls to match the latter, perhaps more like later Darkthrone's homages to the era. A bit of a war metal aesthetic at times, but fortunately more dynamic, and the constant dissonant, ominous echo gives it the cavern feeling, though not as suffocating. The production is surprisingly clean - despite the harsh aesthetic, there's no murk to it, just tight thrashing washed in reverb with the atmosphere carefully crafted, reminiscent of Unanimated's reunion album. They seem able to set up a very orthodox poise with their songs, yet it never completely focuses. It doesn't intensify, it doesn't tell a morbid tale, but it rips right from the start. The songs are rather fragmented, but the manic intensity minimizes the abrupt leaps. Leaning heavily on strong influences, this is pretty good, but the band needs to prove they are more than these influences and create a more complete work. (Steve)
Kaarnekorpi - Aaltojen alle
Viking/folk metal from Tampere, Finland
Distinctively Finnish modern melodic metal, pop-sensible but with cleaned up aesthetics of viking/folk metal, on the melodic death/power metal side with hardly any trace of the gruff grandeur of Bathory. Softened up Finnish melodic metal like Amorphis, plus a bit of a shuffle or gallop and folky melodies. Essentially a hybrid of unapologetically poppy female-fronted Finn metal and folk metal with some harsh vocals like Ensefirum. If one tried to cut down Moonsorrow into Queensryche-type pop metal songs with a bit of the aesthetic left, but none of the tact. None of the grandeur which is needed to elevate viking metal, just a superficial glint of it. Sounds alright while listening to it, but it is shallow and forgettable. (Steve)
Blackryse - Welcome to Oblivion
Metalcore from Thessaloniki, Greece
It is strange to hear new bands attempt the New England metalcore style I witnessed forming 10-15 years ago, because many, like Blackryse, seem to miss the mark on both the metal and core sides. The metal riffs here, mostly Gothenburg string skippers, tend to focus on patterns and melodies that may step up the complexity, but completely fail to outline a basic melody or chord pattern that emotes a feeling, a mood, or action. Instead, it just sounds like pointless tick-tocking. The hardcore parts don't impart any groove nor aggression on the music. They hack the aesthetic together, but they simply fall down into breakdowns, rather than setting them up and collapsing the song in a furious fit. The vocals are basically a blank accompaniment, offering nothing a frontman could provide. This sounds like the band copied enough a lot of techniques but had no understanding of why they were put together the way they were. Terrible. (Steve)
Eternal Armageddon - Black Thrash Bastards
Black Thrash from Bangladesh
Eternal Armageddon's Black Thrash Bastards Demo is an energetic ditty, however the material lingers in a formative state with little replay value. These Bangladeshians run through four originals and a cover of Sodom's "Blasphemer" soaking the listener in material which, by local standards might be top-notch however paired against the world's scene, falls short. Iron Maiden influence appears immediately on "Darkness Shalt Reign," an intro track, and then first wave black metal influences appear afterwards. Holding this demo back more than anything on the originals is a lack of contrast, the songs are very similar and not particularly memorable. Asmodeus, Sarcophogous and Blasphemouranter's hearts are in the right place and their monikers have just the right amount of Engrish so hopefully a few more demos help this young band find their sound. (Orion)
Medea - Doomed From Birth
Thrash metal from Sweden
Thrash metal with darker aesthetic leanings like Dark Angel or Slayer, but technically rather tame and unimpressive. The performance and recording are pretty good for what they are - the room sound with real drums and unlayered guitars sound good, it is pretty tight, although simple. There are some melodic Metallica-isms worked in here, but they seem like simple adornments of a band that borrows from others yet doesn't have their own direction. There's no driving force, no intensity to it. It's just lightweight thrashing on cruise control which happens to pass some monuments yet doesn't have a destination. The artwork is cool.