(Kaptain Carbon returns to NCS with a year-end list of 2015 demos. Kaptain Carbon operates Tape Wyrm, a blog dedicated to current and lesser known heavy metal. He also writes Dungeon Synth reviews over at Hollywood Metal as well as moderating Reddit’s r/metal community. We’ve heard that he is also a fantastic dungeon master and has some wonderful EDH decks.)
Demos were intended to be a demonstration of talent, which could then be passed along to record labels and production companies. The demo would entice interest and would hopefully lead to a larger, more produced effort. This has pretty much been erased since even first efforts from musicians can mimic decent production, and self-produced full lengths are released as first products.
The idea of demos has all but gone away, save for underground metal. It is here where demos are either the first step in a long process of releases or the end point for musicians who never release full-lengths. Demos, in heavy metal, attract a certain allure for their primitive and unadulterated potential despite the reality surrounding them.
In 2015, demos straddled a line between nostalgic aesthetic for an old style of propaganda and a surprising new function. Despite the almost zero need for demos, combing through a list of them gives one a large stock of unheard material. I guess there still is a need for them if you are a part of an audience who loves hearing less-traveled metal with little need for production standards.
This is certainly not all of them. This is a collection of heavy metal demos released in the year 2015 intended to highlight and wade through very short releases by new bands. There are 15 listed here, which is nowhere near the number released in even the first half of 2015. All of the demos in this 2015 list were taken from a shorter collection of bands who are listed in the Metal Archives AND have their demos on Bandcamp AND are of somewhat decent quality.
These also do not include the splits, EPs, and full-lengths that also made up another wonderful year. While this may seem like an arbitrary way to categorize music, the amount of material that was released this year was staggering. Here are 15 demos along with their reasonable price tags, which is a pretty good way to celebrate a fantastic year in metal.
I am not going to pretend I own every one of these demos, but this first one I do, and I put it up first because it is nothing short of amazing. Three brief but effective black speed songs on a two-sided tape, crafted in fire and steel. This demo is so impressive for the fact that the energy and production sit right next to bands like Speedwolf, Midnight, and all of the other Venom / Motörhead influences that course through its veins.
Cost: 2$ for Digital
I hope you have brought your boots for foul weather because this German black metal band rides the steep curve of low fidelity. The most interesting thing is that Skardus could probably work with a little bit more production and it wouldn’t change the mixture of the record. The harsh sections work surprisingly well despite the flatness of the sound and the band could work in both a tier above and below for future releases. What Skardus does not lack, however, is the ability to channel an unbridled sense of grief to structure the demo.
Cost: €3.50 for Tape
Oh fuck, this is depressing. Висельник (“hanged” in Russian) is a one-man depressive black metal act who has been putting out demos for the last 5 years. His material is frightening, harrowing, and void of any warmth that may have inhabited this area once before.
Between the dark ambient, which takes up half of the demo, the actual black metal is so unhinged that it feels dangerous and unstable. Though these descriptions sound like they are negatives, A Valley of Despair is just the type of release to shake one’s understanding of how music can sound and what it can make you feel.
Cost: €5.00 for Tape
Cruelest is a part of a growing scene of Southeast Asian brutal death and grind bands that are primarily centered in Indonesia. I am not the hugest fan of brutal death, but the visceral nature of this guitar/drum combo is breathtaking in its ability to knock the wind out of one’s lungs. This sound is also very indicative of regional interest.
Come if you like low-tuned riffs and careening madness. Also come, of course, if you enjoy your death metal served with a side of giblets and other organ meat.
Cost: $2.50 Digital
Mutilacion specializes in the occult, and seems obsessed with other bands who invoke the same sort of thematic terror. Unlike many of the other bands who opt for the more cavernous death metal sound, Mutilacion’s is more dynamic, even having choruses that repeat, as if some sort of structure was being formed.
Mutilacion’s sound seems to be directed more to a crowd who enjoy blackened death and a full theatrical production. The early Absu cover almost directly implies that this band is to inhabit that space between black and death metal. A full show is sometimes nice between all of these VHS bootlegs running around.
Cost: $5.00 for CD
Just seeing this band being put on the bill with Corpsessed, Adversarial, and Morpheus Descends just goes to show where this band is heading. This is funny, because their music sounds like they are heading straight for jail, or at least a three-hour police manhunt.
With a lack of fucks to be given, Occult Burial play black/thrash the way it was meant to be, with the burning taste of whiskey in your nose and the broken grit of the shot glass between the bar and your fist. I usually gauge a band’s merit at the level of ludicrous metaphors inspired by their music. Occult Burial wins.
Cost: Name Your Price for Digital
ACOLYTES OF MOROS
Good. Doom. I am thankful for this for two reasons. One, doom does not release a lot of demos compared to black and death metal. Two, I do not cover a lot of doom because of that reason. While stoner doom and progressive sludge have their own cultures and celebrations, Acolytes of Moros practice in the way of traditional doom and possibly death/doom. With as much morose attitude as soaring melodies, this band has all the comforts and despair of a home wrecked with years of neglect and decay.
Cost: Name Your Price for Digital
EYE OF DEPRESSION
Eye of Depression are from China, and I am pretty sure this is actually the case, unlike some other depressive black artists.
The CD-R for Never Lost is being released by a Ukrainian label who has had an absurd amount of depressive material released just for this year. Aside from the label, which seems to be blanketing the world in grief, the composition of Eye of Depression‘s music is intriguing, if not a little sickening. Here, slow guitar melodies strum over even slower gasps and croaks. This is something that one has to get used to, especially when there are cat shrieks are added into the mix.
Cost: €7.15 for CD-R
If you remembered what I said about raw potential being the original intent of a demo, then the rehearsal demo should be the pinnacle of that aesthetic. Live-recorded for an audience of no one, rehearsals usually pass for the bare minimum of demos, because it at least has all members present and playing music together.
Nordal seems to be the work of one person, aided by a revolving list of musicians. The Feuersturm rehearsal seems to be the beginning of Nordal with its current lineup, and this very raw recording a starting point to a hopefully fertile career.
Cost: €4.00 for Tape
Feign is hilarious for the fact that the release notes inform us this is a black metal project from a creator who also has a metalcore side project. The cover looks sort of like a Planetarium ad, and the promotional photography looks anything but intriguing for a black metal project.
The actual hilarity comes from how Feign’s demo is fiercely effective in its production and focus, and its three songs make for a better release than some full-lengths by more serious bands. While still rough around the edges in terms of guitar noodling, Feign’s ability to make a compelling full-length seems ever more a possibility given the quality of this demo.
Cost: Name Your Price
Despite contrary strains of thought, I feel musical pseudonyms never get old. Inner Altar is a coven of members known as Long Feather, Lord Rewcifer, Strong Smoke, and Stingray. This commune-on-peyote vibe emanating from the members’ names fits with the musical aesthetic, as Inner Altar is a throwback to a time when hard psych could have sounded like this but didn’t really. Vol I follows the plights of Lucifer, with four tracks of smokey psych doom that are just as charming as a hot-boxed van parked in the woods.
Cost: $4.00 for Digital
Nuclear War Now’s record label needs little introduction for those who are familiar with their efforts in unearthing and producing some of the more vile black and death gems from across the lands. Tonight we have Necromantic Worship, who are devoted to Lovecraft and the sound of bass guitar, which dominates the mix. I will say this demo is really raw and its edges are frayed, but good god is it as fun as the dark abyss.
Coffin Creep is hilarious, and if you think the short clips at the beginning of “Pyre at the Graveyard” are any indication of the sort of tone that will fill this demo, then just wait until the low-tuned death metal hits. Unlike some of the other, more serious death metal that is currently popular, Coffin Creep is here to drink beer and play riffs. Instead of a cavernous atmosphere, the production for Howls from the Graveyard is only veiled in as much depth as it takes to get in the door and start causing fucking trouble.
Cost: $6.66 for Tape
Holy fuck, something that is not black or death. Wait, are you sure this isn’t from the early ’80s? Are you sure? Teuton are from Australia and they are making it their blood oath to recreate the majesty of early ’80s power/speed, even to the point of making their promo tape look like an artifact from the late ’70s or early ’80s. I wish these guys luck in their journeys because Full On Power is nothing short of inspiring.
Cost: $3.00 for Digital
I believe Cvltist’s demo is the longest release in the entire article. At a surprising 30 minutes, this Spanish band is probably just releasing full-lengths under the banner of a demo. I say this because Demo I looks like a full-length with each song number in sequence, complete with a prologue and epilogue. Demo I is a little bit more than a short introduction, but with that said, it is a fun 30-minute ride. Channeling the ghosts of black metal’s first wave, Cvltist haunts whatever castle seems appropriate at the time.
Cost: Name Your Price
This is a perfect place to end, because this release sort of illustrates the fluidity of what a demo is. Gevurah are on Profound Lore, which is different than the dozens of unsigned acts that have preceded them in this article. Gevurah also already have had one full-length before this on Profound Lore. What Dialogue of Broken Stars seems to be is a hard reset for the band, who seem to be changing their once dark, chaotic approach of black metal to something more focused and possibly avant-garde. With one full song followed by an ambient piece, Dialogue of Broken Stars does little than rouse possible interest in a future release from this Canadian band. Perhaps that is exactly what it is supposed to do.
Cost: $3.00 For Digital
I mentioned that these were not all of the demos that even met the criteria for the article. On my blog, I already reviewed several fantastic 2015 demos from Veiled, Funeste, Scorched, Human Bodies, Horns of Domination, Venefixtion, and others. This also does not include the weird, dark ambient, and dungeon synth releases that also make tape towers on my desk.
The previous paragraph is not intended to brag, but to illustrate the point that the amount of music one can get into in a year is nearly endless. With all of this searching, I did not even pay attention to all of the Soundcloud, YouTube, and ReverbNation releases that were also in abundance. There will be no time to listen to everything, but with the right amount of work, you can try and make a decent dent.