(Kaptain Carbon returns to NCS with this feature on black and death metal 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.)
Islander and No Clean Singing have been champs regarding my sometimes insane focus when it comes to articles. I remember at the last Maryland Death Festival I met Islander for two seconds and the first thing I mentioned to him was “Thanks so much for letting me write about Dungeon Synth.” I am in the process of writing the second part on that series but I have decided to do an article more in line with the site’s ethos. Black and death demos. Hopefully he will let me keep being weird.
Demos have been of immense interest to me because they are an entity whose intent has changed over the years, particularly since the era of the digital internet landscape began. Artists can release full-length albums to fans without the need for a record label intermediary. Demos were originally intended as a demonstration to labels, which could lead to albums and further releases with that label’s support. While this seems like a dream of the halcyon days of big labels, the process of demo to album still exists in underground metal, albeit slightly different in intent.
Metal demos mean something else, as the concept of an unpolished draft or sketch of music is sometimes sought after by fans and connoisseurs of low fidelity. Metal demos are still the first stop before a full-length and usually are used as a tool in hype and advertisement for record labels. Perhaps in some way, underground metal is preserving this exercise of draft revision before a final product.
Gardening for demos is a wonderful exercise, as it is filled unsparingly with unheard of, and new, bands. Once one focuses on their genre of choice, demos are a great way to preview bands and earmark them to follow. Below are a handful of interesting demos from interesting black and death bands only 7 months into 2016. While I am sure I missed some, particularly since I only focused on albums available on Bandcamp, this barely breaks the surface of the music available there and elsewhere. There is evil everywhere.
Hands down, the best set of demos being released in 2016, by density, is from Vrasubatlat. With a solid set of demos in 2015, this year is shaping up to be the year of Dagger Lust and Utzalu, with 2 solid and grim releases just in the first half of the year. If you were unaware of these acts, which is the handiwork of the bassist from Ash Borer, then you owe it to yourself to see the many faces of hate and evil. Serum Dreg, Dagger Lust, Triumvir Foul, Urzeit, Uškumgallu, and Utzalu are all wraiths loyal to one horrid castle that lies in the Pacific Northwest.
As of this moment, Draped Urn does not have a Metal Archives page, which makes me feel like I won the black/death lotto or at least found some sort of treasure with dead flesh inside. Draped Urn is, I believe, the work of one Brazilian mastermind who has somehow made sexual depravity and blasphemy fucking hilarious in the context of raw extreme music. With a sound that can put down herd animals, Draped Urn is the best demo no one wants to acknowledge exists.
L.O.R.E., for a while, was also without a Metal Archives entry. I thought I was awesome and then they went and sold out and got added. Regardless of any humorous claims to fame, this Florida-based black metal band is drenched in the occult and is, as of yet, unrepresented by a record label. If you are one who enjoys their black metal recorded from a different room, but with the immensity of the sound translated through low fidelity, then L.O.R.E. is the perfect match for you.
Well, hello there Denver. Your city is not known for its extreme metal output. Maybe your record label Nauseating Whiff will remedy that. Rasha’im and Vourdalak, even by name, do not look like they are going to sound. When one looks at their names, the strangled cries and gasps of black metal choked around the tree of life are not the first things to come to the mind. A Malediction is the second demo for Rasha’im and Prayers to the Void is the first for Vourdalak. Why are they being paired together aside from being from the same label? Well, aside from having the same one member, they are basically the same band with slightly different sounds. If you know me, then that is the sort of thing I dream about. If you thought Colorado was the magical land of legal drugs and mile-high good feelings, allow these two bands to shatter your dreams.
The entire demo from US black ambient act Eichenwald is really split between black metal and ambient. When I say ambient, I mean fucking soundscapes that bookend the demo. If you enjoy wind and rainscapes to really break you down before a decent jump into Paysage D’Hiver-style black metal, then Eichenwald is for you. Seriously though, you have to be prepared for the soundscapes. This isn’t a joke. Pack your sleeping bag. the weather is turning.
Hell Yes. Hell Yes. Obscure Evil is from Peru and, as an entity, they pay tribute to their South American extreme metal heritage by making a fierce cocktail of black thrash that also happens to be on fire when you drink it. Blow fire for Satan. Obscure Evil comes by way of Caligari Records, who if you were not aware of, then you have a weekend full of evil-sounding casket music to fuel your nightmares.
Sweet, more South American evil. Operating in Chile, Invocation operates in the more traditional black death genre and uses a rusty hammer instead of a sharpened saw for their work. At just under 20 minutes, Seance Part: I is a horrific vision of music that could come to a full album of pain if given the chance. Invocation is both able and willing to haunt the darkest parts of one’s dreams and shouldn’t be a surprise if one was aware and open to the possibility of South American madness.
Through researching this band’s name, I can connect it to nothing aside from the imagination of an Australian one-man act. Though the Metal Archives page has this listed under black/doom, Knudret Kommerdød operates in the very ugly / atmospheric realm of black metal. His demo is interesting in that two songs are really not enough to allow this music to fully blossom. I guess this is where demos work as only a glimmer of potential for an act.
Never in my life could I be more excited about these band names. Violent Scum is the sort of thing I was warned about growing up, and here I am clamoring for more material. I may be cheating here since Festering in Endless Decay was technically self-released in the fall of 2015. This is one of those things that one label picked up and is now releasing again in 2016. If anyone has a serious problem with the years being bent for straight-up ripping death metal, you can reach me at my dungeon synth castle.
Another year goes by and another band from Iron Bonehead with anonymous members making occult-ridden black metal that is pretty damn awesome. I hope this trend never ends. Iron Bonehead is sneaky as their stuff is usually amazing, but sometimes, as with Altarage, releases that should be heralded go unnoticed by a larger group. I guess Ifrinn has had some coverage, but compared to the quality of this demo, this should be breaking radio waves. Or at least ripping through a larger audience with vengeance.