When I learned that Dark Descent Records would be releasing a new EP by the Finnish death metal band Lie In Ruins, I had one of those wide-eyed, take-a-big-gulp moments you get when the unexpected hits you like a piece of lumber on the back of the neck. In other words, it was a big surprise — but in this case a very welcome one. And then the waiting began, to find out exactly what these men had done with their time away from the studios.
Four years have elapsed since this band’s last album, Towards Divine Death, which was very good (and if you haven’t heard that album, quit screwing around and get your butt over here sometime soon). This new EP, Demise, is also the band’s eighth release overall in a career that began in roughly 1993 under the name Dissected, halted for many years after a few rehearsal tapes were recorded, and then resumed for real in about 2002.
What we have for you today is a full stream of Demise a couple of weeks before the official release date. Rather than a collection of clearly segmented songs, it is instead presented as a single track nearly 29 minutes in length. And I do believe it’s the best thing this band have ever done.
Some listeners will undoubtedly feel daunted by the prospect of such a long performance by a fundamentally savage death metal group. There are no obvious points in a song such as this where it makes any sense to take a break if it’s losing its hold on you and come back to it later. So it has to keep that hold in place — firmly — or the band’s ambitious reach risks exceeding their grasp. On the other hand, if something like this can be conceived and executed with a certain level of mastery, it can be an experience you just won’t get with shorter and more conventional tracks.
Fortunately, Demise is worth every minute. After nearly half an hour, it doesn’t feel excessive. Instead, it feels like an experience worth re-living, a demand on your time that has been abundantly repaid. And so while this might be an unusual undertaking, it’s a tremendously successful one.
Over the course of this experience, Lie In Ruins push and pull the throttle, moving the music through changing sequences and moving the listener’s mood in different directions as well, though almost all the moods are as black as tar. Demise is hypnotic at times, compulsively neck-wrecking at others. As it evolves, it is catastrophically violent, methodically brutal, as dismal as a mass grave of children, as titanically heavy as tall, earthquake-fractured buildings meeting the ground, as haunting as a cold, lightless night in a cemetery, as riveting as an electric storm. There are even glimpses of unnerving beauty, as of moonlight rays bent by passing clouds over a landscape of utter desolation.
Demise is also packed with compelling riffs and physically arresting rhythms. The band lock into repeating sequences, both fast and ponderous, that work your head like a piston, or spin it around like a top. The music begins in ominous fashion with a deep, morbid, grinding riff, a booming ritualistic drumbeat, spectral guitar emanations, and equally ghostly wailing vocals. The drummer gradually builds the pace until the storm breaks open with a fire-breathing solo and maniacal, feeding-frenzy riffage. The drummer hits our heads with a hammering, compulsive rhythm, and the vocalist begins to roar and howl in a hatefully savage tirade that echoes through our fracturing skulls. The overall effect of that surging barrage is both murderous and mesmerizing.
And that’s just the opening sequence of changes. There are so many more to come.
As the drummer moves into a rocking, lurching cadence, the riff morphs into an infectious manifestation, like a bounding animal. As the drumwork becomes more frenzied, the guitarist does his damnedest to make mincemeat of your gray matter with the heartless buzzing sound of a superheated ax. As the pace slows again, the music becomes a stomping, doom-shrouded sequence of sound tailor-made for the slow headbang. A feeling of pestilence and decay comes over us, coupled with an atmosphere of ghastly haunting, with the melody swirling like pale ghost-lights in a crypt.
What makes the song so effective in keeping its grasp firmly in place is that although the pace continues to ebb and flow, the segments to come aren’t simply repetitions of something you’ve heard earlier in the song. The band reach new heights of catastrophic destructiveness and unchained derangement, as well as new lows of dirgelike tragedy and shimmering sorrow. The mauling becomes even more violent; the mountainous stomps even more teeth-loosening; the haunting even more preternatural.
In the final minutes, they ease you out of the experience softly, in a way that’s mesmerizing, even hallucinatory. As soon as I came to my senses, I felt like applauding.
So don’t be daunted; do set aside a half hour and give yourself over to Demise in its entirety. I don’t thing you’ll regret the decision.
Demise includes eye-catching cover art by cover art by Roni Ärling. Dark Descent will release it on April 27th (CD and digital), and pre-order opportunities are available now.
Lie In Ruins: