(We present DGR’s review of the latest album by Demonical, which is out now via Agonia Records.)
Considering the various skulls, demon bones, and other awesome metal ephemera in the album art gracing the front of Demonical’s Chaos Manifesto it is probably a strange situation to open with the idea that, with this album, the comfort-food nature of the Swede-death genre and its effects on your reviewer have been firmly established. There’s something near instantly recognizable in the genre’s chosen pacings and structures that feels immediately familiar and speaks to the lizard segment of one’s brain, so much so that just about any band who embrace the mid-to-high tempo thudding nature of the music are bound to at least put on a decent live show, and, with a genre whose foundations and blueprints are so solidly in place at this point, those who merely follow it with a checklist can at least kick out a decent disc.
Which just makes it all the more difficult for a group to stand out from the pack or, given their aims, to make an album that at least ranks as a “solid good time”. Demonical, a group born from the hiatus of another Swedish purveyor of mid-tempo thudding death metal (Centinex) and now with a lineup that includes a pretty healthy chunk of the newly reactivated version of the aforementioned group — three of whose members were made official in 2017 — have released what could be considered the most straight-shooting Swede-death album of 2018 so far. In Chaos Manifesto there are no pretenses, no real attempts at breaking genre conventions, just a solid eight-track, thirty-six-minute slab of death metal that gives metal fans across the variety of the circle-headbanging genres something to salivate over.
It has been a little under three years since the world last heard from Demonical — a full three if you count the month-long gap between Chaos Manifesto’s European release and its North American date — and in that time the band have found themselves joined by musicians whose resumes include a very familiar slate of bands if you’ve been reading NCS for a bit, given that we’ve been covering the tightly-packed circle of musicians that includes the Ikhon, Centinex, Volturyon, Spasmodic, and October Tide crews for some time now.
I’m starting to feel like there’s a small factory somewhere in Sweden that is just plucking musicians from groups I enjoy and mixing them together to reinforce other bands and make more music that I enjoy. The addition of vocalist Alexander Högbom alone makes the circle seem that much smaller, given how prolific he’s been in the past few years. With the lineup involved on Chaos Manifesto though, even if you were unfamiliar with Demonical’s work through the years and the sense that the group present here is something of a soft relaunch for the band, this line-up provides at least a certain guarantee of quality, one that Demonical manage to meet within Chaos Manifesto’s first few songs.
Demonical’s approach to Chaos Manifesto casts them as a sort of jack of all trades for death metal fans, inviting a wide swath of comparisons between themselves and other groups by the time the disc’s last song “Death Unfaithful” wraps up its final notes. Both “Death Unfaithful” and the early-released “Towards Greater Gods” embrace the circle-headbanging gallop that has become a staple of the genre in recent years, whereas for a much bigger portion of Demonical’s tour through chaos the band are content to thud and groove their way through each track’s three-to-four minutes with you.
They go for the full “epic” twice, once on “Välkommen undergång” — with the help of some extra backing vocals and a solid shouted chorus — and again on “From Nothing”, both moving into the six-minute range and feeling like twins of each another. “From Nothing” has Demonical even showing off their “softer” side a little bit, with the guitar melody that makes up the chorus becoming the sheer dominating factor, even as Alexander Högbom intones over it ,”They, came from nothing….”
This leaves songs like “A Void Most Obscure”, “Sung To Possess”, “Unfold Thy Darkness,” and “Torture Parade” to take up the weight of the buzzing, chainsaw guitar tone and hefty, pounding drum section that have become the hallmarks of this branch of death metal. Demonical don’t get too blast-heavy across Chaos Manifesto; they rotate between thundering double-bass work and plenty of sinister-sounding guitar leads to construct this particular manifesto. As a result, this one is particularly easy to headbang along to; by track three you’ll have experienced each of Demonical’s three specific writing styles and can adapt from there.
There are groups out there whose entire discographies reach such a consistent level of quality that you can start on any random track, tell your chosen media player to mix up the whole collection, let it run, and genuinely have a good time. While the high-art aspirations of such groups may be low, the consistent song quality can be perfect some times. Demonical’s fifth full-length release, alongside their splits and EPs, puts the band a further step into that territory. While the lineup on Chaos Manifesto may be different from the previous Demonical, the music remains about as straight-forward and dependable as they come, using a solid foundation to construct a series of eight headbanging tracks that fly by with no thematic through-line other than a commitment to “groove heavy death metal”. No new ground is broken, but the post-headbanging neck-ache is just as vicious as it has ever been.
Also, the cover art should line up fantastically with our own skull pile background.