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Thursday 16 March 2023

Reviews: Night Demon, Downfall Of Gaia, Dez Dare, Die Like Gentlemen (Reviews By Rick Eaglestone, GC, Alex Swift & Mark Young)

Night Demon - Outsider (Century Media) [Rick Eaglestone]

California’s heavy metal institution Night Demon return with their third full length album Outsider

Opening like the intro to an obscure 80’s slasher movie Prelude is laden with soundscapes that really leans into title track Outsider almost serving as an extension of it. My highlight track then appears very early on with the heavy, intense Obsidian which not only has an earworm of a chorus but the guitar tones in this are just goosebump inducing.

Taking a slower, doomier approach adds a nice ominous splash to the album with Beyond The Grave and because of this tells a great story, this followed wonderfully by Rebirth and old school solo laden, full throttle Escape From Beyond and absolute collections of gems from the Night Demon trio.

Moving on into ballad territory A Wake weaves wonderfully into seven and a half minutes of The Wrath and although my highlight track appeared quite early on, this is hands down my favourite section of the album. There is time for one last track, cd exclusive bonus track The Last Day and yeah, it’s always nice to get something extra but I feel that it wasn’t particularly needed, as the album is well constructed enough not to have its inclusion.

NWOBHM Worship elevated. 7/10

Downfall Of Gaia - Silhouettes Of Disgust (Metal Blade Records) [GC]

I don’t know much about Downfall Of Gaia, in fact this is the very first time I have listened to them but the description of this album as post/black crust punk had me 100% interested immediately. I have a feeling this could be a very interesting listen.

First song Existence Of Awe absolutely cascades out of the speakers with a wave of absorbing black metal and the little blast of vocals we get already tells a story and you get the impression it won’t be a happy ending its then into a suffocating wall of noise and tortured vocals that creates an unease in this listener and its ability to make you just sit and listen is unparalleled it is beautifully executed and wonderfully emotional and has the ability to take you completely out of your headspace and away to somewhere totally different and this is only the first song! 

The Whir Of Flies starts with a blackened d-beat punk beat and then unleashes the sound of hell with some basic but savage black metal that envelopes you and unsettles you before re-introducing the more straight forward but no less savage d-beat mood and you can feel every word that vocalist Dominik Goncalves dos Reis spits out is done with total commitment and an almost emotional distress that is truly something to listen to.

The mid-section here is full of atmospherics and sparse drums that lull you into a false sense of security before another wall of sound is dropped on you and you just have to hang on until its all over, then While Bloodsprings Become Rivers enters your conscience with no warning and just completely obliterates you with waves of buzzsaw riffs and echoing atmosphere but also complete savageness and the suppressing nature of the music is just done so well its almost like you don’t know what has hit you and 7 minutes and 16 seconds later your just stood wondering what has just happened. 

Bodies As Driftwood starts off with a bass line and sparse echoey guitars that has a sample of some haunting female voces fed through before the black metal assault is continued until we get to the halfway point, which is again full of beautiful atmosphere but is undercut with a rage so spiteful you wonder just what has happened to this guy! Its beautiful but also ultimately upsetting to listen to, Eyes To Burning Skies has an unsettling and frankly creepy start that then is cast aside and swathed in chaos for the rest of the song and the mix of dark ambience and relentless savagery is a genius bit of songwriting.

Final Vows has a stop start electronic intro and seriously dials up the already sky high intensity even more and takes on a very Today is the Day feel to this and really continues to ramp up the unease and tension expertly until they decide to ease up on and just play some scathing black metal but the intertwining of styles and the way its done is the real highlight of this song. Unredeemable is drenched in tension but also a has a sense of grandeur in the way it builds everything up slowly and menacingly to just then brutalize us in ways we have now come to expect as standard but never get tired of hearing. 

Optograns Of Disgust is the final round of punishment for this record and once again the sense of dread and foreboding created by the atmospherics and the wall of sound is so breathtaking you just get swept away before the rude awakening and for one last time you just close your eyes, listen and take it all in before curling up in ball and just being thankful for what has just happened.

This was a truly breathtaking album that is full of every type of emotion heavy music can create, it makes you sad, it makes you angry and at times it simply stuns you into silence, theres not much music like this in the world and while it is hear you should really take the time to listen to is and appreciate greatness. A truly breathtaking and stunning album. 9/10

Dez Dare – Perseus War (CH!MP Records) [Alex Swift]

Commanding a raucous combination of punk and noise-rock, Dez Dare’s frenetic blend of influences encapsulates the neurodivergent experience. Dez, like this reviewer, is autistic, and like many of us, he’s frustrated by the misinformation and chronic lack of understanding that exists within society towards people on the spectrum. 

Indeed, the ferocious mix of electronics, with entrancing, otherworldly textures, and boisterous ferocity seems to echo the exhausting process of searching for your own truth about yourself after a lifetime of having myths about your condition breathed down your neck, by people who conform to the agenda of “normalcy at all costs!” As you can imagine, this was an incredibly cathartic and relatable listen for me, both in its musical approach and deft lyricism

“Fly right bozo, they bellowed and sighed into the mindless void” runs one line on opening track Bozo, as we’re surrounded by a cascading torrent of noise, the relentless fuzz-laden riff further lending to the sense of menace. A cutting satire of the perception of neurodivergent people as empty vessels, the barked orders of “be kind, fly right, scream more, chin up” , captures the anxiousness and pressure to conform that many of us feel behind our masks, at being made to pretend we’re not autistic for risk of strange glares and sarcastic remarks. 

Perseus War reframes the struggle between despots and Greek Gods as a rallying cry for the disenfranchised, set to bluesy, desert wasteland textures. It’s pieces like this that remind the listener that Dez Dare’s message is an empowering one even if songs like the crazed psychedelic sermon of Myopic Tropic paint dystopian images of “melting minds bleeding across the seas”, as the track condemns those who mine the earth for resources while begging us to ignore the “sinking rot” and “just tow the fuckin’ line”.

Bloodbath-On-HI brilliantly counterbalances hypnotising electronics and memorable guitar melodies with a sese of rollicking tension, being a heart-racing anti-war anthem. Pointedly, although this might on the surface seem like a far cry from the theme of neurodiversity that we started on, its worth pointing out that to me, these songs resonate with the intensity of emotions many autistics feel towards policies that destroy peoples lives and the natural world. 

That’s not to say that these aren’t very universal worries, that should be felt by everyone, but that the instinctive, emotional intensity that comes with having to live in this kind of world, here captured through the encircling atmospherics and the mind-bending production style, is one that’s particularly felt by people like me. 

The wordplay in A Chimp, A Tricycle, New World Order is a little difficult to decipher but its this sensation of attempting to transcend the chaos in your mind and wrench something positive out that volatility that I believe underpins the ecstatic guitar work, and cerebral wonder present in this song. Life isn’t always easy for those of us living in a neurotypical society, but we find solace in our special interests, and fascinations. 

The passion that exudes from every note in a song like I Know Why You Always Cry At Adam Sandler Films, for all of its acerbic wit, is proof alone that, despite all the misconceptions, autistics are capable of happiness and impressive feats of expressiveness. Creativity isn’t the only thing that gives our lives value but it’s how artists like Dez Dare succeed in challenging the fears of society so effectively.

From this point, the focus of the album shifts to capturing the sensory experience of being on the spectrum. OUCH! Beguiles with strange, echoing vocals, and nervous, erratic guitar textures that speak to the precarious balancing act of taking care of our sensory needs, while feeling the pull of peers and social pressure, keeping us in a constant state of unease. 

My Heels + My Toes, My Lies + My Nose continues in this vein, the intentionally clumsy rhythmic pace of the song working to communicate the unique bodily experience of having your senses be incredibly aware, all the time – an experience that, yes, can cause incredible discomfort, yet also incredible joy as we learn to love and nurture some sensations while utterly despising others. 

Following this we get to one of the most relatable songs on the album of BEACH, which has a chorus seeing Dare yelling “BEACH!!! WHY!?”. Speaking as someone that also hates the sensory hell of being on a sandy beach on a punishingly hot day, I felt the closing line of “I’d rather just go to the pub” in my soul. Me too Dez, me too.

“I looked into the void to find solace/I can’t bear all this chattering, nonsense. Scratching bleating, causing a mess/simply need to find quiet, that sweet descent” unfurl the opening lyrics to final song Stop. Stop. Stop. Talking, acting as a sombre expression of how autistic people often find peace in the spaces and moments in which they are allowed to be themselves, free from the stigma and superstition which surrounds our existence. In service to giving music to this sensation, synths give the song its distinct form, while guitars swell to impressive crescendos. 

“Focus on your choices. The ones we think we make, are we truly free? Are we really awake?” our frontman questions, in a particularly poignant moment. That’s the crux of Perseus War. It’s tempting, especially for those of us in the neurodiverse community, to see our lives as if they’re not really our own, with the cavalcade of social pressures, and challenges to “prove” ourselves autistic that we face on a routine basis. It’s in those moments when we’re free of that, and allowed to express ourselves, be that through a love of music, writing or simply pacing back and forth lost in our own thoughts, that we feel like we’ve conquered the insurmountable. 9/10

Die Like Gentlemen - Hard Truths (Drink This Music) [Mark Young]

Portland, like every other town has faced challenging times in the last few years, from Covid to politics to wildfires and the general day to day grind faced by normal people who have just tried to go about their lives as best they can. We have seen that those in the arts have come back with sometimes strong, almost career best material having used this backdrop to inspire their work.

Die Like Gentlemen are no different in this respect and with Hard Truths they have moved beyond just being a stoner band or just being a sludge band or just being anything other than a band that fans of guitar music should get onto. This is important because they themselves know who their musical influences are – Sabbath, Priest but do not want to be pigeonholed by those same influences.

So, what is it like? Is it progressive, has they evolved past their previous efforts? On initial review is that they are not afraid to backwards in order to go forwards. Further listens allow you to pick up on moments you missed the first-time round.

This isn’t a collection of riffs put together with no thought behind them. Vocals switch from anguished howls to quiet almost whispered passages to full on metal delivery, underpinned by the same approach with the music behind it. in the nine songs they run on often blurring lines. 

With album closer, Unliving having fast guitar lines with a delicious rich tone before dropping down the speed to throw some monstrous break downs with some death metal growls in a tandem effect. The way they change their sound as warranted and it comes from a belief that they can do anything they like and defy you to try to give them a label.

The album just doesn’t want to beat you over the head with repetition or with a super-heavy guitar sound that suffocates the writing beneath it. 

Kicking off with Guts Of A Beggar they open their arsenal of differing dynamics with some weapons grade riffing that provides the dark before the light – maybe meandering a touch before reigniting into a tension heavy passage. 

It sets the tone for the next 9 songs that offer everything from classic sounding rock to heavier sludge to more introspective moments and some almost late 60’s psychedelia. None Of It sounds out of place and I love that each song navigates its own musical path and they all crackers.

Going back to my earlier comment: To me, it doesn’t sound like anybody else and although they don’t leave their roots completely behind, they are not rehashing anybody else. There is a lot to love here and by rights they should be heard by a wider audience. 8/10

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