Our inbox is constantly bogged down by a deluge of demos and releases of wildly varying quality. That said, after a good half hour spent rooting around in that unmanaged mess, here are some demos we’ve been sent in the past few months you may find noteworthy: scathing sludge-slingers Host, blackened crust merchants Black Monolith and some straight up death metal from Masada. Take your pick; all of these demos are available to download for free.
Host – Demo
Something strange is happening up in Leeds. It’s never stood out as a musical hotbed before, but in recent times the northern city has yielded a number of promising young bands, mostly playing in and around the sludge paradigm. Tree of Sores’ unique grinding atmosphere has enjoyed a stranglehold on our decks for a while now, as have the expansive visions of Naisian. Now Host joins the ranks with a decidedly grittier and straightforward approach.
Three tracks make up this little gem, all defying sludge’s propensity for lengthy meanderings. But this is sludge spelt with a capital -core after all, making the demo a violent, fist-pumping listen. ‘Amara’ gets off on the right foot with cymbal splashes and quivering feedback (if sludge songs don’t start with feedback, I’m left feeling cold) as a huge, grooving riff gradually spills over into pummelling d-beats and a rousing chorus. ‘Haine’, on the other hand, goes straight for the jugular, diving into an upbeat assault with some dissonant guitar twists ala Trap Them thrown in for good measure. More feedback dominates the remainder of the song (yeah, I’m enjoying this quite a lot). At 3:44, ‘Dissidence’ is the longest offering, switching with ease between heavier than thou sludge and blazing hardcore fury.
It’s definitely a demo. The throat-shredding yelps are overpowering, but fortunately they’re so well executed that it doesn’t matter at all. What sounds like multiple vocalists build an impenetrable wall of white noise and vitriol that threatens to blot out the punishing guitars at times. But, like I said, it’s rather enjoyable, even in demo form. Host are definitely one to watch.
For fans of: Converge, Trap Them, Eyehategod, Moloch
Black Monolith – Demo EP
Without departing too much from Host’s sludge-punk revelry, Black Monolith offer up three satisfying slices of crust, this time with a black metal bite. The “blackened crust” angle has been done before, but Black Monolith does an impressive job of balancing it. I mean, it’s pretty much half and half straight crust and straight black metal, as if Discharge and Darkthrone charged full-pelt at each other and the resulting fleshy gruel was scraped up and recorded as this demo.
‘Abandon Heart’ wastes no time in setting the ground rules – driving d-beats abound all enrobed by a minor key slant and vocals distorted beyond all recognition. When the power chord worship lets up, the black metal side seeps in, bringing with it vague melodies and tremolo picking altogether foreign to punk, as showcased on ‘Dead Hand’. For an EP that has been hurtling towards its death from the opening second, ‘Hedonist’ takes a moment to calm things down slightly, as a funereal riff plays beneath an unsettling sample. But with Black Monolith, breakneck speed is never far away as the song takes a quick turn back into blasting punk, gradually running out of stream and fading into night.
This is a furious little demo that grinds frantically towards its demise. It’s over far too quickly, representing a learned group of musicians who have weighed the virtues of crust punk and black metal against each other with aplomb – a devilish challenge.
For fans of: Iskra, Dishammer, Alpinist, any black metal
Masada – Suffer Mental Decay
Although newcomers, Masada have a concealed weapon in their battle for pure death metal. The band features Craig Smilowski on skins, the original drummer for Immolation and Goreaphobia. Add to that Matt Dwyer of Rellik on bass, Cazz Grant from a whole host of black, death and thrash projects on vocals and the guitar wizardry of Chris Milewski and it’s plain to see that Masada are far from death metal virgins. In fact, their unquantifiable understanding of the genre does a lot for this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it demo.
Suffer Mental Decay features just two tracks this time, both of which summon the timeless terror of death metal with ease. Masada ask only one question throughout the demo’s duration: “How would you like your death? Sliced or chunky?” Because the band is adept at both, trading off palm-muted chugs with more hectic, technical sections. There are massive grooves a-plenty on the title track, guaranteed to send any death fan’s head nodding away, but it’s too dynamic to lock in on anything for a substantial amount of time, darting back and forth between sloth-like heaviness and rapid scaling of the guitar neck. ‘Toxic Unreality’ kicks off with layered guitar leads before plunging straight into blast beats, down-tuned flailing and fiendish melodies. More of the same, really.
Masada aren’t particularly “interesting” by any rate – there’s nothing original about their first recorded effort – but I’m sure many of you wouldn’t be death metal fans if that was at all important. The composition and riffwork could be much better, but the latent potential is bound to flourish given time. It would be a disservice to these seasoned musicians to say that they aren’t going to improve and gel better as a band with upcoming releases. Suffer Mental Decay is essential for those relishing the current resurgence of death metal that just nails it – more primitive, obscene and senseless worship of death.
For fans of: Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, Dying Fetus, Suffocation… death metal in general