Demos and a Forsaken Future

“Dude, their demos were so much better” is one of the most obnoxious cliches of underground metal.  Usually a sign of virtue signaling used to mask one’s insecurities about their knowledge or taste, many lost souls of a nostalgia-obsessed age will use this one as a pale attempt to one up their brethren.  However in many cases within metal’s sonic sphere, bands that were truly fantastic on their early demos left much to be desired and ultimately left listeners unfulfilled.  Whether it be a record company’s influence, a change in heart or band members, or a touch of genius quickly fumbled away, may bands throughout the history of metal have never quite been able to match the quality of their demo recordings.

With death metal built on an entire sub culture of tape trading, demos were more than a proverbial foot-in-the-door to a potential record deal.  For musicians of the genre’s early days, the demo was the equivalent to having your record in the store- it was being shipped all around the world to fans desperate for something they couldn’t find in shops and to musicians hungry for new ideas.  Furthermore, a band’s demo was untainted by the direction and input of record labels who, in those days, quite often suppressed what was deemed “too weird” or “too extreme” as death metal was often determined by the suits of those days.  Tape trading death metal demos was an underground of its own, and your band’s demo tape wasn’t just a pathway to commercialization or musical success- but a often the start of new friendships in a rapidly globalizing world.  Given all of these unique factors, it’s no surprise death metal was full of bands who could never quite capture the magic of their demos.

To offer a complete list would be a dishonor and disservice to the legions of quality works that fall under this umbrella.  Therefore in today’s editorial, I will briefly offer a handful of my personal favorite death metal demos from bands that could never quite capture the magic.  Though I pay little mind to what happens in our comment sections, this will mark a special occurrence where I’d be delighted to know what DMU’s readers would have on this list.

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Trendkillers #2: Blast Beats Must Die!

The blast beat has had a very unlikely journey through its relatively young lifespan in music.  Rooted in a jazz technique of an alternating bass drum/hi-hat and snare 16th note pattern (though played at much slower tempo in jazz music), it found a unique identity in the early 1980s when underground hardcore punk bands like Siege and Asocial began using it at aggressive speeds to enhance their violent bursts of rebellion.  This made it a close friend of metal when the middle of the decade saw a fledgling death metal movement getting its hands dirty with hardcore punk speed and sound in an effort to push its own extremity.  Over the next 15 years, several drummers would rise to prominence with their clever use of the blast beat to either push these combinations to extreme speeds or to utilize them enduringly for an effect similar to trance music.  Suddenly, every metal band that wanted to play fast or play simplistically HAD to play blast beats, and we eventually reached a point where blast beats were the most dominant part of every death and black metal song’s drum composition.

For the future of death and black metal to establish themselves distinctively, they must abandon what has become routine and keep only what is necessary to preserve their underlying spirit.  And with this understanding comes an unfortunate truth- the beloved blast beat must be laid to rest, so that new life in metal can grow.
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Elegiac Black Clouds of War 2018

Elegiac is a one man band from California formed in 2014 by sole composer Zane Young, whom has released a large number of records under the name of Elegiac- far too much for any band yet alone a one man band.  Like many bands of this generation, Elegiac play a basic form of black metal that can be described as the bastard child of Bathory, Satanic Warmaster and generic modern rock.  This is not what one expects from USBM at all despite their promo toting this release as the return of the micro genre’s glory days.
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Blood – Inferno (2017)

Continuing the path of a storied band, Inferno mixes re-recorded versions of older tracks with new material in what seems to be a band redefining itself. Blood started as a grindcore band with more of a death metal attitude, then adopted an outlook closer to black metal for its opus O Agios Pethane, but since then has struggled by being caught in the middle of three genres.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Grind Them All

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Blood Muzak’s Best

Poseur cash grab Finnish label Blood Music posted his favorites albums of 2017 recently on his Mosh Core Trends Fun book page. Nobody needs a 24 LP boxed set of Emperor (Only need In the Nightside Eclipse and Wrath of the Tyrant / Emperor compilation CD) featuring rehearsals of Ihsahn’s mom telling Emperor to stop dressing up like The Lost Boys and nobody needs anything on this poseur’s shilling list. Nobody wants to pay to join Blood Music’s fan club to buy his hipster merchandise. Blood Music should go shoot himself. A hollow point to the back of the head gets the job done as he has to blow up his shill lizard brain to make sure he dies for good. Do it.

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Agressor – Neverending Destiny (1990)

Straddling the no-mans-land between past and present, Agressor’s full-length debut offers a high-octane mixture of late-period speed metal and death metal technique, coupled with pulpy occult/sci-fi lyrics in the vein of Nocturnus, Voivod and Obliveon.

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Meditations on the Death of Wishful Thinking

To be a writer, if you are any good, is to be a blasphemer. Humanity is an entropy engine because each person decides on what view of the world makes them look the best, and so the constant weight pushing down on us is that of the herd, of a group of individuals united only by selfishness, come together into a mob for the purpose of asserting their right to be different and unique, constantly leading away from an understanding of the world around us and any meaning that can be found in it.

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