Demon Head

Viscera

Written by: AP on 19/06/2021 15:52:59

Demon Head is a peculiar band. Born of the tight knit scene centered on the youth culture house of Copenhagen (Ungdomshuset) and active since 2012, the quintet has often left me struck by awe in the live setting, both by virtue of their skill of musicianship and their capacity for delivering truly riveting performances when push comes to shove. Yet when I have been listening to their three previous studio albums at home, I have rarely felt that same magic emanating from their classic doom and occult rock concoctions. I really want this band to succeed, and for the longest time, it has felt like the five musicians have been right on the cusp of a breakthrough — one I had been hoping might happen at last when this fourth and latest offering of theirs, “Viscera”, was unleashed upon the world earlier this year. But alas, the same hindrances that have been holding the outfit back thus far, continue to put spokes in their wheel now nine years down the line, which beckons the question: does the band even wish to break free of the Danish metal underground?

The album begins with an esoteric guitar lead in “Tooth and Nail”, which bears a certain resemblance to the excellent “Gallows Omen” off the band’s 2017 offering “Thunder on the Fields”. It is one of those melodies that stays with you long after the record has wound to a conclusion, and while the rest of the song leaves a lot to be desired in terms of creating more lasting value, it is thus nonetheless rendered into one of the more memorable moments that “Viscera” has to offer. Vocalist Marcus Ferreira Larsen continues to sing in his customarily lamenting voice, his wails and moans enveloping the music in a dense tristesse not unlike John Längquist on Candlemass’ revered 1986 offering “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”. And although Demon Head tends to lean more toward the rock side of things, there is no denying that classic doom metal continues to shape their music from occult lyrics to tritone chords and a distinctly organic, lo-fi style of production. Indeed, the five musicians excel at replicating that ‘70s sound of doom ushered in first by Black Sabbath, and since by a litany of other artists like Pentagram and Saint Vitus — but they stumble too often when it comes to writing songs that are easy to headbang, sing or hum along to. “The Feline Smile”, with its catchy chorus, blazing twin guitar solo and sinister, ecclesiastical outro, provides a welcome exception to the rule, as does the grandiose “In Adamantine Chains” thanks to some blinding guitar work by brothers Birk and Thor Gjerlufsen Nielsen — especially in the final crescendo. But the overall impression one is left with, once “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” has brought the record to a conclusion in a dark and orchestral manner, is that most of the songs seem to be drowning beneath their own ambition. It feels as though the band simply refuses to use any simple and effective means, always opting to twist their songs into something overly convoluted in which memorabilia come at a premium.

One of the main culprits for “Viscera”’s failing to etch itself into the fabric of my memory is that no less than four of the ten tracks it contains take on the character of an intermezzo, serving as largely instrumental segues between the remaining six songs. And mind you, there interludes are not where Demon Head’s immense musical prowess comes to shine; this happens in the actual songs whenever the four instrumentalists in the band follow their train of thought into rich and often kaleidoscopic jam segments that, to an extent, redeem the pressing lack of any other decidedly striking moments in them. Alas, there are few, if any epiphanies to be had from “Viscera”, and so the listener is left to marvelling at the virtuosity with which the guitarist brothers in particular handle their axes, rather than reciting the likes of “Magical Death” or “Black Torches” on the daily commute in voices much less impressive than that of Ferreira Larsen. In my book, Demon Head thus foregoes a breakthrough once again, and while the band is certain to woo me with one of their enthralling live shows in the near future, I would be lying if I claimed that my excitement about them wasn’t starting to wane at this point. Grab “Viscera” for a fix of astounding musicianship, but leave your expectations about a revelatory album at the door.

6

Download: The Feline Smile, In Adamantine Chains
For the fans of: The Devil’s Blood, Pentagram, Procession, Salem’s Pot
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.01.2021
Metal Blade Records

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