The idea of a demo has changed considerably in the current musical landscape. At one time the demo represented an audio resume which would be shopped around to record labels or various people in the industry. This demo would act as a showcase and potential to a greater product if said producer or label would invest into the project. Demos today still exist despite the changing role of the record label. Bands no longer rely on record labels and PR firms as a sole means of advertisement. This of course does not mean those entities no longer matter. With a wider sharing of digital promotions comes an inventible market flood with a new leveling ground for all artists. Despite the communal power the internet has given music, it has saturated the atmosphere with products. Where there was once little good music, there is now great music everywhere.
The demo in metal culture still holds vast credibility for its raw nature and endless potential. Everyday, bands from around the globe send out their demos, EPs, and albums to blogs, magazines, and record labels. It is a ritual which sees a vast amount of music and information exchanging hands. While you sleep, a black metal band in Poland is trying to get their EP heard. If you are reading this in Poland then I would suggest you get some rest as it is very late. The idea of a demo is interesting because it is equalizing. Even the most popular metal band started at the ground level. Unless you were a part of a previously established band, or an asshole, you started at the bottom. Listening to metal demos not only highlights undiscovered talent but it celebrates the formative period when bands spent their time self promoting and selling their own wares. This period is undefined as it could be very brief or last an entire career.
For this edition of Tape Wyrm, I have decided to go through the demo box and pull out a few albums of interest. Some of these releases are traditional demos while others are full length releases which still act as a promotional demonstration. I would love to believe this column had enough political power to elicit concerns of internal promotion and heavy metal lobbying. I would love to think I could light cigars from 100 dollar bills given to me by independent metal bands for the chance to be in this article. While my dream of heavy metal monopoly is still years away, I can attest that these are a few artists with promise. Perhaps some of these bands will go on to greatness while others will remain in the purgatorial wastes of obscurity. Releases at the local level are so much more sobering when 50 positive remarks could mean the difference between triumph or agony. Much like a tense sports match, one can only root for their favorite player who is ultimately against the greater forces of luck and nature. I hope to see these bands in the future but I will sadly understand if I don’t.
For this article I have chosen bands with bandcamp sites. This site not only allows a simple way to stream music but also purchase albums for free or at a low cost. It also does not crash my browser like other once relevant social media websites.
The Loathsome Couple
The Loathsome Couple (2011)
The Loathsome Couple’s demo was actually released in 2009, but this self titled record acts as their debut. Also, the band is also not a duo rather a trio from the dreary lands of Seattle. This entire article may have been started because of this release. The power and intensity displayed 3 minutes and 40 seconds into “Kublai Khan (The Patriarch of Amstetten)” was enough to begin this entire article. With a base of atmospheric sludge and a littering of blackened vocals and wailing guitar solos, The Loathsome Couple is as terrifying as it is refreshing. Tobias Burch, who lends his sinister vocals to The Loathsome Couple’s entire production, also plays in the Seattle based funeral doom outfit Amort. This trio, advertised as a duo, has everything needed for breakout success. Future be dammed, The Loathsome Couple is a fine enough statement for greatness. There should be no reason not to already be listening to this release.
Voice of the Soul
Into Oblivion (2011)
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There are few things in this world which will make me immediately snag an album. “Middle Eastern Heavy Metal” is one of them. Ever since my Indian Heavy Metal article, I have been actively searching for metal bands from countries not commonly associated with heavy metal. I would call these areas “the dark regions” but I feel that the terminology would have some sort of negative connotation. Voice of the Soul was advertised as a Kuwait based melodic death metal band in the vein of Arch Enemy and Dark Tranquility. This is not surprising as genre bending melodic death is insanely popular in Middle Eastern and Asian countries. What is surprising, however, is how well produced and crafted this EP turned out to be. At just six tracks, Voice of the Soul impresses and makes a wonderful introduction to a new audience. By the ending cover of “Under a Serpent Sun,” this band has far exceeded expectations to the point that their tribute to At The Gates feels like a victory lap around a cheering stadium.
Shallow Towers (2012)
I believe, at one point, I mentioned the enormity of black metal at the demo level. One man black metal projects thrive in demo culture due to the lax regulations on recording equipment and marketing. The distance from the mainstream is also a perfect atmosphere for the cultivation of despondency. If one has a guitar, recording equipment, a bedroom, and a love for Burzum, a black metal demo is feasibly within grasps. Because of this, however, distinguishing quality is more difficult. Capa may seem like another bedroom project yet this 24 minute EP is undeniable in merit and quality. Split between two tracks, Shallow Towers toggles between black metal and sludge sections almost effortlessly. This one man bedroom effort has transformed itself into a multi-room black metal production with various musicians and a vast scope to what will fit into a record.
Motherfucker Rising (2011)
Sometimes a demo only offers the promise of something great in the future. The Mother Fucking Rising Ep from Druglord is decent stoner doom in the vein of Electric Wizard, Acid King, and Bongzilla. Through close inspection there is nothing that particularly stands out about Druglord other than their above average performance. What lays hidden however are hints and clues of potential. Small things like the elongated intro in the title track, the hazy noodling in “Whores of the Reich,” and the retro variation in “Eternal Grave” gives instances of potential interest. The band has the name down with a visual theme which is minimal and brash. This could be your next favorite doom band. Fuck, with every listen Druglord is slowly becoming mine. Color me excited for a full length when the band is allowed to stretch their giant legs.
The Almighty Excruciating Pain
Vancouver BC (Canada)
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Apparently there is nothing to do in Canada which leads young people to form progressive thrash bands with a healthy dose of humor. The Almighty Excruciating Pain could be mistaken for a comedy metal band if it were not for their attention to craft. Sure, these guys lack the polish an expensive studio could offer but what TAEP (?) lacks in professional gloss they more than make up for with Canadian heart. E.P.E.P feels like a goddamn party from start to finish with enough room for each band member to exhibit personal talent before chugging a beer in front of a throng of excited patrons. The lyrical content is quite sobering compared to the upbeat nature of the music. Though the majority of E.P.E.P lyrics deal with some sort of strife seen in most of thrash metal, songs like “Don’t Worry the Worst is Yet to Come” still retain an optimistic spirit. This makes The Almighty Excruciating Pain well worth the visit.
Morito Ergo Sum
Jesus god, these guys are so sad, please just give them your support. While I do not know the exact painting which adorns Morito Ergo Sum’s first EP, seeing the style allowed me to place the sound almost instantly. Romantic paintings usually point to gothic doom. I do not know where the correlation came from the but the weight of beauty and despair connected with 19th century art narratives worked perfectly for gothic doom. Morito Ergo Sum already seems to have ground swell for their opening statement. Already the band’s 2011 demos have been circulated around metal blogs with positive criticism from doom centric websites. The Moonchild EP is fantastic in its production and pits itself in the realm of gothic doom greats such as Moonspell and Paradise Lost. Additionally the 8-9 minute tracks fit well on Morito Ergo Sum much like a well tailored funeral suit.
Mockery of the Fanatic (2011)
San Diego, CA
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What the fuck? What the fuck? Alright, switching from well crafted gothic doom from Sweden we travel to southern California where a pipe bomb is exploding inside of a dumpster. Temblad is located in San Diego and makes every attempt to fuck with listener’s sense of balance. Caught somewhere between thrash, grindcore, and dizzying death metal, Temblad is the sound of a fever dream right before running to the bathroom to vomit. It is awesome. I love vertigo and the moment of drunk slurring right before the inventible blackout. One of the most surprising aspects regarding Temblad are the lyrics which border between apocalyptic soothsaying and poetic nightmares. This again adds to the discomfort and the inevitable nausea. The album art is also an uncomfortable depiction of Islamic prayer in the midst of bloody ruins. Temblad seems to expand their scope of disdain to include all religions and precedes to spew bile over everything in front of them.
And Here my Disgust Begins (2011)
At one point, post hardcore used to mean something. Nestled between noise rock, hardcore, and the dying remnants of punk, post hardcore used to be a driving force in angular experimentation. Now it means something completely different. Something that is scary and annoying. Chromes is advertised as a British post hardcore band and takes the title to its formative beginnings. Rooted in extreme noise, this band allows post metal and the dissolution of melody to guide their two song EP. The result? A terrifying yet reflective fall into an abyss. Chromes has everything needed to slide into a spot among the hip metal elite. If I were to wager this imaginary cash that is now sitting on the table in front of us, I would place half on Chromes and their future full length.
Swamp Abyss Sorcery (2012)
First of all, I have absolutely no fondness for this cover because of my endearing attachment to pink flamingos and my fear of them being placed as monstrous phalli. Aside from the shiver inducing cover, the Swamp Abyss Sorcery compilation is damn entertaining. I have always found it important to research regional sounds which have the possibility of future importance. Florida, as a cultural center for metal was massive in the late 1980’s. Since then it has regressed only to return with the southern sludge/doom revival. Florida now takes center stage with 11 bands and 11 tales of doom dripping hate. Death, grind, doom, sludge, and drunken thrash all show up to a backyard barbeque to mingle and do donuts with ATVs. Sure the cover is odd and this chicken tastes like gasoline but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.