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Extreme forms of metal had really begun to explode by 1992. Death metal was a fully-fledged beast, anchored by a number of landmark releases. The second wave of black metal was underway in Scandinavia, soon to become a distinct and oft-maligned subculture. And then, tucked away in the far northern reaches of the globe was neighboring Finland, where two bands with nearly identical names would release records which were nothing at all like the standard fare of the era. Demigod, along with their fellow countrymen Demilich, took a radically different approach to the genre. Rather than focusing on outright brutality and unrelenting aggression, Finland's famed death metal groups instead tried to focus on tonality and incorporate atmospheric elements into their music. The result was Demilich's bizarre (and only) album, Nespithe, and Demigod's seminal release - this album.
Slumber of Sullen Eyes. What a title... It's a far cry from the aforementioned standard fare of the day, which in 1992 was the likes of Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, and Deicide. Along comes this album, and instead of a title about death, hate, or demons, we get a title implying something about a somber dream. Instead of artwork depicting demonic symbols or corpses engaged in sodomy, we get a bizarre, trippy cover which seems to be about a man trapped in a nightmare. Most importantly, instead of relentless blast beats and frenetic tremolo leads, we get a death metal offering that is anchored in low, resonating tones and driven by simple, slow, and steady riffs.
The beginning moments of the album are deceptive. The short keyboard intro is not particularly compelling, and it is immediately followed by a section of relentless blast beats and frenetic tremolo leads. Fortunately, this is not indicative of what is to be found from there forward. Instead of continuing to chug and blast forward, the record settles into a comfortable groove and mostly stays there. As it turns out, in 1992 there was a lot of area to explore in that comfortable low groove. Demigod picked a handful of simple chord progressions and riffs, made several variations on those, and then neatly assembled them into forty-five minutes of oddly elegant death metal.
The recording quality is phenomenal for the period, and frankly is better than much of what we hear today. Unlike many death metal records, be it from all the way back then or from last week, the guitars are given ample room to breathe, the bass comes through clearly, and the drums never overwhelm the other instruments. At no point on this album does the music ever become an atonal mess. The pitch and tone of the guitars is always the focus. The drums are not a driving force here. Instead, the drums take a back seat and hold the record together along with the bass. The vocals are merely there as decoration, although they are indeed skillfully delivered. The steady, calculated guitar riffs are what makes the music move.
This record has an air of class about it that simply is not normally found in this realm of music. It's strange to say that a death metal LP is graceful or that it sounds like a collection of grim lullabies. Yet, perhaps for a lack of a better description, that's how I see Slumber of Sullen Eyes. That's why it sticks with me. Even in a genre noted for its nearly out of control sound, there can be a few moments of peace.
This album is, in my opinion, one of the few that is in no way overrated. I am very critical with metal music, but this album undoubtedly deserves a perfect score because it is a flawless example of straight-up death metal. I fell in love with it during my first listen, and my opinion hasn't changed since.
When something so perfect as this exists, not much can be said about it. It's much easier to rant about the glaringly bad mistakes that artists make in their music than it is to describe something that is more powerful than words, but I will make an attempt anyway.
Every single track on this album is a different experience. While they are all extremely dark, they range from fast and brutal to slow and haunting-- and everywhere in between. A common problem with a lot of metal is distinguishing one track from the next, but you'll have no problem here, because every track has a different theme and direction. Demigod has taken every facet of death metal and applied it vigorously. The guitar is unbelievably heavy, the bass is thunderous, the drums are precise, and the vocals are downright demonic.
The most important part of metal is the guitar riffs (of course), and this album has them in spades. You will find yourself constantly banging your head... hard. This band never resorts to playing a jumbled mess to fill in the gaps between cool riffs and everything flows effortlessly from one piece to the next. Although the time signatures may vary, the changes never seem abrupt or forced, but still manage to sound creative.
I can't recommend Slumber of Sullen Eyes enough. The music can pull you down and immerse you in the darkest abyss, and it will keep you there until the record stops. The album is a must-own for all metal elitists.
Another Finnish death metal classic... and yet band, which sounds little bit different to their countrymen. That's something I always liked about Finland - there were plenty death metal bands, but you can't say they've created something called Finnish sound; at least not in the sense of similarity and uniqueness the Swedish groups had and shared. For instance Demigod is nothing like Disgrace, Xysma, Purtenance, Vomiturition or Funebre. And Amorphis is nothing like Demigod... While those bands like Xysma or Vomiturition tried more or less capture the essence of brutality in their music, sometimes coming close to grind, Demigod came up with more or less classic death metal recording, full of massive riffs, headbanging and dark atmosphere.
"Slumber of the Sullen Eyes" is great album, I must say, one which sticks in the head for long time. Its straight forward death metal attitude will overwhelm you, invite to maniacal headbanging, with some occasional splendid blasts, while most of the time the music stays groovy and catchy, reminding the likes of Bolt Thrower or Grave a lot! Really, there's similar heaviness and attitude in this music, something like a fist coming close to your eyes and hitting you hard, until you loose consciousness. At the same time Demigod shows absolutely fantastic songwriting! This is something I sometimes miss in bands like Purtenance or Funebre... Really great, almost perfectly composed songs, with many different ideas and incorporating varied and very dynamic influences, if you know what I mean. And the riffs are often so infectious that it's unbelievable, these songs really sticks in your head. What's more, if you remember Darkthrone's "Soulside Journey" debut LP, this may also be a good reference point, as both bands show similar technique and style in some parts of the album.
The album is as diverse as you can only imagine; it brings many different ideas and ways of torturing the listener. "As I Behold I Despise" as an opener, is quite fast and brutal, but the middle part of the song is rather slow, with mournful guitar lead that fits here perfectly! "Dead Soul" could have been taken from Grave's "You'll Never See..." album, as well as say "Transmigration Beyond Eternities", which also has that Grave - like death metal groove we all love. Meanwhile "Fear Obscures From Within", which is one of my favourite songs here, starts like Dismember's "Dreaming In Red", with nice monumental bass intro, which later evolves into more aggressive playing. "Towards the Shrouded Infinity" is probably the fastest song on the album and "Perpetual Ascent" is one great instrumental, which even has some keyboards playing in the background.
If you're into slow, massively heavy and doomy riffs, I bet you'll love the sideB opening track, "Embrace the Darkness", which has some great heavy riffing, although Demigod composed their songs in the way that they're not boring and monotonous, so the song also has many transitions between faster or more melodic parts or whatever. And in my opinion it is one of the best songs on the album. As for the mentioned melody, yeah, that’s true that many riffs are surprisingly melodic, sometimes almost in the Swedish fashion, sometimes not... In that aspect, the music of Demigod seems quite atmospheric, of course not in the Paradise Lost way, but in classic death metal terms.
"Slumber of the Sullen Eyes" was recorded in 1992. It's been almost 20 years since and despite that, the album still sounds damn brilliant. This is something I love about those early death metal records. It may be 20 years since their recording, but I don’t stop listening to them. I will probably always find them as great and inspiring, and that's something I may not be able to say about many newer albums. Anyway, "Slumber of the Sullen Eyes" is definitely worth listening to. I can easily put this LP in the top 3 of the best Finnish death metal recordings and that won’t be exaggerating. As much as I like debuts from Disgrace or Funebre, those albums doesn't keep the high standards of Demigod's debut. Probably only "The Karelian Isthmus" may rival "Slumber of the Sullen Eyes"... Now I can only thank Xtreem Music for re-releasing this album on vinyl, as I couldn't afford the original pressing. The vinyl re-release definitely helped a lot.
In the early 1990s, the Florida Death Metal scene was beginning to spread like wildfire; bands like Morbid Angel, Death and Obituary were setting the standards for Death Metal to come, while across the sea there were prime innovators such as Entombed (AKA Nihilist), Grave & Dismember bringing their own style with crushing, buzz saw-like guitar tones, and more guttural vocals.
Now, I bet you're wondering: Where does Demigod, and their cult-classic, 'Slumber of Sullen Eyes', fit into this? Well, what Demigod was doing was something different from a lot of the bands; while Entombed and the like were focusing on pure, unadulterated brutality for their music, Demigod were going for a darker, more atmospheric approach to death metal, something heard a lot today in bands like Opeth, Katatonia, or, to a certain extent, Nile.
From the eerie, ethereal synths of "Apocryphal", you can tell this isn't going to be your average "punch-your-face-in-and-rape-your-mother" style of Death Metal you usually hear. While Demigod my maintain this kind of mentality in their tremolo-laden guitar riffs and absolutely awesome and unpredictable double-bass work, they also combine many more melodic and harmonized riffs in the midst of the muddy-sounding guitars and extreme low-end of the album.
Another thing that really adds to the creepy and ungodly heavy nature of this album is the somewhat frequent use of breakdowns. I know a lot of people will cringe when they see this, but don't get me wrong; these breakdowns are not your typical "open drop-D chords played really fast in a 4/4 rythmic approach". No, these kind of breakdowns are just slower riffs that appear from the chaos of the aforementioned tremolo riffs. You might be expected them to be a bit of a break from the heavy guitar work, but in reality, they are just as heavy, if not more so. One such breakdown occurs in the track "Tears of God". It maintains a very ominous atmosphere with the harmonized guitars, yet still manages to be crushingly heavy.
Along with those breakdowns, there are a few very melodic sounding guitar solos, very much akin to early Suffocation or Cryptopsy. These guitarists truly know their way around the fretboard, but they do it in a rather inconspicuous manner, disguising the very technical riffs and song structures with just plain catchy riffing and use of melody.
In the end, this all boils down to a completely essential and sadly overlooked Death Metal album that many more people definitely need exposure to, hence this review. I hope that this will attract at least a little bit more attention to Demigod, as they certainly need it, despite their later works not living up to this gem.
Hailing from Finland, home to some of the best death metal around, Demigod released their first album, Slumber Of Sullen Eyes, in 1992. In addition, most of Finland’s great death metal is from the period from 1990-1996, so Demigod fits perfectly within this frame. In a sense, this is classic Finnish death metal. At the same time, Demigod did enough differently to stand out from their peers, who were all releasing great albums themselves, while also staying quite true to the Finnish sound.
For starters, this album is packed full of excellent riffs, one of the defining characteristics of Finnish death metal. More importantly, the guitars have “that tone” which leaves no doubt in the listener’s mind as to where this is from. Just as Swedish death metal (real death metal, not that Gothenburg crap) has its trademark “buzzsaw” guitar sound, Finnish death metal has a somewhat deeper, heavier sound with more emphasis on low-end frequencies and bass presence. This sound alone defined an entire scene, but in Demigod’s case, they took this defining sound and transformed it just enough so that they could make this sound their own.
This is clear from the first track here, ‘As I Behold I Despise’. Starting with the standard blastbeats and tremolo-picked riffs, Demigod quickly transitions into a more groove-laden riff, while also varying up the drums on multiple occasions throughout the duration of this riff’s presence. Beneath the deep guttural vocals, the great riffs just keep coming. At this point though, the more melodic part of Demigod’s music starts to appear, with a deep, gloomy, melancholic guitar lead. This lead reappears soon later after another lead and transitions into a short solo. More important, however, is the simple chord pattern employed under the lead guitar. This simple, depressing-sounding rhythm is critical to defining the despair-filled atmosphere of this song. Towards the end of the song, one of the guitarists continues to use this rhythm while the other plays a slower version of the lead from before, adding even more to the atmosphere. The song then ends with a simple riff over some relatively slow double bass drumming.
While all of the songs on this album are distinct from each other, this serves as a prime example for explaining what Demigod do and how well they do it. They retain the pummeling Finnish death metal sound while also incorporating small, simple, melodic segments that serve to add to the atmosphere already established with the vast array of riffs that they utilize. The relatively consistent, mid-paced nature of the music gives it the freedom to speed things up or slow things down when necessary to convey a given emotion, while also being at the perfect speed for hearing every detail in each riff.
Just listen to the next song, ‘Dead Soul’, and hear how different it is from its predecessor. The riffs change much more quickly than before (also, that riff at 0:28 is badass…just felt like putting that out there), but also appear in the song multiple times, each with different percussion behind them. This variation emphasizes both the riffs themselves as well as the percussion, which, although relatively unobtrusive, also contributes greatly to the atmosphere. Then, towards the end, we get a harmonized guitar rhythm which just works perfectly after the build-up and leads into a classy, but short, solo to end.
This is a trend that continues throughout the album, whether it be with the evil-sounding tremolo picked riff that starts off ‘The Forlorn’ (as well as the great riff right after), or the melodic leanings of ‘Tears Of God’. Slumber Of Sullen Eyes is a perfect example of an album full of exquisite subtleties that combine to create a unique and mesmerizing musical experience.
But what cannot be ignored is the title track. This song is filled to the brim with all of the qualities I’ve already mentioned, but at an even higher level of quality. The riffs here are just a bit more evil, the atmosphere a bit more bleak, the melodic leads a bit more supportive. Everything here just clicks in a way that makes you look at the entire album in a different way. This song is what defines the sound of the album. The counterpoint toward the end of the track is just the icing on the death metal cake as far as things go. With the solid harsh vocals screaming above them, this creates the perfect mental image of what this album represents. And as soon as we think that they’re done, Demigod present what might be one of the best rhythm pieces on the album starting at 5:18, with a rather catchy riff played over a great mix of cymbals and a more noticeable bass presence. The drums vary up between this nice mix of cymbals to traditional double bass drumming. Overall, this song encapsulates everything that this album is about.
The rest of the songs contain this sort of atmosphere and general direction, including the second to last track, ‘Perpetual Ascent’, an instrumental. With a bit of synthesized choir vocals in the back, Demigod display excellent musicianship by writing a dark and depressing song comprised entirely of slow, heavy riffs and melodic leads instead of resorting to bombastic solos. This leads to a fitting end to an album full of great songwriting and execution.
What we have here is a display of great songwriting ability used to create a sonic landscape filled with a wonderfully dark atmosphere. The riffs presented are all excellent both in terms of retaining that death metal groove we all know and love and in terms of contributing to the overall tone of the album. While much more atmospherically oriented than other Finnish death metal albums of its time, Slumber Of Sullen Eyes still embodies the Finnish death metal sound as well as any.
Written for http://thenumberoftheblog.com
Along with the similarly-named Demilich, Demigod represent exactly 1/2 of the best Finnish death output of the 90s. Slumber of Sullen Eyes is an album of remarkable depth for 1992, incorporating somber melodies and atmosphere into its base brutality. This band has never disappointed me, but I still identify most strongly with their roots, fusing deep, Floridian-influenced death metal grooves with cosmic and mystical themes.
A brief intro erupts into the searing "As I Behold I Despise", with a basic if killer riff transforming into a groove reminiscent of Bolt Thrower. Of note is the lengthy bridge segment where the bands becomes highly atmospheric, adding melodies and tasteful leads. "Dead Soul" crushes with a thrashing low-end riff over steady double bass rhythms, again the groove recalls early Bolt Thrower (and maybe a little Dismember on this tune) but capitalized on its use of leads to create a progressive edge for its day. "The Forlorn" opens with an excellent riff, dual guitar harmonies creating a classic death hammering which alternates with a shifting groove. "Tears of God" is a death/doom piece with scarce use of synths to add a layer of atmosphere above its tireless and frightening groove and step. The title track has an air of Pestilence in its chords and composition, one of the most enduring tracks on this release. The remainder of the tracks are all good, with special attention to the bass strumming of "Fear Obscures from Within" and the excellent descending rhythm of "Towards the Shrouded Infinity".
One gets the feeling listening to Slumber of Sullen Eyes that it was very much ahead of its time. While it's not an entirely unique experience, it does use its own influences to set the stage for much to come over the next decade. Brutal and percussive, there was plenty to appeal towards the pit population, yet the material is much deeper. Finland never developed a death metal scene in the 90s to rival that of neighbors Sweden, but Demigod was certainly worthy, and they remain so even if we don't hear from them as often as we might like.
If ever there was a death metal record prime for reissue then it was this one, thankfully, XTreem Music have reissued it. The fresh-faced Finnish quintet originally released this LP through Drowned Productions in 1992. The band then effectively broke up, with several members continuing in the (inferior) Adramelech. Demigod resurfaced a decade later with a disappointing second album, leaving 'Slumber of Sullen Eyes' as the true monument upon which the band's legendary reputation rests.
The obscurity surrounding this record only enhances its power for those who eventually get to hear it. Aside from that, the masterful, relentless, mid-paced death metal speaks for itself. The obvious reference points lie in the cream of the Scandinavian death metal (the debuts by Entombed, Darkthrone and Grave, and the first At The Gates EP). Soundwise, the production is incredibly dense but remarkably clear at the same time. The vocals are guttural throughout. The songs are well structured, complete with massive breakdowns and imaginative solos that demonstrate an ear for melody but never cross the line into the meaningless over-technical indulgence that plagues so many death metal bands.
What really sets this from the pack is the foreboding atmosphere it creates. Followers of the `Scandinavian black metal' sound that emerged at around the same time will be able to relate to the cold, shrill guitar sound (most noticeable on the title track). This injects a hint of darkness to the band's uniquely crushing approach. To sum up, this is one of the most overlooked death metal records of all, an absolute must for serious followers of the genre.
All is at calm; everything is in order, as the tranquil keys of “Apocryphal” manifest images of birds frolicking in the midst of sunrays beaming through the forest roof. Then, like an eagle made out of solid stone comes the storm of furious Death Metal tremolo swooping on its prey with the force of a hammer. This is “Slumber Of Sullen Eyes”, the clashing of two polar forces; chaos and beauty, as we find that they aren’t so unrelated after all.
Aesthetically, the core of this, Demigod’s debut album, is straight-up Death Metal that pulverises from start to finish; crushing any mere mortal that finds itself on the same path. Originating its roots in such albums as Morbid Angel’s “Blessed Are The Sick”, the style of progressive riff-development is adopted, with intricate melodic workings and playful technique being incorporated into songs that include more ideas than some whole albums. The comparisons with Morbid Angel end there, as sonically this album is a part of the melodic tendencies of the Scandinavian movement, not nearly as influenced by the Speed Metal of the 80s. The tempos range from slow to mid-paced, as heavy palm-muted strumming and slow Doom riffs are contrasted against low tremolo riffing and counter-point melodies. Melody is also worked into the mix by supplementing or accentuating the original riff with great finesse and control.
Thematically, these brutal palm-muted atrocities realise that death is imminent and a certainty that one cannot avoid. But, instead of falling into passive fatalism, melodic interplay focus on the beauty of life as an entity and promotes a meaningful existence. The melodies couldn’t be described as “emotional” in the sense that we are accustomed to, they are apathetic without being emotionally detached, isolated from the unequivocal nature of modern disillusion. This anti-societal leaning is spawned from a view based on traditional Vedic thinking of channelling emotion in a sense that isn’t geared towards the individual. Hence, the melodies are distant, detached and share the beauty of nature that seems remote to our everyday lives. This adds a feeling of blissful ambience, unfailing in its beauty.
Dynamically, there is plenty of variation, with tempo and tone changes galore. To further justify this Demigod employs a range of tasteful techniques such as emphasising a bass-line, then using it as a foundation to build a melody or a riff upon. Other surprises are also in fruition such as a sporadic seven-note keyboard part that strangely fits in without impeding the direction of the song. There are also some excellent displays of drumming, ranging from pummelling double-kick and snare work, to slower atmospheric backing to the slower melodies. Again the relationship between beauty and chaos is aligned.
There is no pretentiousness or “showing off” to be had here, instead a complete focus on song-craftsmanship and the final product is more than a testament to this. Recommended for any fan of Death Metal, especially those who desire tasteful use of melody in contrast to heavy riffing.