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Demiurg are one of the more recent death metal projects of the ultra-active Dan Swanö, Rogga Johansson and Ed Warby, here on album number three "Slakthus Gamleby" following releases 2007 and 2008. Ultra-active they undoubtedly are but even before listening to this record, having never heard any Demiurg beforehand, I was reticent as to what another death metal project from these veterans could offer that I haven't before from any number of their more illustrious (and lesser-known) projects and now, a few listens down the line my thoughts haven't changed a great deal.
It feels all too easy to roll out the old journalistic cliche claiming the experience of "Slakthus Gamleby"'s main protagonists divides this band from numerous other mid-league death metal bands but even listening to the confident and mild-mannered riffing in the likes of "The Cold Hand Of Death", it's really not. We all known of similar and younger bands sounding just as perfunctory early on in a career and thus we are left with a palette of decent old-school death metal suited to pleasing ardent fans of the genre but offering little to the likes of myself looking only for top-level quality to feel excitement for the DM of today. Naturally, to anyone who's heard Edge of Sanity, surely Dan Swanö's most celebrated band, he wasn't going to allow this release to pass without adding a few flourishes which comes in the form of some unexpected female vocals (rarely do these two words please my ears, form that continues there) and some gentle keyboard inclinations. Both factors keep themselves intentionally innocuous, but in this fact lies the problem that the album as a whole is too vanilla to pull any strong feelings at a time when I have other more vigorous DM releases to be checking out.
Loathe am I to question the work of Dan Swanö for his integrity and dedication to (death) metal remains second to none, but I get the impression that "Slakthus Gamleby" is released in the name of satisfying deathly cravings from all involved than any concerted attempt to tear the scene a new whole. Demiurg are here as a reassuring reminder to all of the sound of honest Swedish death metal, but I don't expect I'll select "Slakthus Gamleby" too often when the need for some sturdy death metal comes along.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
As someone unfamiliar with much Swedish language or Swedish history, and only the tether of musical fanaticism to bind me to that region of the world, the title to this record threw me for a loop. I translated that 'slakthus' meant slaughterhouse and Gamleby was a geographical region of the country, so perhaps this is connected to some historical murder that I am unaware of. At any rate, it's safe to say that this is a striking title for a death metal record, and anyone that has enjoyed this supergroups prior output The Hate Chamber and Breath of the Demiurg will be very pleased, since the members have gone all out to write some good songs that keep you involved without any surplus of self-indulgent brutality or pedestrian, misogynist gore tropes.
Of all Rogga Johansson's projects, this is likely the one with the most high profile collaborators. The incomparable Dan Swanö performs the keyboards and leads, Ed Warby of Gorefest, Hail of Bullets and many others (including The 11th Hour band with Rogga) is on the drums, Johan Berglund (Ribspreader, The Grotesquery) on bass, and some added, clean vocals are contributed by Pär Johansson of Satariel, The Few Against Many, and so forth. Rogga adds the brutal vocals and guitars, and the sound evoked is pretty reminiscent of the earlier work of another Swedish all-star team, Bloodbath (connected here through Swanö). As with any of these 'one degree of separation' acts, you can expect the collective experience of its members to shine through in the songwriting, and Slakthus Gamleby is no exception. Carefully crafted, evil death metal rhythms wind through atmospheric phrases, synthesizers are used to a great, bombastic effect, rounding out the deathly core, and the band even explores a little of the doom element of the Rogga/Warby project The 11th Hour on a track like "Travellers of the Vortex". The strength of the melodies here might also remind one of another project both Rogga and Swanö have been involved with, the mighty Edge of Sanity.
The band keep it simple, and they keep it fun through the steady chugging of "Life is a Coma", glazed in one of the most clear and punchy guitar tones I've heard from Sweden in years. Simple grooves abound and Rogga does his best to channel the thick vocals akin to Swanö or Mikael from Opeth. The girlish clean vocals did throw me for a loop, and were completely unnecessary here, but they do at least function over the music and it's not a major distraction. "Death Grasp Oblivion" is a better track with some melodic power/death that busts out into this truly grisly old school riff to die for. "Travellers of the Vortex" is slower, almost a death/doom piece, while The Cold Hand of Death feels comparable to some of Rogga's other bands ala Ribspreader or Carve, with the added element of the keyboards. Other highlights include the strangely uplifting melodic froth of "Cold Skin" and the grooving, measured mystique of "From Laughter to Retching".
Slakthus Gamleby is a more accessible effort than either of the previous records. There is simply no denying the studio polish here, nor the friendly composition, but it still maintains the evil intentions of the genre, they're simply 'fluffed up' by the atmospheric ingredients. Rogga's voice sounds fantastic, if derivative of the better known vocals of some of his Swedish contemporaries, and it's great to hear Dan playing the synths like he did on his solo record Moontower. The rhythm section is ample, and thankfully the clean vocals are not overused. I had a pretty great time listening to this, though I won't say the individual riffs are always that impressive, and the album is not incredibly memorable, but if you enjoy the first few releases of Bloodbath, or Edge of Sanity's The Spectral Sorrows or Purgatory Afterglow, then this is worth a listen and perhaps a purchase.