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These guys must have felt a real hunger for old school death metal, as Demonical unleashed their second plague only two years after they spawned the devastation called "Servants of the Unlight". Their new shredder has been titled "Hellsworn" and man... it is one hellishly great album. Although I must say it is slightly different than its predecessor. If you remember the debut LP and such ultimately fast and destructive songs as "Feeding the Armageddon" (which even had black metal riffing, in my opinion), then well, none of that is present on "Hellsworn". This album is definitely slower, the playing and tempos are more classic death metal mid paced riffing, the album is very traditional old school, and Demonical didn't use those ultimate fast cuts. But don't get me wrong, the absence of that didn't make the music weak, this still is straight forward, aggressive death metal album!
With this album I can see more and more why did they decide to end Centinex and begin something new... Opened with amazing "Baptized In Fire", "Hellsworn" takes influences from the original Swedish death metal pioneers, such as Grave, Dismember and don't take it as a shame, trying to play this style as diverse and well as it can only be possible, so your head won't stop banging and speakers will explode from the loud music. And pretty diverse this album is, at the same time it's damn catchy in many chorus parts and memorable as it's straight forward, brutal and groovy. "Infernal Void" is one of those in your face and no remorse songs, one of the fastest on the album, which you'll love straight away, while "Bloodridden" is showing some doomy, slow riffs in the opening part, evolving into more Grave-esque track later on. "Götter Des Nordens" with surprising German lyrics, is the grooviest and simplest song you may imagine to hear on the album, but man, it did work, as it's also one of my favorites. It shows that you don't need 10 thousands riffs to get great death metal song. Simplicity is often better and the atmosphere must be dark and hellish. "Death Metal Darkness" is another great example for that. No guitar wanking, no bullshit... just pure onslaught, aggression and again catchy chorus, making it a personal death metal anthem with the (cheesy maybe, but cool!) lyrics: "Death metal darkness - devastation will forever be. Death metal darkness - we are the masters of immortality!". And finally "Bow To The Monolith", total Dismember worship (just listen to those short melodies), but it sounds so fuckin great. Same with the instrumental title track - when I listen to the guitar lead at the beginning, I just have "Indecent & Obscene" in my mind!
Demonical got excellent production again, using Necromorbus Studio this time and man... the sound is raw and dirty, but traditional for the Swedish death metal, reminding me albums like "Indecent & Obscene" right away. Oh, that guitar sound! A Nobel prize for the Entombed / Nihilist guys for discovering it! Also Demonical presents new vocalist Sverker Widgren. Welcome! Ludvig Engellau had great voice also, but luckily Sverker's doing what he's supposed to do in death metal band - using his voice for great guttural vocals, not for cock sucking. But the entire band's performance is top notch, I have absolutely nothing to complain about!
All in all, Demonical delivered another great album. I'm not sure if it's better than the debut, maybe not, as "Servants of the Unlight" was just pure hell, unleashed in the middle of the calmest day ever, but "Hellsworn" isn't far behind it. I love it and probably together with such bands as Bloodbath and Facebreaker, I find Demonical as the best newer band around... And Interment of corpse he, he! Anyway, totally recommended LP! Favorite tracks? So many, but I can mention "Baptized In Fire", "Götter Des Nordens" and "Bow To The Monolith".
When this Swedish supergroup released Servants of the Unlight two years ago, I was completely floored, and it wound up as one of my favorite metal records that year. A ferocious onslaught of brutal Swedish death that pays tribute to its forebears but does not dwell on them as much as the 'retro sect' of bands overe there. Three of the members hail from the legendary Centinex, and Demonical sounds like a natural, improved progression for that band.
Hellsworn may not be the utter slab of darkness that was the band's debut album, but it definitely fucking tries. Opener "Baptized in Fire" lives up to his name, because the track feels like a conflagration consuming every shred of my flesh and bone. Well timed samples and a depressive background melody carve this into the perfect initial onslaught for a death metal record. "World Serpent" dials back the pace, a brutal rocking rhythm not unlike something you'd find on the first two Entombed records. "Infernal Void" is a tasty vignette of butchery that will appeal to fans of Vomitory, Centinex, and Fleshcrawl. "Bloodridden" creates a crushing wall of doom riffing, and at the perfect moment adds a slight twang of acoustic guitar in the background before breaking into its meaty bludgeoning verse rhythms. Sickening. Other excellent tracks include the pumping "Death Metal Darkness" and the bluesy, battering title track at the end of the record.
The production here is pristine, dark and potent like chunks of beef being fed to the shredder. The leads wail off with abandon, the vocals are caustic without a hint of concern or kindness, and the writing is yet again superb. I still favor the debut slightly over this album, but it's another mandatory purchase for any fan of true death metal.
Centinex never really made it big, always staying way behind more renowned Swedish titans. Bogged by label troubles and a revolving door of a lineup, the band was nonetheless constantly pulled onward by lone surviving original member Martin Schulman, unleashing disc after disc of evolving death metal and securing a devoted, if somewhat petite and scattered fan base. The end of the band's days came in 2006, when after a 16-year uphill struggle the guys seemingly called it quits. This wasn't the case, though – a new project by the name of Demonical arose from the ashes, essentially shedding the guitarists from the last Centinex lineup. Why bother obtaining a new name after this particular line-up change?
A possible explanation would be to indicate a new direction Demonical is heading towards – Hellsworn is pure, old school Swedish death metal done perfectly, and it seems possible that the guys opted for a new moniker to signalize that. Where Centinex would tend to be atmospheric and slightly experimental, Demonical is just pure in-your-face, focused on maintaining heaviness and not exploring alternate music realms. The tempo is usually set at a mid-high pace, fast enough to evoke the trademark Dismember urgency and yet controlled, not letting the songs dart off into a hectic blur. The production is spot on, capturing the trademark buzzsaw tone, but giving it a bit of a modern edge that in no way decreases its impact.
The songwriting is top notch... but what can we expect if all of the members are veterans of numerous established acts? The lone non-Centinex newcomer, vocalist Sverker Widgren, pulls off a convincing performance, his raspy roar sitting perfectly among the gargantuan riffs. Virtually every trademark element of old school Swedeath is present – gigantic, meaty grooves (“World Serpent” may just be one of the catchiest death metal songs ever written), rapid-fire tremolo passages grabbing you by the neck and the oh so characteristic D-beat (“Death Metal Darkness”). The band isn't afraid to slow it down – “Bloodridden” opens with one of the meanest crawling riffs this side of doom metal before taking off into a full-speed assault at the perfect moment. Down tempo moments are used splendidly, varying up the onslaught whilst not letting up the momentum, an art few bands have mastered. Each of the tunes has an identifying factor, and clocking in at 35:24 the record makes for an exhilarating, enjoyable listening experience that the listener is ready to go on again immediately after the final track stops.
The performance is impeccable, every member knows his way around his instrument of choice rather well. The organic vibe emanating from the recording is invigorating – it seems that the guys are having a quality time doing this, and the energy is contagious. Be it the furious, neck-snapping opener “Baptized In Fire” or the haunting melody hovering over the Moondarkish breakdown in “Bow To The Monolith” – it's all so genuinely powerful... it's a true pleasure to hear a band that is so “into” the music they are making. It breathes life into the seemingly stagnant genre death metal has become.
Essentially a rechristened Centinex minus the experimentation, Demonical is focused on generating pure, intense old school Swedish death metal, and they manage to nail it. Mixing unbridled enthusiasm with years of experience, the guys churn out a compact and very focused record, serving up trademark Swedeath of prime quality. Don't expect too much originality – since the formula ain't broken, why fix it? If you like stuff like Grave and Dismember and are interested how the scene is holding on in 2009 – check this out. You won't regret it.
***originally written for sputnikmusic***