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Maybe it’s because this album is too “raw” for me, or maybe because lately I’ve been focusing on more professional and less “underground” bands, but I just cannot get into this at all. It’s too drastic, too open and just doesn’t feature the kind of strong musicianship that I’ve been leaning toward, the kind of in-your-face mix with subtlety to keep someone listening for more than one go around and to give a listener more to think about than just the sound of the music and the religion it is attacking.
For a black metal band, the guitars are supposed to fill a certain role. Emperor displayed it well, as did Immortal, and this was to fill the roles of the treble instruments in a classical orchestra/symphony. Immortal retains that sound whereas Emperor moved on to incorporate the orchestral instruments, but still the two kept the style going. That is why riffs like those of Satyricon’s “Mother North” and Gorgoroth’s “Satan-Prometheus” are so good, that is why the resonance of Mayhem’s opus “Freezing Moon” is one of the best, because they are able to be the treble end of an orchestra, fill those roles, and sound both bewilderingly evil and have an uplifting beauty to them at the same time. That is where the juxtaposition of the music comes from. Like a dropping rise or a rising drop, the sound has to have multiple things going for it, but that just isn’t found in “Cleansed by the Evil Hand”. This Nokturnal Forest EP has the bewildering evil to it, but that juxtaposition isn’t only missing, but completely forgotten to bring a sound that comes in as very one dimensional and that has little going for it other than to be “evil” for the sake of being “evil”. If you want to do that, more power to you, but you aren’t going very far musically and aren’t showing much in the way of understanding the evolution of black metal’s structure. Like a technical death metal band can be catchy and juxtapose or strengthen it with complexity, black metal has to have that dark vibe to it and juxtapose or strengthen it with some sort of beauty, a way to give the listener his bearings rather than bring him to a “dark” place and just leave him there with no concept or scope at all. On this album, that scope just isn’t there. Sure, the intro has a sort of horror movie “Child’s Play” simplicity to it that makes it catchy but also macabre and evil, but that just doesn’t fulfill whatever Demon of Darkness is going for. Each riff, from “Transylvanian Darkness” to “Sacrifice the Immolation” is nearly the same, just too loud, whiny, and obnoxious for its own good. The riffs don’t make the listener think “hey, this guy is shredding”, instead they are just there to bring a “cold” vibe, but that “cold” has to have some heat added to it so the listener knows why it is “cold”. It must be both technically and aesthetically pleasing, it has to be logically placed as well as register on the emotional level that the music is set at. This mise-en-scene just isn’t there as the riffs don’t join the drums or vocals well, the bass isn’t present at all, and the listener is left to try to put together the pieces of something that sounds only “evil”.
The instrument supposed to bring this heat is the drum kit, but the drums just don’t do it for me. Metal has gotten to the point that speed is an unnecessary focus for a listener, musician, and for a producer. Anyone can do a rapid blast, you hear them all the time nowadays, but the structure and reasoning for each blast is needed to make one effective and show how another can be taken out. Severe Torture shows how some blasts are unnecessary whereas Cryptopsy shows where blasts can be effective at setting off the structure of a song. Nokturnal Forest just doesn’t set the right tempo for blasts, uses them throughout entire songs, and makes them as overused as breakdowns in deathcore. Drumming like in Gorgoroth’s latest album, or any early Mayhem can keep bouncing you back and forth between snare hits and can keep that gap between riffs together with double bass, fills, and rolls, but the back and forth just isn’t pronounced in Demon’s drumming. The music must have a midpoint, that midpoint is elaborated on with a left and right movement, that left and right movement must swing past the midpoint, but that pendulum just isn’t calibrated well in “Sabbath of a Thousand Young” and “Sacrifice the Immolation”. When Demon of Darkness does slow it down in “The Nokturnal Forest” and the cover of Dhul Qarnayn’s “With Wrath so Divine”, that back and forth is heard and the songs swing much better, but in the faster tracks it seems structure is sacrificed for atmosphere and intensity which just falls apart rather than grows with each cycle.
The vocals are just not doing it for this mix. There is a reason why Lord Worm’s thirty second constant shriek in “Open Face Surgery” is so amazing, it is because the maelstrom beneath it keeps churning and deviating while the “solo” continues. The vocals sound more like a bad Dracula movie than someone looking to create black metal. There needs to be more variation because though they sound close to Abbath of Immortal, they just aren’t delivered effectively enough to have that kind of cutting clout as though being pushed through a desolate landscape in their execution.
Just like it annoys real listeners for the mainstream to focus only on death metal’s vocals, thrash’s speed, and NWOBHM’s choruses, focusing only on evil sounding riffs in black metal is what separates the genre definers and forgotten “scene” bands. I can safely say that the bands created by Demon of Darkness are just that, scene bands with nothing to add to the musical genre. Variation, deviation, experimentation, and restructuring are what keep a style of music going, none of these are present in any of this singular music. Thrash’s resurgence in the US and Sweden’s take on death metal have kept those genres not only alive, but vibrant, evolving, and spawning new takes on the same style with many bands expanding their horizons as they continue to create new music while exploring the same conventions. Demon of Darkness, examine your elders, study your predecessors, see where they went wrong, see where they went right. Examine the aesthetic and technical, the sound and the technique, understand the subtlety and juxtaposition, realize where the music becomes art and where the music stops at sound, and remember, that each ingredient in your music is supposed to stand alone and mix because so far, the folly of not only “Cleansed by the Evil Hand” but Nokturnal Forest, Dark Promise, and Blackspell has been their simplistic singularities when approaching a multi-faceted style.