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Under the record label Masters of Metal Productions, Project: Roenwolfe is held to a high standard, as musician-extrordinaire Tony Cordisco has his fingers in so many consistently excellent projects. Lord help this man the day he releases a poor quality album! The Project: Roenwolfe 'Demo 2012' does not disappoint (at this point with Tony at the helm it should go without saying) and in fact is a short, sweet tangent of experimental sounding thrash metal. On vocals is Patrick Hoyt Parris (ex-Theocracy) whose wailing screams and high register vocals carry the songs well.
Normally on demos I would expect to be more lenient, expecting sub-par production quality and unpolished musical ideas. These notions fly right out the door with opener "Recurring Dream (A City in Shadow)" which grabs you by the nuts with fantastically aggressive and catchy riffs. Pat's vocals are mystical and would lend themselves well to a live environment. The keyboard solo here is also a wonderful addition, acting as a curveball to some of the thrash elements at work.
"Recurring Dream (A City in Shadow)" sets the scene well, as every song on here is of comparably great quality. "Alchemic Design" acts as a great single and overall representation of what Project: Roenwolfe brings to the table. Something this demo does well is introduce new elements into each song. "Born of Rage" features Bryan Edwards (Vermiform, ex-Seven Kingdoms) who deals out disgusting, loathsome death metal vocals (I mean that in a good way) which really add to the nitty-gritty feeling of the song. The rest of the demo similarly provides something different with each song and because the demo's length is so short some of the detractors (the group vocals in "Abstractions of Independence") are quickly passed by.
A drum machine is obviously at work here, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the songs at all. The drum programming is solid and sounds realistic enough not to detract from the listening experience. The focus here are the songwriting, the juicy guitar riffs, and Pat's Halford-inspired vocals. So for a demo this is surprisingly tight and effective, short and sweet. I would first suggest their full length album, but for those who enjoyed 'Neverwhere Dreamscape' I would definitely have no problem suggesting 'Demo 2012'.
Highlights: "Recurring Dream (A City in Shadow)", "Born of Rage"
Masters of Metal Productions is an upstart label ran by musicians, for musicians, and it goes to reason that they would be home to some very promising acts. The label’s policy of allowing their releases to be downloaded at no charge is proving to be a smart one, as it allows prospective fans to check out full releases by Masters of Metal bands, and make up their own minds on the merits of usually very formidable music therein. As the label’s most recent release, interestingly named Project: Roenwolfe’s demo fits in with the trend of delivering the proverbial goods, alongside the other Masters of Metal artists such as Judicator and Lascaille’s Shroud.
The demo contains four songs, yet hints at much potential from both songwriting and performance sides. The core of Project: Roenwolfe’s sound is fast, aggressive riffing over similarly raging drums, combined with clear, generally high-pitched melodic vocals (although death metal vocals make a brief appearance on “Born of Rage”). A discerning listener may notice some stylistic similarities to more aggressive side of power metal such as “Politics of Ecstasy”-era Nevermore, heavier moments of Steel Prophet’s catalogue, or even Biomechanical.
The guitar playing effortlessly marries classic power and thrash metal sensibilities with driving rhythms more commonly associated with heavier and newer genres of metal, creating an impression of barely controlled chaos that, paradoxically, retains focus and direction. At the same time, the vocalist has a voice that would fit along all the usual suspects – Dickinson, Halford, Dane, Alder – while retaining a timbre that is distinctly his. The vocal melodies are composed in a way that recalls prime Nevermore, as evidenced on “Alchemic Design” and “Reoccurring Dream”, often creating a counterpoint to the aggressive music. The (programmed) drums keep up with the songs by offering a credible impression of a modern thrash metal skin-beater.
That said, Project: Roenwolfe is also not afraid to venture from the boundaries of the style. The opener “Reoccurring Dream” features a keyboard solo that, surprisingly, adds another dimension to aggressive music instead of watering it down. The syncopated rhythms of “Alchemic Design” and the controlled chaos of closer “Abstractions of Independence” are interlaced with catchy parts that keep everything together, while “Born of Rage” goes for more simplistic, straightforward approach.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the demo is at its most interesting when Project: Roenwolfe lets loose and does not rein in the songs. Conversely, “Born of Rage”, though a fine song in its own right, feels as if it does not entirely fit with the rest of the material, as its midtempo, generally straightforward riffing feels almost too restrained when compared to near-progressive chaos of other songs. As a result, it is likely to be either one’s favorite, or one’s least favorite track on the demo, since the slight stylistic difference makes it stand out for better or worse. Of course, it is also a function of the demo containing only four tracks, which naturally draws much more attention to each individual song. It would be interesting to hear the band’s full-length album, apparently due some time in 2013, which should give a better idea on Project: Roenwolfe’s overall direction, and on where each song fits into the members’ musical vision.
The only other point of criticism would be production of the demo, which is at times inconsistent. There is a feeling that the songs might have been recorded at different times, as there are fluctuations in volume and sound quality between the songs (in particular, “Reoccurring Dream” and “Born of Rage” have distinctly different recording sound from the other two songs). At times, these fluctuations detract from total immersion in what Project: Roenwolfe are trying to achieve, although at no point do they inhibit the enjoyment of music. That said, this is the band’s first demo, and this is a minor quip, which will hopefully not be the case on their full-length album.
Overall, Project: Roenwolfe delivers. The band offers an intriguing sound that draws on both classic and modern metal, and that should appeal to wide audience. Already at this demo stage they seem mostly focused on what they want to do, and the results are very promising. Many bands and projects spend years getting to the point where they can write focused, polished material, but Project: Roenwolfe is already there, and if they keep developing their sound, their upcoming full-length shall be nothing short of exceptional.