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For me, discovering Timeghoul was like finding a nugget of pure gold on a nature hike. From the moment I first heard "Occurrence On Mimas" during a random band search on Youtube, I knew I had to find out more about this band. It is both honorable and thankless in deed that Dark Descent Records helped resurrect these all-but-forgotten tracks compiled from Timeghoul's various demos (in addition to the extremely rare archival material on disc 2).
For those who are more into the angular, avaunt-garde twists and turns of song-craft that come from bands such as Demilich and later Gorguts, this collection of releases is a total feast for the ears. Personally, I can't find a track that stands out as unremarkable. Every song Timeghoul ever wrote carries purpose and individual distinction, unlike a lot of modern tech death bands, who usually try to cram as many fretboard exorcizes as possible into a track, no matter how shoddy the end result may sound. The success is arguably due to the compositional strengths present thanks to the band's mastermind Jeff Hayden, who shares guitar duties with Gordon Blodgett. According to the latter, the former was apparently influenced by 20th century composers like Shostakovich and Stravinsky, and it shows in just how well this album was put together. But this album is not necessarily authored in terms of musicianship, as the drums and bass provide enough complexity to more than keep up with the other instruments.
Another thing that makes this band's work stand out is the lyricism behind each track, which, much like the instrumental professionalism of each song, tells a coherent story. Much of the lyrics have a science-fiction or other fantastical environment, which certainly matches the angularity of the music. In addition, these lyrics don't come off as an afterthought to the composition, almost as if both elements were spawned out of the ether as one. As I previously mentioned, there aren't really any tracks that come off as unremarkable; however, if there were a standout track on this release, it would be "Occurrence on Mimas", which is a magnum opus for the band both lyrically and musically.
Thanks to the addition of the material on disc 2, we also get a glimpse on the first instances of Timeghoul's work, which to anyone interested in near-obscure material will not be disappointed; live recordings and rare demo sessions decorate and give a new sense of perspective to those who were already marveled by the material on disc 1.
In closing, for those bored by the current wave of technical or otherwise death metal, I demand you refresh yourself with this release. GO OUT AND BUY IT! This is the first in a long time that I have actually had zero buyer's remorse in regard to a music purchase, metal or otherwise. Timeghoul may never get back together, but we at least have this to remember them and possibly (hopefully) re-inspire the next generation of death metal musicians.
The wonder of the demo. It is perhaps the rawest document of a band available outside the embryonic states of the garage and the heat of a performance in a hole in the wall. Yet, ‘rawness’ should not be confused with amateurism or mediocrity, because in the case of Missouri’s Timeghoul, rawness means visionary, haunting and pounding death metal from your deepest nightmares.
Being one of the most legendary of all those ‘demo-level’ death metal groups, Timeghoul finally got the chance to release (through Dark Descent Records) their long sought after pair of tapes in one nice little package (with artwork and liner notes by metal artist Mark Riddick). 1992’s ‘Tumultuous Travelings’ and 1994’s ‘Panoramic Twilight’ (note Gustav Dore artwork) are total classics, and simply put, you MUST get this set. The music rules that hard. All the tracks have had a remastering job that pushes the volume up and clears up the murk a bit. Having been active from the late 80’s to around 1994, the band was forced to call it quits before their chance to launch into the stratosphere. They were ahead of their time and brilliant, which made it a real shame. But thanks to the internet, the band seems to be coming back to life. There has even been some word of a new album.
With the background noise aside, the two demos are emblematic of that bizarre and magnificent state of death metal that slithered around the in the early 90’s. It might be nostalgia (for something I didn’t experience) talking, but this music has a transformative feel to it, like when a see a close up of water crystallizing into ice. It is hypnotic, and the subterranean production values (lessened now) amplify these mesmerizing recordings into a special place. This feeling is especially prevalent on “Travelings,” which has murkiness that comes off as a combination of Incantation and Demilich. Even the blasting madness of the drums have a sort of a muffled character that allows them to blend right in with the dreariness of the proceedings. Everything just works so well.
It would be absurd to go through every single great aspect and track of the recording, and it would probably be equivalent of clubbing a baby seal while beating a dead horse trying to get the point across. To sum up, what you get here is crushing atmospheric droning and smashing of the highest caliber. The longer song lengths make full use of progressive possibilities, as they are chocked full of fantastic dynamics and ideas that will not leave the listener bored. There is even a bit of an ‘experimental’ nature to both the demos because they just feel different. The lyrics are excellent, and if the ones for ‘Gutspawn’ don’t make your guts feel weird then I guess your more metal than I am. It can’t be fully articulated, but there is really something special at work here. I guess that has something to do with a little something called charisma!
My favorite track of the bunch is the multifaceted gem that is ‘The Siege.’ Death metal songs often lack a certain pathos and emotional weight, but this work creates a narrative of suffering and melancholy. The protagonists of the piece are a group of warriors defending a citadel against a great host of enemies that seem to be on the verge of victory. The most shocking element of all is the sudden use of mysterious clean vocals that are so wonderfully suited to such a narrative. Even through the murk of the production, the vocals sound out with a quality that would not be possible in a higher fidelity recording. That is not to say that 'Twilight’ doesn’t deliver, because it does in a different way, big time. That recording’s higher production allows for more space and drama to occur between the movements of sound, but I still prefer the first demo.
Having just received said package in the mail, I feel I know own a piece of history. Even beyond the actual recordings themselves. As a reminder of how word of mouth and tape trading made the worldwide scene what it is today one can’t help but feel that tug of war between the old school and the new. The old guard represents true agency and dedication of fandom, while the new represent the near freedom of exchange that can bring groups long dead back to life. One thing is lost so that another can survive, and thus is life?
This release is totally essential to anyone remotely interested in the possibilities of the genre. Timeghoul birthed creative, fascinating and fun(!) music, and it is time they got their due.
Originally Published for examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/review/timeghoul-reissues-classic-demo-recordings?cid=db_articles
A few years back, I wrote up a review for this Missouri obscurity's second demo, Panaramic Twilight, a rather unsung and exemplary foray into science fiction inspired death and doom which has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to the widespread 'word of mouth' that is the internet. Dark Descent Records has thoughtfully paid heed to the myriad cries for a reissue, and thus both of the band's mid 90s tapes are now available in one convenient location, with new artwork, packaging and lyrics. It couldn't have come at a better time, honestly. The hydra of death metal nostalgia is in full bloom, its many heads devouring new generations who have tired of the technical excesses of the genre's modernization, and Timeghoul manage to fit that old school bill while retaining a progressive, dynamic personality all unto themselves, in a rare space between the sounds and aesthetics of Nocturnus, Deicide and later Pestilence records upon which the Dutchmen flew off into space.
Of the two demos included, I must admit some favor towards the Panaramic Twilight material (1994). It seems far better organized, cleaner and more approachable as far as its production values, and incorporates a grander, more absurd narrative. But there isn't a massive stylistic gulf from the Tumultous Twilight sessions (1992). The songs went from 6-7 minutes to even more expansive lengths, but the core techniques remain much the same. A burgeoning, low end death metal frenzy incorporating all the brutal squeals and early Deicide chugging you could ask for, complete with low gutturals on a level not unlike Demilich. More intriguing is how the band incorporates a lot of the clinical, surgical guitars that dominated late 80s tech thrash opuses like Watchtower's Control and Resistance, Deathrow's Deception Ignored or a handful of the Mekong Delta records. It creates this constant sense of exciting variation in which the listener cannot fully predict what will happen next, and that's part of what keeps me glued to BOTH of these demos, and generates a pang of sadness that they weren't able to take it all further.
Timeghoul took chances, and a lot of this can be heard in the breadth of vocal choices. They can pull off chanted, unnerving clean harmonies ("Boiling in the Hourglass") or the grunting/rasping hybrids made popular by Glen Benton ("Occurence on Mimas"). I prefer the actual gutturals to an extent from the first demo, but the creepy ambient breaks, morbid cosmic intro transmission ("Occurence...") and aforementioned chants really make a wealth of difference. The lyrics are superb, especially for those into science fiction and horror, whether that be the grim future revealed through the Warhammer 40K fiction or the more ominous, isolationist atmospheres wrought by the legendary Arthur C. Clarke. Like Nocturnus and Voivod, this band excels at taking the listener to its source of creative chaos through both the words AND the music, and the marriage of pummeling, sporadic rhythms and frightening speculative brain candy was a huge part of its appeal to me personally.
'I am a god, the prime being
I shall impale you
On the crumbled pillars of the millenia'
I can cite a few minor gripes with the production of the earlier demo, such as the fact that the tone of the guitar is a little ruddy and some of the rhythm notes lost behind the percussion of both the drums and vocals, but this was pretty typical of early death metal albums in that whole Roadrunner and Earache scene (particularly some of the Morrisound productions like Deicide and Gorguts). And really, it's a demo, so one can't expect too much. Not to mention that Timeghoul addressed all of this the improved Panaramic Twilight, and songs like "The Siege", "Gutspawn" and "Infinity Coda" are well worth hearing regardless of the mix. Ultimately, this is a band which deserves to be experienced by all who missed them the first time around, and a Complete Discography is the perfect vehicle. Whether anything further comes of this is anyone's guess, as the band's own website seems rather nebulous on the possibility, but either way, this is worth the investment for any sci-fi death metal sicko dreamer.