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Poor production somehow hurts a Bone Awl demo - 84%

iamntbatman, November 20th, 2009

Bone Awl's third demo is their shortest to date and, despite having songs that are just as strong as anything from the earlier Bog Bodies, suffers from production that cripples the vocal performance, detracting somewhat from the quality of this release.

The riffing style continues in the typical ultra-primitive style well established by Bone Awl by this point: three chord punk riffs played at a galloping pace. As on Bog Bodies, the blend of overdriven bass and guitar has the net result of sounding like punk power chords bashed out on on a fuzzy bass. The opening title track blazes by almost too fast to really get much out of it, but luckily there are some quality riffs throughout the other three tracks that mark some of the most memorable material yet in Bone Awl's discography. "Lost Far Down" features a one-note figure during the middle of one of its riffs that's pretty darn catchy while "Day of Burial" has an almost cowpunk sort of vibe going on that's probably the highlight of this release. Closing track "Circles of Hair" doesn't have quite the same level of catchiness in the riffs as the others but the guitar/bass tone is particularly sludgy on this song which lends it a little extra weight. The drums are as simple and punky as always with a few minor variations in key spots: blastbeats during the chorus of "Day of Burial" and some basic tom fills during "Circles of Hair" round out the experience.

Shoddy production on the vocals (which live up to the reputation Bone Awl have established as having some of the most intense, raw black metal screams in the business) neuter what is otherwise He Who Gnashes Teeth's most insane performance to date. The ending section of "Circles of Hair" is particularly blood-curdling, but the vocals are buried deep enough in the mix that they don't stand out they way they should. I guess it kind of comes with the territory when a band is as committed to making raw, lo-fi music as Bone Awl are but it's unfortunate nonetheless.

Two of the demo's four tracks can also be heard on the Radio Show (Live at KJFC) release but unfortunately that recording also suffers from buried vocals. The version of "Circles of Hair" on this release is superior to the version found on the 2007 demo All Has Red, although I'm left wanting a definitive version of these songs with a louder vocal mix. This isn't really an essential part of the Bone Awl catalogue but it does contain some worthwhile songs, one of which can't be found anywhere else.