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A Tale of Two Demos - 72%

Spiner202, December 5th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2009, CD + DVD, Days of Yore (Limited edition)

“Why Die?” is a compilation that features the collected works of American thrash band Chemical Annihilation. Although the band put out just two demos in their career, there is a huge difference between both releases in terms of songwriting, production quality, and musicianship. In the grand scheme of thrash metal, Chemical Annihilation is not even a footnote, but that doesn’t mean this compilation isn’t worthwhile. With that said, the latter of the two demos (also titled “Why Die?”) is much stronger.

The first release, simply titled “Demo”, is largely unimpressive. The sound, while not totally garbled, is by no means clear or easy to understand. Low end frequencies dominate the mix, and it makes it difficult to really appreciate anything going on during the faster parts. Musically, this demo leans towards the death metal side of things at times. Chemical Annihilation’s vocalist does his best to sound like Jeff Becerra and other extreme singers of the times, and pulls it off successfully. His voice is not that easy to decipher, but that is in line with the rest of the music. The band appears to take some influence from Hellhammer, Autopsy, and others who were able to slow down music. “Armageddon”, the opening track, switches between slower, sludgy passages and faster, thrashier sections. When the tempo drops, the bass comes to the forefront of the mix, which is nice because it is one of the few times it truly stands out on this demo. Unfortunately, this song would prove to be the best on the release as nothing else really stands out. Chemical Annihilation’s first demo shows a band that is trying their best to keep up with the changing times, but simply aren’t good enough (at least, not yet). It is by no means offensive, or even all that bad at its worst, but it simply exists and offers little else.

By contrast, Chemical Annihilation offers something to latch onto from the opening note of the next demo. “Darkness Before The Dawn” again shows the band going in a doomy direction, but does so with a much more compelling riff. This riff has serious staying power, and even though it sounds a bit strange when it is later harmonized, it already immediately is better than the entire first demo. Beyond the improved quality of riffs, this demo also offers a fuller, more understandable sound. The guitars are incredibly thick, and this allows the riffs to finally sound sinister instead of plodding. Further, the drums are tuned better and the fills are more inspired. Vocally, Chemical Annihilation’s singer finally found his style. While he still uses a death/thrash-inspired growl, his performance on this demo sounds like he has his own unique personality.

The songs on “Why Die?” have taken a bit of a left turn from the first demo. They’re all considerably longer and more complex. Additionally, the band learned the value of repetition and how it can be used to create a memorable track. This is evident in songs like the title track where the immortal words of “Why should I die?” are present more than once. This song also shows the band embracing their mid-paced side. This new tempo caused the band to create truly crushing riffs. Ultimately, this compilation is worth the price of admission for the second demo. Though nothing particularly new or innovative, “Why Die?” is still an interesting perspective on thrash, and more specifically, how thrash was evolving into death metal in 1989.