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VG's Cavalcade of Weird Albums, Pt. 3 - 99%

Valfars Ghost, February 23rd, 2019

While Florida's Cynic was mixing its own cocktail of death metal, jazz fusion, and prog, over in Finland, Demilich was twisting death metal convention in its own bizarre and unprecedented way. No less unusual at the time, Demilich's sole full-length is more insular in its innovations, holding off on spicing up its sound with influences from other genres and instead examining the core elements of death metal and bending them into a new shape. Nespithe is a writhing mess of death metal turned upside down and inside out and twisted into a non-Euclidean shape that, even 26 years later, remains unique.

Demilich's music could be thought of as death metal based on some sort of music theory developed by organisms that live on another planet and have an entirely different way of thinking about time signatures and tonality. Everything here is so unconventional and so determined to shuffle forward in ways that defy earthly musical conventions and common sense itself that there isn't much predating the album one can compare it to. Obituary with Captain Beefheart's band handling the songwriting? Yeah, I guess that gets you close to understanding what this sounds like.

Despite having the sort of downtuned riffing and guttural vocals death metal requires, Demilich doesn't depend on speed or brute force, instead building a thick, hellish atmosphere out of strange riffs and basslines that are perpetually out of step with each other, their time signatures weaving in and out in weird, ever-changing ways until they form a knot you can never fully untie. A landscape cluttered with fire, brimstone, tentacles, and weird, multi-limbed monstrosities certainly comes to mind as you wander through these ever-shifting labyrinths of odd, often dissonant progressions that constantly twist away from your attempts to comprehend them. Antti Boman provides the perfect vocal accompaniment to the madness, burping forth his lines like a dying elder god that got sick from gorging on all the collective suffering of humanity. His voice is so low that it's still unclear whether or not he used some sort of voice-altering software to attain his hellish timbre. Even the lyrics are outright bizarre, starting with Lovecraftian horror and going further left field from there.

As chaotic and devoid of sense as everything previously described may sound, all the elements come together to produce an amazing display of technical playing and outside-the-box craftsmanship. Though these songs aren't catchy, despite what some have claimed, Nespithe is a memorable experience that’s immensely enjoyable. Though the band’s template for making discordant death metal has been emulated numerous times by fellow weirdoes like Gorguts and Portal, there’s never been a band that’s one-upped Demilich as far as putting together an experience that’s slippery, dissonant, disorienting, and challenging but still cohesive and enjoyable. For its ability to present a wealth of satisfying songs based on a bonkers approach to music that has no business working as well as it does, Nespithe is an essential listen.