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The many corridors of sonic exploration - 95%

we hope you die, January 12th, 2021

‘So it Goes’ – the second LP from Chile’s Demoniac – is an unexpectedly bizarre concoction of ideas for the proudly limiting realm of blackened thrash metal. It’s true that a good chunk of this album is made up of down the middle thrash riffs and the tight, high speed pummellings we’ve come to expect of South American acts in this field over the years Slaughtbbath anyone?). But this most generic of frameworks is supplemented by a number of…unusual creative choices; some subtly blended into the metal onslaught, not least the distinctive melodic core found in a lot of these riffs, others dancing naked in front of us as found on the Sigh-meets-Necromantia track ‘Extraviado’.

There’s not much to note on the mix besides the clarity. Demoniac are keen to exhibit not just their technical prowess but also the length and breadth of different influences they work into their music; a dirty, old school garage mix would not suffice to fully showcase these layers. Guitars are clear, crisp and tight, with solos jumping out and positioned front and centre, and never a beat missed or buried in the mix for the sake of unnecessary reverb or cavernous distortion. Drums likewise are given little rendering beyond ensuring their complete clarity before the listener. The toms are not covered in echoey, throbbing reverb that would completely wash out the mix with each fill and roll. Just a solid, relentless rhythmic drive. Vocals stick with very traditional 80s thrash stylings, calling to mind the Teutonic school or Death Angel’s ‘The Ultra-Violence’ for its melding of clarity and aggression.

And it’s true that a lot of riffs on here hark back to Kreator or even Coroner of the 1980s, but with a more pronounced sense of melodic development worked into the rhythm guitars as well as the solos. But this is supplemented, indeed elevated, by Demoniac’s mastery of neoclassical techniques showcased in many of the guitar solos. The positioning of said solos front and centre in these compositions – along with their epic scope and highly structured, non-improvisational nature – brings this album dangerously close to power metal’s borders, but in the more serious environment of ‘So it Goes’ this lead guitar work finds new maturity thanks to the competent and sophisticated thrash metal setting. This patient marriage of technique and virtuosity with focused composition finds its fruition on the epic closing title track, which stretches to twenty minutes of progressive thrash metal that grants each musician a chance to shine whilst retaining a degree of focus and purpose that runs to the very foundations of the entire piece.

From one angle, this impressive mastery of technical thrash metal could be viewed as a hitting of the reset button on the genre, as opposed to revolutionising it. This is with the exception of the aforementioned ‘Extraviado’, which is a proggy experimental piece featuring a clarinet (an instrument that also makes another appearance on the title track two thirds of the way through), which drags thrash metal well and truly out of its comfort zone. But these more out-there meanderings are never overplayed, they never completely destroy the momentum of each piece, but rather allow Demoniac to force this music forward through new barriers and intriguing corridors of sonic exploration.

Like any style of metal, thrash has been open to self-indulgent abuse in recent years, on top of its well documented relationship with stylistic stagnation. In the case of thrash, particularly an album like ‘So it Goes’, that sheds the blackened elements in favour of a bouncy, clearer approach; the lurking spectre of Municipal Waste and pizza thrash over more serious examples of this style cannot be ignored. But Demoniac, with singularity of purpose and undeniable talent, side step these pitfalls whilst sharing a lot of the same territory; for the simple reason that nothing seems to stand in the way of their determination to push the boundaries of their musicianship and compositional capacity. The historic influences they reference in the lead guitar work, the rigid and balanced riffcraft, the diversions into overt experimentation; all this is achieved without sacrificing the momentum and direction of each piece. This album transcends mere ‘quirky thrash’, and becomes a work bursting with music that retains an impressive degree of focus; a highly rewarding slab of progressive metal.

Originally published at Hate Meditations