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They Look Familiar Yet They Seem So Strange - 85%

CHAIRTHROWER, March 18th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2023, Digital, Century Media Records (Bandcamp)

It's hard to believe six long years have passed since Night Demon's killer sophomore effort, Darkness Remains, but here we are, anxiously poised on cusp of these fully mature Ventura natives' latest unveiling, titled Outsider, released yesterday. However, I've to admit that on first listen, was fooled by Californian trio's newfound tempered edge which lacks its predecessors' roughness and grit. After several hopeful listens, I realized it's the latest step in a highly inspired and influential music career. In short, Night Demon can do no wrong, even when straying from well tread path of fond NWOBHM worship.

Coalesced openers "Prelude" and "Outsider" form to create a simultaneously identifiable and estranged entry point where both production and instrumentation sound refreshed, but in an rather lightened, more accessible vein a giant's leap above generic radio airplay mediocrity. In other words, some might accuse Night Demon of selling out i.e. shedding its nostalgic "imperfection" in a similar manner as Metallica rounding an already commercialized bend (the Black album from 1991, another age), Load style. Yet, as a fellow archival brainstormer assiduously pointed out back in November, Load and equally maligned Re-Load prove to be solid "metal mixed with rock" contributions to the Bay Area bigwigs' antiquated albeit personally unreviewed reign.

Sleepers "Beyond The Grave and "A Wake" do a wicked job of recalling late twentieth century James Hetfield-ish balladry (oddly satisfying in its own husky right), complete with clean acoustic guitar and bass tones, placid drums and a spot of piano window-paining here and there. At other end of the spectrum, "Obsidian" and "Escape From Beyond" retain rugged Night Demon flair from its now immortalized youth. All star axe man Armand continues to shine through his implacably rocking leads, whilst front man/bass man Jarvis and drummer Dusty proffer a stocky backdrop to further cement their reputation as tasteful poster children for an entire generation of NWOBHM torch bearers.

For all of its progress(ion), Outsider combines Curse Of The Damned's stripped down simplicity with Darkness Remains' focused tweak, whist imbuing a welcome sense of wisdom and refinement - much like latter's spooky and lugubrious "Stranger In The Room" - especially on loftier tracks "Beyond The Grave" and "The Wrath", which tops the scale at over seven minutes. A further thrilling surprise lies within gloriously waltzing anthem "Rebirth"; due to its snappy beat and brevity, I'm reminded of infamous opener "Welcome To The Night" juxtaposed over charm and humility of olden staple "Ancient Evil" - great stuff!

A sly bonus dwells in the CD, with an inherently punky and brash, if not incongruously jarring rollicker called "The Last Day". Considering I'm off to pursue zombified edification in the tragically underrated Days Gone, it couldn't've come at a better time (even if in regards to the cover, there's no doubt the artwork from the Outsider single fares better).