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Listen to the Sound of the Pounding Battering Ram - 96%

Arjunthebeast, December 7th, 2012

The wonder of the demo. It is perhaps the rawest document of a band available outside the embryonic states of the garage and the heat of a performance in a hole in the wall. Yet, ‘rawness’ should not be confused with amateurism or mediocrity, because in the case of Missouri’s Timeghoul, rawness means visionary, haunting and pounding death metal from your deepest nightmares.

Being one of the most legendary of all those ‘demo-level’ death metal groups, Timeghoul finally got the chance to release (through Dark Descent Records) their long sought after pair of tapes in one nice little package (with artwork and liner notes by metal artist Mark Riddick). 1992’s ‘Tumultuous Travelings’ and 1994’s ‘Panoramic Twilight’ (note Gustav Dore artwork) are total classics, and simply put, you MUST get this set. The music rules that hard. All the tracks have had a remastering job that pushes the volume up and clears up the murk a bit. Having been active from the late 80’s to around 1994, the band was forced to call it quits before their chance to launch into the stratosphere. They were ahead of their time and brilliant, which made it a real shame. But thanks to the internet, the band seems to be coming back to life. There has even been some word of a new album.

With the background noise aside, the two demos are emblematic of that bizarre and magnificent state of death metal that slithered around the in the early 90’s. It might be nostalgia (for something I didn’t experience) talking, but this music has a transformative feel to it, like when a see a close up of water crystallizing into ice. It is hypnotic, and the subterranean production values (lessened now) amplify these mesmerizing recordings into a special place. This feeling is especially prevalent on “Travelings,” which has murkiness that comes off as a combination of Incantation and Demilich. Even the blasting madness of the drums have a sort of a muffled character that allows them to blend right in with the dreariness of the proceedings. Everything just works so well.

It would be absurd to go through every single great aspect and track of the recording, and it would probably be equivalent of clubbing a baby seal while beating a dead horse trying to get the point across. To sum up, what you get here is crushing atmospheric droning and smashing of the highest caliber. The longer song lengths make full use of progressive possibilities, as they are chocked full of fantastic dynamics and ideas that will not leave the listener bored. There is even a bit of an ‘experimental’ nature to both the demos because they just feel different. The lyrics are excellent, and if the ones for ‘Gutspawn’ don’t make your guts feel weird then I guess your more metal than I am. It can’t be fully articulated, but there is really something special at work here. I guess that has something to do with a little something called charisma!

My favorite track of the bunch is the multifaceted gem that is ‘The Siege.’ Death metal songs often lack a certain pathos and emotional weight, but this work creates a narrative of suffering and melancholy. The protagonists of the piece are a group of warriors defending a citadel against a great host of enemies that seem to be on the verge of victory. The most shocking element of all is the sudden use of mysterious clean vocals that are so wonderfully suited to such a narrative. Even through the murk of the production, the vocals sound out with a quality that would not be possible in a higher fidelity recording. That is not to say that 'Twilight’ doesn’t deliver, because it does in a different way, big time. That recording’s higher production allows for more space and drama to occur between the movements of sound, but I still prefer the first demo.

Having just received said package in the mail, I feel I know own a piece of history. Even beyond the actual recordings themselves. As a reminder of how word of mouth and tape trading made the worldwide scene what it is today one can’t help but feel that tug of war between the old school and the new. The old guard represents true agency and dedication of fandom, while the new represent the near freedom of exchange that can bring groups long dead back to life. One thing is lost so that another can survive, and thus is life?

This release is totally essential to anyone remotely interested in the possibilities of the genre. Timeghoul birthed creative, fascinating and fun(!) music, and it is time they got their due.

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