The reason Demilich continue to stay relevant some twenty years after they were interred as an active musical entity is because they present an eerie approximation of that hazy backwater of the mind where thoughts are as yet incompletely formed and can take wing in every conceivable direction with no artificial conditioning to keep them restrained. In a way, hearing Nespithe for the first time is not dissimilar to undergoing a musical ink-blot test of sorts in which free association with patterns reveals personality traits in the listener. Demilich‘s craft lay in coding their musical content in a manner that elicits a psychologically abstract, yet raw and pure, response, all the while maintaining the strictest controls in songwriting. This isn’t conventionally personal music in any humanly feeling way; unlike a lot of classic death metal, Demilich don’t focus on a palpable target to vent against. But in many ways, Demilich‘s music is as intimate as death metal can be because it reaches deep into the mire of the undisclosed – even to us – unconscious, and once there, uses the power of suggestion to implant the seeds of ideas that gradually assume their twisted forms. Demilich‘s music mirrors our thoughts in their primal stages, warts and all, just before the process of budding commences, and that, perhaps, is its biggest achievement.
The 20th Adversary Of Emptiness is a lovingly rendered collection of everything this band ever recorded. Along with the remastered Nespithe, this 2-CD/3-LP compilation also gathers the first four demos and, most importantly for long-time fans, three new songs that were recorded for The Vanishing Sessions in 2006. This collection boasts of brand new, dimension-warping, varmint-harvesting art on the cover while morbid, charmingly amateurish drawings from a bygone era still adorn the inner sleeves and the main booklet. A foreword by S.R. Prozak of Death Metal Underground/ANUS, and an informative, humorous interview by chief songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Antti Boman, are the other attractions. The 20th Adversary Of Emptiness is made for fans of Demilich and is the definitive encapsulation and elaboration of everything the band represented.
The three never-before heard songs aren’t a big departure from the band’s ouevre but have a slightly more chaotic, overloaded vibe about them; the beauty of Demilich‘s heyday was that they were doing a lot of stuff musically without ever quite seeming like they were doing much. Songs were outlandish but not without an adamant sense of melody and rhythmic groove. While a certain disconnect is to be expected over a period of fifteen years, these qualities are unfortunately missing on the new material, and one comes away from The Vanishing Of Emptiness songs with the feeling that Demilich are trying too hard to be Demilich. Which in turn might be the strongest argument against the band reforming to create new music; unorthodoxy sometimes has to be tempered with convention in order to constantly revivify itself. Reliable as the new songs are in the Demilich mould, they show scant evidence of the band being willing to step outside their comfort zone.
(Two of the three new songs were written in the early nineties but were never recorded. Whether they have strayed from the time of their initial conception is up for conjecture)
Nespithe, of course, is a masterpiece of death metal with its serpentine, ever-mutating compositions that still stubbornly follow a logic of their own making. Fascinating as it is to follow the trail of gooey slop left behind by the demos, either after or before hearing the full-length itself, the songs as heard on Nespithe are the finished product in every sense, trimmed of all extraneous embellishments and making more than a few tweaks in arrangement. Demilich self-consciously set out to be a weird band, this much is clear from the rough, early recordings of the songs found on Nespithe, gradually shedding skin over a span of four years to become something that, while still weird in every way imaginable, reached a well-rounded muscularity as afforded by its strange lexicon. For a band as non-linear as this, the remarkably steady progression that these songs followed through to their ultimate fruition is an irony that all death metal fans can appreciate. Nevertheless, Demilich remain the embodiment of an ambitious time in metal when minds were capable of exciting possibilities, or impossibilities as it might be. The 20th Adversary Of Emptiness is mandatory listening for death metal fans.
(Demilich will be performing live in Bangalore, India during October, 2015)