Extreme metal should have always remained lo-fi, a sentiment previously expressed and one to abide by. In a technologically advanced age, however, a tendency such as this could be construed as mere gimmick if the grime doesn’t in fact conceal layers of genuine substance. But when said substance is in place, the gimmick can be interpreted as manifesto and a way to sever all links with the tawdry mainstream. Like how forerunners of black metal used corpse paint to submerge the ego, a buried production in the right hands can eliminate all distraction and elevate the music to rightful preeminence. See, then, how this form of music, so popular today, reasserts its iconoclastic, introverted character. As it should.
Surprisingly, there is a sort of unorganized movement coalescing around this re-emergent metal philosophy, well-worth investigating for the curious fan (interested readers would be well-directed to Youtube user Greg Biehl who seems to have his finger on the pulse of this scene). The following two demos of recent vintage are fine examples of just this adjusted mindset:
Sickness – Deus Maledictus Est
This recording presents eleven pocket-sized songs done in the old Repulsion, Morbid Angel (Thy Kingdom Come), Insanity (mid-80s demos), and Necrovore style. Those names aren’t idly taken; Deus Maledictus Est is a frighteningly accurate reproduction of a bygone era, but don’t let the reproduction part dissuade you; the spirit coursing through these songs can’t be dismissed as plain imitation. That spirit is the same from Black Sabbath through to the present day; it remains eternal and it is metal itself. Intricate, turn-on-a-dime, and unremittingly violent, Deus Maledictus Est couches death metal in the brisk, grindcore song format; in doing so, it rids itself of all potential filler and perhaps even points yet another way forward for the genre. The banshee vocals are definitely a sideshow, but they don’t stop this little thirteen minute sampler from being one of the most re-galvanizing death metal outings in recent times.
Moenen of Xezbeth – Dawn of Morbid Sorcery
Epic and mystical like the Conan The Barbarian soundtrack, Dawn of Morbid Sorcery references tonally-rich underground legends like Thergothon and Avzhia. But Moenen of Xezbeth don’t allow themselves to become lost in sentimental atavism like so many bands playing dress-up; there is red-stained steel to this album and it reemphasizes the band’s music as a commentary on matters larger-than-life from a cold and impersonal vantage point. Judging from the grasp of pacing and development in evidence here, Moenen of Xezbeth would be entirely at home with a longer running-time, too. If the aim of a demo is to provide a primer of the band’s strengths, then Dawn of Morbid Sorcery is a resounding success.