Demons was started by longtime Mae guitarist Zach Gehring and draws inspiration from groups like Metz, Gulch, Converge, and Propagandhi. The band has managed to release an impressive batch of E.P.s and singles and one previous album, 2017’s “Embrace Wolf.” When it comes to heavy, no-frills, hardcore punk, it’s hard to match the drive and intensity this four-piece brings to the table on their latest album, “Privation.” The band describes the record as a set of songs that are “more focused,” “a little more punk rock,” and “just better.”
Opening piece “02:04” sets the pace with its dirge-driven riff and pounding drums that blast over samples of despair and create a mood that I haven’t felt since discovering “Fear Of Drowning” by Michael Pourde. It certainly constructs a desolate vibe fueled by frustration and uncertainty but with underlying energy of hope for the better.
Very quickly, “Ravage” kicks everything into high gear with its blistering beat and gruff vocal delivery that works like a one-two punch next to the frantic feel of “Play Acting Virtue.” Both of these tracks are incredibly well crafted and loaded with the type of sonic twists and turns that keep the listener on their toes and wanting more. This is punk rock exemplified in its finest form.
There are more enfaces on melody and groove throughout “Lever.” The band really locks in to pulverize your speakers on this one and gives all new meaning to the word “menace” as the track breaks down into a ball of hypnotic noise that eventually gives way into a lulling soundscape. “Placeless” and “Hosanna” also carry a delicate balance between chaos and melody. There are a lot of references to classic 90’s noise rock bands like The Jesus Lizard, Guzzard, and Unsane, and Norfolk’s own Moutheater throughout these two tracks. Yet, Demons add a level of underlying ambiance that creates another element of diversity.
One of the most impressive things about this record is how Gehring and Guitarist/Vocalist Chris Matthews can evoke so many emotions between their voices and guitar playing. Each has their own distinctive style that meshes perfectly with the other. When you combine that with Jon Anderson’s booming bass and the genius of drummer Drew Orton it creates a cosmic collage of raw energy blended with vibrant colors, peering out of the shadows of darkness.
Closing track “St. Luke” is a six-plus minute epic that puts the icing on the cake, so to speak. It’s got a unique vibe that makes me think of an imagined Neurosis with Shellac with Albini leading the board and vocal duties. There’s also a lot of standout playing from Anderson on this one, as his crawling bass lines really enhance the haunting feel of this piece.
Overall, “Privation” is a captivating and enlightening experience that’s as precise as it is out of control. From the songwriting to the performances to the production, everything that went into making this record is top-notch. The album is available on vinyl courtesy of Spartan Records and digitally from the band’s Bandcamp page and other digital platforms.
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Dave Allison runs the record label and website Custom Made Music and is part of the bands The Quintz and Last Remaining Pinnacle. He also makes his own solo recordings and has worked in the music biz for over 30 years. His first-ever performance was playing "Shout At The Devil" at the age of 10 at his Catholic Elementary School. He's regularly out in Norfolk watching bands and vending at various events around the area.