Much has been made of the lowly demonstration tape over the past few years. A perennial underground staple and more or less sole argument for the continued existence of cassette tapes (seriously, worst format), a band’s initial foray into studio sorcery is generally a pretty slapdash affair, recorded live in their practice space and handed out to buddies and disinterested label suits in unequal measure. At least, that’s how it used to be. Now, though, we’ve got labels releasing demos on vinyl, collectors clamouring for a baby band’s first squalls, and lists like this one popping up for the second year running. Cheers to Ross and American Aftermath for giving me the chance to rant and ramble about a few of 2012’s most welcome new additions. In no particular order, here are ten of the best demos I was fortunate enough to stumble across, have shoved into my back pocket, or otherwise encounter.
Organ Donor – Organ Donor (self-released) (listen)
This Virginian outfit has already got the blood of plenty of Richmond metal/punk royalty flowing in its veins – current and former members of Battlemaster, Cannabis Corpse, Parasitic, Bastard Sapling, and Volture swell the ranks, and provide an ample background in ass-kicking. Organ Donor play death metal as it should be played; their self-titled demo is raw, fast, and pulverizing, graced by Andy Horn’s battle-tested death grunts and guitarist Nick Poulos’ searing Floridian leads. Five speed-snorting songs clock in at less than four minutes apiece. All killer, no filler.
Muknal – Demo 2012 (Crepusculo Negro)
Muknal dwell in that strange, murky limbo that so many recent death metal bands have found themselves sunk into; Antediluvian and Mitochondrion are handy reference points, with a bit of Negative Plane’s sonic freakery slipped in. Their ghoulish black/death invocations are undeniably primitive, yet masterfully atmospheric. Something evil and complex lurks beneath the surface, and only prolonged exposure to this monster will reveal its true nature.
TOME – Demo MMXII (Into the Void Records) (listen)
Irish doom is so fucking bleak I can’t even deal sometimes; between Wreck of the Hesperus, Mourning Beloveth, On Pain of Death, and now these wretched bastards, it’s no wonder that the whiskey flows so strong by the Liffey. TOME are truly exceptional, though, and their two-song demo trumps pretty much anything else that styled itself as haunting or heavy this year. ‘Demo MMXII’ is all sludgy doom with some spacey, psychedelic underpinnings and more than a little blackness thrown overtop, and it’s no wonder that the physical copies keep selling out before I can bloody order one!
Chthe’ilist – Amechth’ntaas’m'rriachth (listen)
If you think combining nineties Finnish death metal worship with the roiling depths of vintage death/doom sounds like a capital idea, you’re in luck, because these Canadian Lovecraft acolytes have done just that – and done it very, very well. Their demo is a lesson in antiquated excellence, and stark proof that contemporary bands are capable of tapping into the ancient evil that made so many classic albums great. Once they get around to releasing a proper full-length, every other North American death metal band may as well just quit.
Death Fortress – Pulling Ancient Stone (Fallen Empire Records) (listen)
Two songs, a few minutes shy of a quarter hour, and absolutely zero fucking around – Death Fortress hit it and quit it before their rough, punishing blend of Ukranian-styled black metal and subterranean death really takes hold. Thankfully, there’s a Replay button. Use it.
Lampades – IX (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (listen)
Nameless Australians are awfully good at creating mindfuckingly intense contemporary death metal, and Lampades are no exception. They draw liberally from Demigod, Incantation, and Dead Congregation, without stooping to mere imitation of any, and unafraid to bust out the odd squealing Slayer lead before delving back into murderous blasts and cavernous, abrasive death metal oppression.
Loss of Self – Demo (self-released) (listen)
The slick guitar tone and piles of reverb that these Aussies use to immediately inundate the unsuspecting listener are spot-on for this kind of post-punk/black metal mashup, and somehow render each twisted chords and raw-throated entreaty achingly audible. Echoes of Amesoeurs filter through the dissonance and desolate, glaringly bright melodies, the sun burns into black sky once again, and you’re left wanting so much more.
Grinning Death’s Head – Golden Dawn (Youth Attack)
Painfully minimalistic and gleefully malign, this Georgia duo document the carnage that unfolds when blown-out black metal collapses into itself and reappears as pure, hateful noise. Hollow-eyed funeral doom drenched in merciless feedback, gutter punk as reimagined by Throbbing Gristle – this is awful, awful music, in perhaps the best sort of way. If Prurient and Bone Awl ever got around to doing a collaboration, it might sound like this hellish din.
Infiltrator – Demo (self-released) (listen)
Philly’s new great blackened speed metal hope isn’t reinventing any wheels, but it’s sure as hell bolting on some spikes and revving up the engine. Imagine a ripping mix of Motorhead, Bathory, Speedwolf, and Venom raised up in an unerringly hostile, grease- and gunshot-plagued East Coast hellhole, and you’ve got the idea. Philadelphia, PA’s no stranger to down’n’dirty metal bands (see Infernal Stronghold, Woe, Javelina, Hivelords, Sadgiqacea, Ominous Black), but Infiltrator make that shit seem like fun.
Manifesting – Primeval Adulation (Antitheist Disseminations) (listen)
“Primeval” is right. Manifesting’s 2012 demo is an unholy racket, pinned together by charred bone and sheer hateful determination. This is barbaric, cacophonous, bestial-without-bullshit black/death metal from Minnesota’s frozen wastes, suffocated in grimy non-production and armed to the teeth with maladroit, distorted riffs that hurt so good.
Karcavul – Rawctaver (self-released) (listen)
This French trio offers a hefty slab of sickening, blighted doom, interwoven with elements of depressive black metal, atmospheric death metal and moments of frenzied blasting. It’s an altogether nasty affair, and one that threatens to send chills down your spine if you dare listen with the lights off