I went into this week excited about the abundance of new black metal I had to look forward to. While things started off well enough with Volahn’s Aq’ab’al, the highlight was supposed to be Dodsfall‘s Kaosmakt. But of course, the metal gods gifted me my favorite thing… disappointment, as that album is nowhere to be found—on Spotify, on Bandcamp, you name it. Alas, I was left scrambling for something to listen to while trying to suppress the bitter taste in my mouth. But then, with an RKO out of nowhere, Daemon Pyre showed up on my radar screen with an absolutely relentless self-titled debut album that immediately projects them into the top handful of albums I’ve listened to in this still-new year.
For a little bit of background, Daemon Pyre hails from Sydney, and is comprised of the remains of As Silence Breaks, so calling this a debut album isn’t a totally fair statement; these are experienced and talented musicians. But I want to be clear, this is not the same blend of thrash and melodic death metal that defined As Silence Breaks. This is a new flavor. Narrowing the scope a little further, we learn that Daemon Pyre was mastered by Jens Borgen (Soilwork, Katatonia, The Ocean). That in mind, it’s hard to believe this hadn’t registered with me in advance. Where the hell have I been?
I have to start with the opening two tracks, “The Nihilist Inside” and “The Veil of the Martyr,” which I still can’t get over. The former is no more than a 40 second intro, but the way it moves so abrasively into “Veil” is straight up wall-of-death worthy. They waste no time showing of what they’re capable in these early stages; we’re introduced to an impressive blend of classic, brutal death metal and a set of core elements whose grooves and punishing riffs form the album’s foundation. Layered behind all this abuse, you hear an almost symphonic undertone that ties everything together. This, and a more melodic personality in general, make for a more pronounced presence beginning with “Courage Burns Brighter,” possibly the biggest highlight of the 11 tracks.
There are a number of high points on Daemon Pyre, however. Each track works well and is listenable on its own, but at the same time, the album is cohesive enough to never once lose your attention. You can’t help but be immediately impressed with the dual threat of Andrew Lilley and Simon Tattam’s guitars. You hear tracks like “Beyond The Razor Wire” and “Iconography” and immediately grasp how brilliantly the groove-filled deathcore pace fits not alongside, but within the technical melodic elements. The percussion is dynamic and the vocals maintain the perfect level of brutality between the high- and low-end growls. What I’m getting at here is that you can never question the level of talent on any track, and yet no point does any single element feel like it’s showing off. Toeing that line is no easy feat.
But as we move along, it becomes more apparent that Daemon Pyre has a rather progressive view of songwriting, which really keeps you locked in. I don’t know about you, but straight deathcore bores the shit out of me. But when used correctly, I can really dig deathcore elements, which the band brings out nicely here. For example, “Misanthropic Parallels” tricks you into thinking it’s the lone respite in this album…for all of 30 seconds, that is; then it absolutely destroys you with massively chewy riffage. Furthermore, this thing’s chock full of catchy, almost sing-along (growl-along?) choruses, especially on “The Tempest” and “Tainted By Sorrow,” where the pace of the vocals is held back from the cadence of instrumental work, encouraging you to chant along with your fist held skyward. Each song rises and falls in its own unique way, utilizing every element I’ve already touched on without ever overdoing any of them.
I don’t necessarily think Daemon Pyre is doing anything that hasn’t already been done. But in a lot of ways they’re doing it better. They incorporate a lot of popular elements and put them together to generate an incredibly solid album from start to finish—which is often hard to come by. It’s just not easy to utilize so many stylistic influences and maintain this level of fluidity. It takes talented musicians, sure, but also a certain kind of songwriting that many death metal albums lack. As a result, their skill shows through without making this album a chore to listen to. This is one of the first albums I’ve felt the need to go back to over and over again this year, and I think I’m going to continue doing just that…
“Ein Bier… bitte.”