Do we expect too much out of our metal? Or are we too easy on it? If a band comes in and executes on its mission statement, is that enough to make it great? If the music is derivative of other bands, albums, or styles, is it to be condemned? Or is it upholding a tradition and to be commended? I had all of these thoughts listening to III: Chaotic Lethal, the third album and first release from neo-thrash (man is that a sore genre label) outfit Demiricous in 15 years. I think the band does exactly what they want to do on this comeback album. It’s up to you to decide how that fits in your construct of metal and what you want out of it.
A little bit of personal history. I started getting back into extreme metal in the early 2000s, and 2005 in particular was a year where everyone and their brother were putting out metal records. That was also the year Demiricous debuted One (Hellbound), a wicked slide of thrash metal that paid more than a little homage to Slayer. And in songs like “Repentagram” and “Vagrant Idol” I heard a band taking the fire that Slayer seemingly lost at the time (I wasn’t a fan of either Diabolus in Musica or God Hates Us All…and it would be another four years until World Painted Blood arrived for a final hurrah) and ramping it up with more extreme vocals and an attack that was refreshing during a time when metalcore and melodic death metal were having their time in the sun.
2007 saw Two (Poverty) and the sound got a little more gnarled, the vocals more up front and *gulp* coherent. Hardcore crept into the mix, but this was still unmistakably the bastard child of King and Hanneman, the dive bombing whammy workout at the start of “Expression of Immunity to God” and the bark of “Tusk and Claw” sounding a lot like a certain someone screaming “War Ensemble!” I continued to dig what I was hearing, and was happy with the changes in style and attack that started to allow the band to loosen the hold the titans of thrash had over Demiricous’s sound.
For 15 years.
So when the band rose from the dead in 2020 with the live document Fuck It…We’ll Do It Live it felt like a warning shot to metal: the band was back and the songs from 15 years earlier stood up. Now we’re here with III: Chaotic Lethal, doing away with parenthesis and just using the colon to declare the title as definitive. And hey: nothing’s really changed. Within the first minute of opener “Unconditional Hate” it sounds like they took no time off and this came out in 2009. Huge Slayer vibes with rapid fire string attacks, harmonized licks, tons of speed, and a vicious bark of a vocal attack. “Terminal Future” accentuates this further string scraping and a killer vocal performance by bassist/vocalist Nate Olp.
The entirety of III: Chaotic Lethal follows a similar pattern, right down to the epic closing track “Faith Crime” which takes a slower, more menacing approach à la Seasons in the Abyss. The song itself is altogether more ferocious and glacial in its sound collage ending, but as I went back and forth through the album I found myself liking everything, finding little moments (all of “Smoke Chaser,” the insanity at the beginning of “Merciless Slut Cult”) that really stood out but then questioning – is this great if it really hews closely to a formula perfected by a band over 30 years ago? How do you rate an album executed flawlessly but said execution is exactly like the other albums?
Here’s the thing. You can say the same for Slayer, for Mötorhead, for Cannibal Corpse…for literally hundreds upon hundreds of other bands in metal who hew closely to a formula and nail it. Bands are gonna do what bands are gonna do, and it’s up to you and your taste to figure out if the trip was worth it. Ultimately with III: Chaotic Lethal I find enough to like to come back even as I acknowledge the debt it owes to another.
And for what it’s worth, it’s a hell of a lot better than Repentless.