Riders of the Apocalypse

When I first picked up the new (and the band’s first) Demonoid CD, titled with an original name Riders of the Apocalypse, prejudiced views and harsh opinions stormed my head filling it with negative images. The neatly done artwork displaying quite traditional images of destruction and hatred along side with the band name (that asks for a deep sigh of “Oh dear”) didn’t help much to improve that first impression. And again I was very wrong. Well, not about the artwork/name issues but about the music the CD held inside.

Due to my position, I’ve been listening to hours and hours of “brutal Death Metal” (10% more brutality than ever before!) or the next big band from Gothenburgh, Sweden (only we’re from Italy and we play 5% tighter than the competing bleaching… I mean bands) I was quite floored by what Demonoid was offering me. Basically, my mind was flooded with sonical connections to such artists as Testament (new ‘n’ old) and their evil counterpart Dragonlord. Basically what I was greeted with was a mixture between thrash, death and diet-black metal (without the overly gay keyboards). Not bad.

The CD kicks off with “Wargods” that set up the Testament link for me. With some basic changes to the general song structure, the song could have been taken straight out from Testament’s The Gathering. Basically, that same goes for the remaining eight tracks too. Which doesn’t mean that Demonoid should be accused of copy-catism as the two bands sound quite distinctive from another with plenty of varying decission as how things are put on display. But there’s that little familiarity in the soundscape that especially warms a Testament fan’s heart. So, unlike with Susperia, people should restrain themselves from taking their pitchforks and torches out. And thruthfully told, “Wargods” might be the weakest song on the album as the following seem to improve from it.

Also, it’s not like the band could have completely put aside the influences from their primary band… Oh, did I forget to mention? From the little pieces on the puzzle that I’ve managed to collect and merge together, it turns out that Demonoid basically equals Therion as 3 out of 4 members are from the band. The drummer, Rickard Evensand (of Chimaira/Soilwork fame), is the only “outsider” in this nordic Brady Bunch. For example, the sixth track “The Evocation” brings in that dramatic “clean” singing from Therion’s operatic albums and introduces a short visit from some unknown female vocalist. As for the lead vocals presented to us by Christofer Johnsson, I have to admid that I grew kind of fond of the guy’s growling. Chuck Billy on his deepest and meanest (DAMN! Another Testament comparison!)

So while the structure of the work might generally move in the (modern) death/thrash area and tasteful double bass drumming (yay – they haven’t forgotten the cymbals either!), there’s plenty of variety within the package to make the songs more distinctive from each other — making the experience much more memorable and interesting. While there are these small alterations in the basic formula, it doesn’t hurt the integrity of the album nor does it make the songs feel seperate from each other. The wholeness is left intact, in good shape – even if the solos in “Wargods” sound like Children of Bodom and in the later tracks more traditional. The album ends with “Death” (just like our lives) – a 9-minute epic moshatron that, at the very last minutes, somewhat calms things down to the deserved end. With the total time running somewhere near 48 minutes, the length of the epoch is just perfect.

One thing that isn’t really flawed but could be better is the production. Everything, from the distorted guitars to vocals and drums comes clear like a cloudless sky but in a way I was kind of left on the shore hoping for a much more tighter sound; the kind that packs that (but clear) jaw breaking, neck shaking punch. Of course, this is just a personal preference which in reality could have made the album completely different and generally less effective. Who knows. The truth is, however, that with the current production the album works. So there is very little to complain about really.

Apparently the album is intended to be a concept album of some sort, telling a story about the destruction of mankind in the hands of the four apocalyptic riders. There’s a short introduction to the reasons behind this and of course, a bit longer explanation of what the setting is. Should I be ashamed of myself when I think that this is rather silly and pointless? First of all – for fuck’s sake – the theme has been milked to death when every other band has a song about of our destruction. Second, the lyrics are your general heavy metal lyrics. If you’re going to have a huge concept that you’re underlining – at least try to pay a hell of a lot more attention to the lyrics than you normally would. Which leads to the fact that the lyrics work well enough without any big set ups. In fact – I’d like to think that it would have been better for the listener to make the conclusions and connecting the dots himself rather than have it all handed out to him. You know – kids like to realize things. And thirdly, if I had just listened to the album without reading the couple of pages in the booklet, I wouldn’t have had a faintest clue of what was going on… story-wise.

Concept-wise (execution in mind) – it’s not Savatage’s Dead Winter Dead nor is it Ulver’s vision of William Blake. But even if we did hand out scores on this website, I don’t think the above would have affected things as there’s nothing wrong with the actual lyrics. However, if we did give scores to the releases I think the album would rank up pretty high as the music is full of quality and certain freshness in the midst of generic Gothenburg and Death Metal releases. Quite a surprise to say at least. So with that in mind – and even with the small flaws – I’d suggest you at least check it out as Demonoid’s Riders of the Apocalypse might just be what you’re looking for. Unless of course, you’re the kind of person that heats up George Foreman grills and ovens while exclusively listening to Burzum. While the album isn’t an instant classic, the band is on the right track, so hopefully the Therion guys won’t completely forget Demonoid as I’m already wanting more.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
August 1st, 2004


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