'Nespithe' - Demilich (8/10)
The only album released by death metal warlords Demilich is one that is best appreciated in its context. The early 90's were the period in which death metal- not to mention extreme metal in general- reached its artistic peak across the board. Mayhem graced black metal with the genre's resounding classic 'De Mysteriis Dom Santhanas,' and the envelope of death metal was being pushed towards techy, progressive territory at the hands of Death and Atheist. Little known among these pioneers is Demilich. Although they only released ever released this one album, 'Nespithe' could be said to be ahead of its time. With a firm grasp of the newly formed technical excellence that death metal was beginning to demand, Demilich fused that with a much darker sense of atmosphere, as well as a particularly jarring style of vocals that would go on to foreshadow an entire sub-genre of death metal. 'Nespithe' may not have the dynamic approach that would have made it a masterpiece in my books, but there's no denying this album's place as a classic.
The style called 'brutal death metal' may sound a little kitsch to outsiders of metal, but it indeed refers to a very specific trend of death metal, defined largely by its 'crushing' sound, and very low, gurgled vocals. On that latter note, vocalist Antti Boman can be said to have pioneered the incredibly low gutturals, whereas much death metal of this period was more of a scream. Although the instrumentation is incredibly unique on it's own, it is Boman's vocals that will plant Demilich on the map of death metal for eternity. Even after death metal has been popularized and populated by thousands of bands, I have not yet heard a vocalist that is able to reproduce a vocal gurgle like his, without the gratuitous use of effects. Granted, Boman's very demonic style of growling will not be for everyone, but it, among other things, helps to set 'Nespithe' apart.
The music of Demilich is heavy and incredibly dark, and it stays that way throughout the entire album. The guitars here have a unique style of riffing; although the thought won't pass a listener upon their first experience with it, the quasi-melodies and licks that Demilich build their sound with would not be out of place in jazz music. Demilich are not a 'jazz metal' band in the vein of Atheist however; far from. The music here features no softer moments where they exercise their finer elements. 'Nespithe' is an unrelenting plunge into hellish depths. As was noted by a friend of mine, the closest modern day equivalent to this band would be Portal, in the sense that they are able to take the ingredients of death metal, but do something with it that makes them unique and atmospheric. The music on 'Nespithe' conjures a diabolical sense of impending doom. Even though the lyrics are virtually obscured by Boman's vocal intensity, it's quite simple to evaluate the subject matter, if only based on the stark sense of 'evil atmosphere' that 'Nespithe' creates. Death metal has not always been a style of music I find myself moved by; particularly the technical brand of it. All the same, Demilich's sound is truly one of a kind, and listeners with an ear open enough to extremity should do well to listen to it. It sounds just as extreme today as it would have twenty years ago.