Quick and Dirty: Head of the Demon – S/T
Release: LP, 2013 (The Ajna Offensive)
Genre: Pscychedelic Black/Doom
Sonic Brethren: Electric Wizard, Hail Spirit Noir, Ghost
I immediately fell in love with this debut upon hearing it, as it reminded me of a middling ground somewhere between two of my favorite 2012 releases, Hail Spirit Noir’s Pneuma and Horseback’s Half Blood. While it’s hard to count these Swedes as extreme, they fit nicely into the niche of occult proto-metal that’s been gaining ground in recent years. They excel and creating something wholly their own while worshiping their decades-old roots. All the makings of top-notch psychedlia are present; cyclical, slowly growing riffs that guide the band through mid-length tracks, simplistic yet pounding percussion that varies itself enough to not be a bore but never distracts from the mission at hand, and the little musical flourishes like well-places trills and unresolved chords.
The newly formed group draws its well of inspiration from the tomes of H.P. Lovecraft. Not a wholly unique innovation, but their slowed-down, organ-happy rituals actually seem much creepier than the plethora of extreme black/death groups who dwell on the same unspeakable horrors. The songs make you feel trapped in Chtonic architecture as they wrap around your brain and completely distort your sense of reality and direction. Unfortunately, questionable production choices – noticeable tape hiss and what sounds like programmed cymbals looping – abound. At first adds to the primitive throwback sound the band aims to achieve, then grows tedious as it doesn’t relent over the album’s 43 minutes. And while the group is bursting with potential, they’re lacking just that little something that sets them apart and makes them truly great. A solid debut to be sure, but the room for growth is large.
Final Thoughts: Head of the Demon is a solid psychedelic debut, but the band needs to work out production kinks and develop their sound a bit more to reach the greatness within their grasp.