Sunday, July 5, 2015
Night Demon - Curse of the Damned 
Since everything from rainbow filtering to tasteless 'malcore' music is being practiced these days with utmost diligence, it would be impossible for me to argue against the resurgence of NWOBHM throwbacks, which has, along with the emergent superstars of rehashing from other genres of metal have created a small scene of their own. I can hardly find anything wrong with this; since I'm equally gratified to see legends from the olden days like Satan and raven uproot the foundations of modern heavy/speed metal with stunning comeback records as I am seeing newer groups like Iron Dogs, Hessian and Trial rise to the pulpit and proclaim these awesome, refreshing records which manage to retain identity and diversity without staving off the fundamental core of the 80's. California's Night Demon are not exactly on the same list as some of their more potent peers, especially when it comes to originality, and in fact their self-titled EP was not much more than a fun blast of modernized Angel Witch and Judas Priest, calcified in its obsession, but their debut is such a great, if frivolous, pastry of early 80's speed/heavy aesthetics that I'm willing to forgive whatever faults were made in the past.
Granted, those faults weren't many with their self-titled EP, since that was jumpy, Americanized misadventure in NWOBHM which could hardly be accused of anything except perhaps perusing its source material too deeply, and to be sure, their debut doesn't seem like a far cry from that familiar path, with cheesy 80's-inspired horror flick and youthful attitude, This is basically a parade for fans of anything from Exciter and Anvil to Maiden and Raven, from Razor and Running Wild to Abattoir and Angel Witch, or even newish acts like White Wizard and Enforcer. The 'heavy metal' palette offered here is pretty sparse, so the sound has a wide spectrum of appeal, simplistic barrages of speed metal and bluesy chords smitten with an occasionally heavier pantry of thrash-y discord and mid-paced chug fares a la Exodus and Agent Steel, and bear in mind that Night Demon are never melodic or intricate enough to earn themselves a seal of approval from the department of technical guitar work: so the riffs don't mirror the gyrating, harmonious minimalism of Iron Dogs, since the production is a fairly granular from any point, with tracks like the title track plodding on with some more mid-paced, rhythmic sways instead of a directly dynamic, effusive Iron Mainde-esque parade of whizzing melodies and lightweight chords. In fact, in the sense that ''Curse of the Damned'' feels more thrash-based than your regular NWOBHM outfit (think early Priest, Jaguar, early Satan, etc.) I might add that Night Demon aren't performing the strictly 'purest' brand of heavy metal. But who the hell cares, right? All the convoluted scholarly blather aside, the Californians kick ass on many levels here. ''Killer'', ''Screams in the Night'' and ''Heavy Metal Heat'' are all blazing metaltastic anthems (the last one being my favorite) loaded with unabashed, peppy riff-work that's never as coarse as, say, Piledriver, but never quite 'clean' either.
Sure, you may say that the tracks on this record feel too modern compared to their roots, especially with ample production values and Brent Woodward's vibrant vocals, but the again everyone's cashing in on the production game nowadays, since audibility is far too alluring to refuse, and while a tortured, punkish scream could as well have been supplanted on some of the songs, I can't say I'm in protest of the guy's voice. However, it's not that the back-to-basics riffing coupled with the loud production doesn't create a caveat. There are 1-2 humdingers across the record, but overall I did expect a stronger array of riffs from Californians that would have complemented the airiness of the record well; in fact as a restless dreamer and formulator of imaginary case-scenarios I envisioned that ''Curse of the Damned'' could have ousted a further dozen records in similarity had it displayed some more guitar acrobatics or impressive leads like on that spectacular album Satan bequeathed us with back in 2013, and sometimes the band will lag into this Sabbathian doom groove that doesn't always comply with its naturally gritty aesthetics. This is still old school, folks. To be frank, bands like Hessian or Order of the Solar Temple are practicing heavy metal with a closer adherence to the genre's early 80's and late 70's template than Night Demon, and while everything doesn't fall perfectly here, I did enjoy this album, especially some of its dirtier tracks just as much as Rob Halford enjoys a fast ride on his motorbike, so if you're ever in the craving for nostalgia, but with a modern face, look no further.
Heavy Metal Heat
Screams in the Night