Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part IV: Demilich - Nespithe

You know, in that alternate universe in which time runs backwards, this album would be the world's most derided as having stolen every single idea bands had after 1993. You can think of whatever band in the world in the late 1990s or 2000s having a really great idea, and Demilich will have said "Hah, we'll take your idea and do it in 1993!" Basically, this album is the culmination of all cool ideas in metal from all the years after this album was released, but Demilich did them before they became cool ideas in metal as a whole.

The problem is that from a neutral viewpoint, amazing quality aside, it isn't very easy to sell this album to those not familiar with it. That is because describing the surface elements doesn't leave a very appealing mix in theory. For example, I will certainly never win an award for being the world's biggest fan of technical death metal, so if you came to me praising this amazing technical death metal album you think I should hear, I'd probably ignore you. Moreover, there certainly is no love lost between myself and death metal that infuses a strong sense of melody, so if you praised the great melodies on this album, hell would freeze over before you got me even remotely interested. Then to top things off you may begin to talk to about vocals that sound like a cross between belching and frog vocalisations, and you can be sure to have given me a mental image of an album I will certainly never give the time of day.

It is a bit of an odd thing that I not only checked this album out, but actually gave it enough listens to fully grasp the genius behind it, because I am usually impervious to the fierce word of mouth propaganda that led to my doing so in the end. The right amount of praise, with the right amount of thought put behind it, by the right people, usually not enough for me to budge, but! Combined with the level of intelligence and creativity seen in the songtitles, it was enough for an interest to be piqued. And just as tenacious as the concerns voiced in the second paragraph were prior to my subsequent indulgence, as swiftly they were washed away by the sheer quality of this album's writing and performance.

Nothing could be a greater mistake than avoiding what is being presented on this record based on what its surface elements look like on paper. It is not simply a question of the album being greater than the sum of its parts. That is an expression more adequately used for something the parts of which would have some appeal of themselves and being put together to something of high quality. In the case of the album I am reviewing, it would not only be an understatement, but the entire approach of that type of thinking would be fallacious. Because simply put, it's not a matter of a couple of good riffs strung up into something great. It's far more radical than that. The parts on this album, and that's the beauty of it, are actually anything but good or appealing by themselves. Take any riff, any melody, any bass line, any drum part, any frog belch, by itself it's actually quite awful. What Demilich does is to interweave these awful parts into a radiant piece of art. It's dumbfounding, but that's the power of amazing songwriting.

Both the sheer level of thought behind these arrangements and the keen instinct for their perfect interwoven combinations leave the listener astonished, almost in disbelief over how something so bizarre and unsettling can be made into something so grand. Every note seems to flow into the next as if written in cosmic stone at the beginning of time and discovered by still primitive humans via some bizarre scientific contraption. Every hit on the drumkit alike, and every utterance of vocalisation, it all fits together like a pre-historic puzzle to be solved once humankind has hit the right level of evolution. It all creates a certain aesthetic flow that can only be compared to the beauty of the workings of the universe themselves. It's a work of genius, no less can be said about it.

I realise that it will never be within my writing abilities to properly convey the majesty of this album's songwriting and performance, and that to many it will continue to be a candidate for dismissal based on it supposedly being just anothter faux-"strange" technical death metal album with too much of an emphasis on melody and vocals that to many can't possibly be taken seriously either by the person who performed them or the confused listener wondering what it was they were meant to accomplished. I don't think any of my ramblings in this review will make any difference to those reluctant about giving this album enough listens to fully immerse themselves in it and discover its genius. The fact that this is one of the best recordings in the whole of metal, and possibly music itself, remains.

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