Review Summary: Nobody move..
There is a moment in Fight off Your Demons that sets the rest of the experience off like a gunshot. Found in the fifth untitled track, the song begins with an upbeat guitar riff that sings high above the clouds, until being shot down into hostile territory. The dark and anxious drums kick in and a sullen guitar line follows. Jesse sings with low aspiration as he details a hostage situation. Three minutes in the bullets fly and the listener is left astray as the music continues. This is the part of the album which underlines the tension and anxiety that Brand New is able to capitalize on; the fear for what is to come. The rest of the tape from then on is set in bleak shadows.
It was a sporadic decision for me to listen to this. Fight off Your Demons is what may have been the original Devil and God, minus the religious angst. The tape is a jarring metaphor for what kind of path the band could have followed if it was not leaked to the public. Acoustic pieces are scattered across the plains of the music, while some interesting indie rock songs cover the gaps. It is a very well-produced piece, especially by demo standards. There are a few times the quality slips, especially with the acoustic version of Sowing Season. However, most songs sound edited and completed to crisp perfection.
The tape's greatest strength lies in its lyrical pages. Right from the beginning, Jesse showcases his writing talent with lines like “Well I wrote your name and burned it, see the color of the flame” and “All that I remember was the feeling of waking up.” It really shows the break between that maturity gap of Deja Entendu and The Devil and God; as they don’t stray into the night, but into a personal twilight. Accompanied by Jesse’s voice, the vocal department shows that they have little flaws to behold. From Jesse’s multi-layered high pitch vocals to his morose whispers; his performance is crucial to enjoying a large portion of the music.
The instruments don’t really pick up into any breathtaking standards until the fifth track cheaply punches you in the gut. The strained guitar line with the stressed drums provides an intense feel to the music. This is not shared by many other songs on the album, which is essentially one of the only big negatives this album exemplifies. The tape doesn’t tread murky water much until the track list reaches its midpoint. Though Untitled 2 does show some elements of the later tracks, it’s smothered between an introduction and a couple shoddy songs following it. It’s as if Jesse felt like the first part needed to be used as pointless exposition for what was to come and it did not help the overall experience build up the conclusion in any physical way.
This is one hell of a demo. With a lyrical prowess that Jesse Lacey is able to evoke yet again, the vocal department is phenomenally done. Jesse’s tranquil voice can be soothing or even frightening, it all depends on the delusive feeling the album traps you in. Whether warm and upbeat, tense and anxious, or sad and dismal, the music knows how to capitalize on its mood. Even with little flaws such as the long exposition the album sets for its midway explosion are lost in the wake of the music. Fight off Your Demons is an excellent demo tape that further exemplifies Brand New's glowing reputation.