Review Summary: Smoothing out the edges of their already fairly polished melodeath sound, Demons serves as a more cohesive follow up for Bloodshot Dawn.
After both a split with their drummer Doug Anderson and a Kickstarter campaign for the follow up to Bloodshot Dawn's eponymous debut, it was interesting to try and establish what the next album would attempt. Their debut was a clear indicator of the extreme heights of their talents (especially the lead guitars) and showcased many excellently written sections of songs, but suffered as a whole from fairly repetitive songwriting and a somewhat messy production job. These specific areas have been tackled on Demons, resulting in an excellent, if predictable follow up.
More specifically regarding areas of improvement, the drums and overall quality of performance has improved greatly. The band's self-titled had several moments where the band sounded as though they lost time, and the mastering seemed greatly clipped throughout, which didn't lend itself well at all to the band's otherwise machine-like sound. On Demons, the drum and rhythm guitar performances have improved tremendously, with new drummer Janne Jaloma providing an extremely tight and more aggressive showing and Josh McMorran having tightened up his rhythm and lead playing. The vocal performance has also diversified, with McMorran occasionally adopting a Marcel Schmier-esque bark that works extremely well with the extremely thrashy Inadequacy
. The quality of the engineering is excellent on this release, with the vocals feeling extremely deep and with a cleaner sound overall.
The songwriting has also improved, in that it no longer seems to rely on Benjamin Ellis' leads as a crutch nearly so much as on their debut, where most of the songs compensated for fairly plain riffs with his admittedly excellent guitar solos. Here, the riffs are both improved and more varied, and whilst largely predictable, they're better integrated with the overall sound of each song. Unified
perhaps evidences this best, and is the best written track all round with smooth and well integrated tempo shifts along with a more carefully considered use of their prominent melodic elements than at any point of their debut. Ellis, whilst still frequently placed at the forefront, provides a somewhat toned down performance, no longer compensates for underweight songwriting and instead helps to add atmosphere and facilitate transitions, as well as amaze often enough. On Smoke And Mirrors
and especially The Image Fading
(which also features Teemu Mantysaari from Wintersun
, Per Nilsson from Scar Symmetry
, Andy James
and Chris Amott), he cements his position as one of the top lead guitarists in metal. Despite a dip in quality with Human Void
and The Image Faded
, the overall songwriting quality is far stronger here, and the title track closes the album very well.
Overall a more focused and polished effort than its predecessor, Demons is both an easier and deeper listen which sees the band realizing their potential much more effectively. As a result, it quite easily qualifies as the top melodic death metal album of the year thus far.