Review Summary: 'Daemon' is a solid dose of black metal, and not much else.
Look, I get it, my opinion for Daemon
, and to a certain extent Mayhem, sits in a snug pocket with the rest of the minority. I also understand that this will no doubt elicit a harsh response from the kvlt, who will, in turn, scorn the sentiments presented here; it’s to be expected from a community as passionate and as loyal as the black metal one. But for me, a band as infamous and legendary as Mayhem, it’s hard to really hear anything from these guys without thinking of an overused black metal meme. Yes, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
is a seminal, groundbreaking and genre-defining classic that laid the groundwork for a subgenre that has now been going strong for over thirty years. But I have asked myself this a few times – past that blinding debut, have the band maintained that same level of dominance? And in my opinion, not by a long shot. After the death of Mayhem’s guitarist Euronymous, the band have soldiered on and created solid albums, but these records have fluctuated in quality extensively over the years: trying, and mostly failing, to branch out with various experiments. And when they aren’t being ambitious, the overall quality is a sound that remains agonisingly shackled to the very tropes Mayhem cemented way back in 1994.
As such, bands have gone on to refine and evolve the genre in some way, leaving Mayhem in the rear-view mirror. That’s not to say Mayhem have made a bad album, honestly, their modus operandi brings a distinct flavour to their works – and their discography remains steadfast because of it – but I feel the only reason people pay attention to this band is mainly down to their history and that initial classic album. And this commentary resonates with Daemon
quite a lot. The band recently toured De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
to commemorate its twenty-fifth anniversary, before promptly entering the studio shortly after. Ergo, intentionally or otherwise, there’s a resonance in Daemon
’s very existence, one that nurtures and celebrates De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
for good or ill. The best way to sum up Daemon
is to imagine some of the best qualities pertaining to their debut, being strong-armed by a lot of glaring similarities to that of Behemoth. The overall vibe of the record frequently reminded me of things Behemoth have been doing for a while now – be it the Gregorian chants, squalling guitar parts, compositional structures, or even vocal approaches – there’s a constant reminder that Mayhem had their eyes fixed on what Nergal and co. have been doing. I know the genre in question is very restricting and there’s bound to be some overlap with bands and their sounds at times, but this niggle stayed with me until the end.
It doesn’t help matters that the band have opted for a production that takes a vastly different approach to what Mayhem is typically accustomed to. The quality of sound here has clearly had an injection of money put into it – this is Mayhem’s crispest sounding album to date. The rattling blast beats, rumbling bass and ice-picky guitar tones have never sounded so good – and there’s a cohesive and ominous atmosphere present throughout – but it also creates a double-edged sword which sprouts new problems. For example: say what you will about the writing in Esoteric Warfare
, but at least the production presented the songs with a densely claustrophobic assault on the ears – maintaining and preserving that distinction from their peers to some degree. The production here, while great, only furthers their descent into homogenising themselves with what other contemporary bands are currently doing. Ultimately, what Daemon
leaves you feeling is that the band are trapped in an era of reflection, whilst desperately trying to stay relevant by integrating ideas of which Behemoth is currently spearheading. It’s an enjoyable ride, I can’t take that away from it, but replayability is slim and it quickly unveils humdrum and vapid songwriting the more you settle yourself into it. As with any album post De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
serves up another solid dose of black metal that pales next to the album that started it all.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://www.nuclearblast.de/en/shop/artikel/gruppen/51000.1.html?article_group_sort_type_handle=rank&c ustom_keywords=daemon&sli=21618924#page-1