Album Review: Demons – Great Dismal EP

The first thing I noticed abut Demons’ debut EP, ‘Great Dismal’ was how much the cat on the cover looked like my near-decade old Weakerthans t-shirt. It’s a strong image, albeit far less cutesy and infinitely more menacing and, dare I say it, demonic, than the one on my Weakerthans shirt.

Anyway, I’m sure you don’t want me describing the contents on my wardrobe (it is a FINE wardrobe, though…), you wanna know if Demons, the new project from long-standing Mae guitarist Zach Gehring, is any good – or indeed worthy of such an intense and powerful name.

Kicking off with the riff heavy ‘There Is No Reward’, the immediate thought would be ‘no’. A ponderous dirge, it’s a blues rock behemoth turned up to 11 yet one thats had all of the joy and passion sucked out of it. I won’t lie, my initial thoughts were that if the following five songs were as soul-destroying as this, we’d be having some serious issues. Not even switching things up for a gallop in the final minute saves it from tedium.

Great Dismal by Demons

After such a bleak start, ‘Lenora Slaughter’ comes as something of a bright, brilliant surprise. It’s still heavy on the riffs, but the contrast of light and dark, the succinct lyrics and glorious production means it feels like Demons might be on to something after all. It’s still a meaty, robust listen, with nods to post-hardcore and 90s alt-rock, but fantastically punchy and a much better example of what Demons are about after the disappointing opener.

After that, Demons really hit their stride. ‘Godless Girls’ is a stadium-sized torch song, resplendent with a fantastic, heartbreaking, little piano line that is as deft as it beautiful. For a crushingly intense number – lyrically especially – it’s a moment of magic.

‘Radical Cure’, meanwhile is a rattling, 2-minute hardcore punk blast that adds some much needed pace and drive, especially when compared to the blues-rock riffage of the opener. Positively monolithic it’s a giant slab of alt-punk. Better still is the Brand New-lite ‘Parallel Lines’, which is definitely a direction I’d like to see Demons head in on future releases.

However, ‘Great Dismal’ ends how it began – on something of a downer. ‘Quietly Waiting’ is something of a tortured five-minute-plus ballad that, while never being soporific, is sombre and sullen. By no means bad, I’d have liked them to have gone out kicking and screaming. Instead, ‘Quietly Waiting’, while at times beautiful (it has another wonderful, wondering piano line), just never really fits on such a short EP. It adds depth to the sound but at the same time feels like a bonus track rather than a proper song on the release.

It means ‘Great Dismal’ is something of a mixed bag. If they’d gone with five songs over the six (indeed, lop off at least one of the bookends and I’d have been delighted), it would have been a really solid debut. Instead, it shows promise but has all the awkwardness of a band still finding their sound. That said, there’s enough about ‘Great Dismal’ to suggest that if Demons can refine their sound a touch more they could be really exciting.

3.5/5

‘Great Dismal’ EP by Demons is out now on Spartan Records.

Demons links: Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)

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