Album: Under The Western Heel
Label: Knife Hits/The Ghost Is Clear
Release date: 21 July
Sounds like: METZ fighting The Bronx in a dark alley
Demons should be your new favourite band. Back in 2021, I stated that their last album, Privation, was the sleeper hit of the hardcore punk underground and their 5 minute EP from last year, was a bludgeoning, short-sharp shock to the senses that showcased just how crazy, demented and frantic their brand of hardcore punk can be, but also stylistically, inventive, intriguing and touching on elements of stoner, thrash and noise rock.
Those expecting a re-tread of Privation, think again. Under The Western Heel hits harder; retaining that stinging noise from the Swallow EP, this, their third album, takes that template and stretches it beyond breaking point, splicing in some of the hardest, challenging, and chaotic slabs of menacing, and altogether fun-packed moments of frantic, sweat-soaked punk rock and walls of alienating, challenging noise.
The opening track, Husk, hits like a fucking train – 2 minutes of rolling, twisting, amped up, Zeke-inspired punk rock that bleeds with this unchained, bludgeoning ferocity. It’s brilliant fun, a headbanging anthem of breathless noise, with this rapid-fire vocal delivery, of blunt, finger-stabbing statements of intent.
Holy (My Body, Broken for You) is not a happy song – as referenced by guitarist and vocalist Christopher Mathews, it’s the sound of “desperation, it’s exasperation – it’s the hypnotic spiral of continuous, daily defeat.” – Dude, not one for parties then? Imagine Unsane by even more down-tuned, despondent and grim sounding, soaked in rusty water and left by the wayside – that’s what this is like. Elongated riffs that hang and hum in the air with this disturbingly, menacing vibe and at nearly 7 minutes, it’s the longest and most alienating track on the album.
The guitar tone on Sweet Dreams is reminiscent of Christian Lembach of Whores; a scraping, ugly, destructive sound, disjointed riffs that see-saw back and forth with chaotic precision, whilst vocals are spat with brutish jock-hardcore malevolence and sneering spite, bringing to mind the chest-thumping power of Bridge 9 Records hardcore fed through the sludge mill. Whatever the distorted underwater-sounding vocals are around the 2:30 mark, they don’t sound human or even of this earth, adding a murky, horror-tinged vibe to this overall bro-core assault. Man (The Herald of His Own Condemnation) has an odd swagger to it – maybe it’s the vocals, which are this posturing, barked shout of defiance, backed by this scraping, sludgy post-hardcore gait, that gets progressively more agitated and harrowing, with this intimidating guitar tone, and a razor-sharp, corosive blast of fiery chaos for a chorus.
Eternal Shithead is just under 2 minutes of gang-vocal chants, anthemic roars and this churning, boiling metallic punk rock that doesn’t relent or give any leeway, before morphing into the grungy, bass-heavy rumble of By The Blood, which shakes, rattles and vomits up a heady mix of bile-spewing fury and a brilliantly mangled, off-kilter guitar solo near the end. Albatross sounds like a Dillinger Escape Plan track fed through a shredder – caustic, angular guitars sever and shriek with this math-rock howl, as it stumbles, lurches and roars its way to a scrappy, discordant conclusion, whilst retaining this Krause-style noise-metal cacophony of stabbing bluntness.
The final track, Thankful, cements Demons firmly into the noise-rock category – it’s like an embracing hug of discordant fire, a snarled, spoken-word tirade, this military march of the drums, bass and guitar stamping out this tribal pattern of surly, snarling noisy hardcore. Near the end, the track starts to fall apart in your ears, flittering from one channel to the next, getting progressively more abrasive through layers of mangled guitars, before finally collapsing in on itself.
A sometimes, bleak, often chaotic, but very sludgy trip into a hell portal of hardcore, Under The Western Heel by Demons cements their namesake perfectly on this wretched and sometimes fun slab of punishing noise – well worth a listen with your ears.
Stream/purchase Under The Western Heel by Demons below from Knife Hits Records. Spicy!