Demo Roundup 2

Back in the long long ago, before the utter collapse of civilization, before the world of interpersonal communication was colonized by the interweb, punk rock was about trading demos through the mail. Demos were artifacts. You had to find someone’s address, send off a dollar or two, and then wait for days or weeks, checking the mailbox with expectation every afternoon. Demos were kind of different than other recordings. There was an interesting back and forth in Maximum Rock n Roll, which was really the main aggregator of punk rock information for those of us who lived in the hinterland. The gold standard was to get something out on vinyl, and in the early days MRR was really reticent about reviewing demos. This doesn’t mean that it never happened, but I can remember so sort of explicit policy statement in the early 1980s in which they basically said: if you want to get reviewed here you have to send us some wax.

Later on, of course, MRR added a demo review section, although I don’t know how long it persisted, or even whether it was a month to month segment. I think they sort of got hip to the degree to which tape trading was the communicative spine of punk rock. To make a record you had to engage with the money economy and the recording establishment. This wasn’t a bad thing for everybody. There were plenty of people in the punk rock scene who were not that interested in anarchist or autonomist values. On the other hand, for those who were, getting something mastered and laying out the cash up front to get it pressed was a hurdle. Making a cassette tape was a lot lower tech and didn’t necessarily involve negotiating with the man. That was cool, although one had to admit that there were a lot of really shit tapes floating around in the 1980s. On the other hand, I can still remember getting the Accused’s first demo tape which came, as I recall, on a Mariner High School AV Department cassette. I can still remember getting Verbal Assault’s demo in an envelope stapled between two pieces of cardboard, accompanied by a very nice letter from Chris Jones asking what it was like to be a punk rocker in Walla Walla, Washington. Yeah, there was an element of human contact that has been a little bit lost in this day of instant downloading.

Have I been nattering on for 400+ words already? Well, I guess I have. Now down to the real business of this post, which is the matter of a few demos that have arrived in the bunker in recent days.

I don’t remember exactly how I got turned on to the Wermland demo by the Swedish band Våldsamt Motstånd (whose name I think translates as Worldwide Nightmare). I think it may be on the crust demos site, but I’ve forgotten and I’m too out of it to take the time to find out. In any case, I have it now and that’s all the really matters. Wermland was actually released in 2011. Since then they have another release that I’ll get to in a minute. Wermland, like their previous releases, is just a little bit on the lo-fi side, with vocals that sound like the abominable snowman choking out it his last breath. Their music features slightly more heel-damped chugging than is typical of the average d-beat band, and the mix in elements of dissonance that work quite nicely in my opinion. They have a very thick sound that does a lot to create dark atmosphere and, although the comparison my night be entirely felicitous from a stylistic point of view, I was kind of reminded of really early Grave (like around the time of the Tremendous Pain EP).

Since Wermland, they’ve come out with a 12” entitled Förbannelse. The five songs included there reflect a bit of stylistic development, at least to a greater degree than there was between Wermland and their Lagen om alltings jävlighet demo from a few years ago. The production is much cleaner and the songs have a bit more pronounced metal edge, although their d-beat identity is still very much intact. The dissonant elements from their earlier recordings also remain and add a distinctive quality to their music.

New Hampshire’s Ramlord released a demo on cassette last year called Stench of Fallacy that has deliciously lo-fi quality. It has elements in common with bands like Fall of the Bastards, but with simpler song structures and slightly less developed drumming. Stench of Fallacy has a lot of cool single string passages and the melodies thus created often stray into more emo-ish sort of territory. Nonetheless, they managed to maintain a suitably aggressive approach that is entertaining without being overly complicated.

The split that they put out with Condensed Flesh late last year sees Ramlord developing, both in terms of better recording values (the drums no long have the sort of tubby sound that they had on Stench of Fallacy) but also in terms of musicianship. Their tunes are a bit longer and more developed. They still walk the line between black metal and hardcore, but they’ve added a bit more power/violence to the mix. Their songs have more thumping slow parts and they’ve pulled back a bit on the single string stuff. Most recently, they’ve done a split single with Dallas power/violence merchants Cara Neir. It’s pretty good and you can hear it on Bandcamp for free, but it’s not my favorite of their productions. My problem with it is this: if you are going to do a ten minute long song, you’ve got to have enough ideas to fill that time. It can be done well (as Moonsorrow have shown on many occasions) but it can also really drag if the content isn’t there. In any case, I salute their ambition.

Finally, I was turned on to the San Antonio band Headache by something that Joe from Masakari posted on Farcebook. I’ve never seen them, although according to him they are an absolutely blistering live act (and he would know). Their demo is power/violence to max with all of the majesty and wonder that that entails. They do a great job of working that fast/slow dynamic in ways that keep the listener engaged and generally rage all over the place. I will just say that I have a limited tolerance for this kind of music because it so often lacks creative drive. This demo has been in frequent rotation in the bunker ever since it arrived, which says a lot about how good it is.

Ok, you’ve probably had enough, and so have I. I’ve got some metal records lined up for review, but I’ll spare you any more nattering at least for a couple of days.

Magadh

2 Responses to “Demo Roundup 2”

  1. Nisse Nyman Says:

    The name Våldsamt Motstånd translates as Violent Resistance, nothing else. However, it was cool that you tried to translate it 😉

    • Thanks for reading the post at all in the first place. And thanks too for the correction. 😉 I think my error arose because I was mis-remembering the translation of the title of the first Totalitar LP. Of course, I could just have used Google, but there you go. Anyway, thanks for posting.

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