Demilich - 20th Adversary of Emptiness [Svart Records - 2014]Finland's Demilich burst onto the international death metal scene very quickly. After a few quick demos in 1991 and 1992, they released their only full length, Nespithe, in 1993. Then, as quickly as they came, they left the scene behind with nary a word. Nespithe was originally released by US label Necropolis, which was an interesting choice for a European band. This allowed American death metallers the chance to hear something really different; Demilich sounded like neither the Floridian nor the Swedish death metal scenes. As well received as Nespithe was, Demilich's quick exit from the death metal scene pretty much secured this release as a mythical gem never to be repeated by the band again. If it hadn't been for the advent of the internet and older fans getting the message out there, I'm sure Demilich would still be horribly unknown instead of getting the deluxe treatment from Svart Records.
20th Adversary of Emptiness comes as either a double CD or triple LP. Along side a remastered version of Nespithe are Demilich's four demos and three tracks from their 2006 reunion. This remastering of Nespithe is a long time coming. The original release is long out of print and the subsequent reissues have been sonically lacking. This is an album that really shines when all instruments are given their proper due. The chugging and complex basslines sound so great on this release, it's like hearing it for the first time. The intricate riffs and time changes really pop and the drumming is so perfect in the mix. Hearing a classic death metal album given this treatment makes most modern death metal and its lust for super speed sound so fake and manufactured. There's a real organic feeling here...and (for me, anyway) it's the grounding action of the bass. One of the biggest parts of Demilich's sound, though, is Antti Boman's super low, gargly barf vocals. The first time I heard this album, I was very turned off. It was hard to revisit it, but I would from time to time. Having to review it caused me to listen to it a dozen or more times. I never thought I would get past the turd growls, but I did, and I'm all the better for it. Nespithe is classic mid paced death with progressive tendencies that weren't really explored often for their time.
Disc two features four demos and three tracks from 2006. The new tracks from Demilich's Vanishing Sessions are what you would've hoped for from these cats. They're playing with all the alacrity and talent of their youth but with a thick intensity that can only come from time and experience. These songs rock. "Emptiness of Vanishing" sounds a lot like Morbid Angel's "Immortal Rites." It's not really a surprise, as it was originally written in 1991 and not recorded until 2006. The rest of the disc contains demos from '91 and '92. Most of these songs made their way onto Nespithe, so you've heard them before. The beauty, though, is in their rawness. I may have said these tracks shine when cleaned up, but, man, they sound rad as hell in this form, too. The demos are remastered and sound great. They sound like the death metal we (we meaning me, I guess) grew up with, and that's what I like.
20th Adversary of Emptiness contains a 40 page booklet that contains old artwork, ads, lyrics, song notes, and a long Q&A with singer Antti Boman. I found it entertaining, but it almost poses more questions than it answers. Antti seems to forget a lot of details and sometimes hints at reasons why he made the choices he made, but never explains them. His leaving the scene is mentioned but he doesn't really go into it. Overall, you get a pretty decent history of Demilich and an insight into Antti Boman and the early Finnish death metal scene.
If, up until this point, the only Demilich you knew was Acererak, be prepared to meet another. As fun as running Tomb of Horrors (Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game) is, you may get more demilich mileage with Demilich's 20th Adversary of Emptiness. Svart really came through on this release, and I'd highly recommend it. Paul Casey