DemoncyA landmark album in the pantheons of USBM and by many regarded as one of the best albums of its type, Demoncy 1999 album Joined In Darkness is up for reappraisal now courtesy of Forever Plagued records. I pretty much missed all their albums first time around and was keen to hear some, so it is a good way of starting off with the album that helped define the band. My interest arose catching this strange cult on a very rare and only to date London showing back in 2004. I had pretty much gone to see Krieg who they were headlining over and enjoyed the bands atmospheric and graven approach despite not being au fait with the material. It’s surprising looking back that it has taken another decade to actually get to hear this and I can only put it down to availability and slackness on my behalf.

The band themselves have always been driven by the one hardy soul Ixithra or if you will the Wicked Warlock Of Demonic Shadows or Lord Of The Sylvan Shadows or again if it’s a formal occasion Robert Crusen. The rest of the band members have come and gone through time and a remarkable amount of releases, mainly due to his dissatisfaction with them. He also did a stint as guitarist in Profanatica for one gig apparently.

The album starts with one an instrumental piece Hymn To Darkness, which is pure horror soundtrack with a crypt like presence full of slow drum beats to it. In a way I wish there were more of these than the album opener and closer as they set things up nicely and sound better than the churning wrath that furrows away once the gates are opened and ‘Impure Blessings (Dark Angel Of The Four Wings)’ drops you straight down into a stygian chasm. It’s beastly sounding as far as the vocals rasps are concerned and the music, scythes and ratchets away without much in the way of subtlety. If you were an outsider looking in and not a fan of black metal wanting to hear what a “classic” album sounds like this would not endear you to it in the slightest and have you quickly walking away and bolting that door firmly shut. Which, would be just the intention of it! To be fair it does not sound the best, it’s grimy in the mix. Everything is fairly low vocally and the drums are monotonous and simply hammer away over some fuzzy, swarming guitar on songs like the self-entitled Demoncy. I can completely see why this made such a mark back in the day, it’s obtuse, gnarly and suitably primitive. It also strikes as deadly earnest in dedication to the dark arts. It’s worth dipping into the lyrics here.

It’s not all contagion spreading fast foulness here though. Things slow to a doom riddled rancidness at times as tracks such as ‘Joined In Darkness’ at first illustrate before lurching off on a galloping romp and repeating which works particularly well and makes the title track stand out. Truth be told there’s not a huge amount of variation track to track, it would to many all sound the same. I kind of feel the constant rumbling and rasping rather calming and let it all wash over picking out the sudden downturns such as the one with a slower apocalyptic guitar clamour on ‘Winter Bliss,’ it did take a few listens before it all began to gel and sit comfortably with me though and the tracks do seem to last a lot longer than somewhat protracted running times may suggest. There is a feeling of being stalked running through this due to the relentless approach of the guitars and snarl of the vocals on numbers like ‘Spawn Of The Ancient Summoning’ this one has a bit more oomph to it with a crashing cymbal timbre being hit hard in the background. The drums just bulldoze their way through things and never let up for a second. There’s another really creepy intro on ‘(Angel of Dark Shadows) Goddess of the Dark’ which really breaks up the attack and sounds fantastically atmospheric, not sure whether it was a good idea placing it here as it does break things up before everything foully piles in again but I do find myself waiting for it on repeated listens.

I’m not sure what the purists will think about the new cover art or the fact that this reissue has an extra and later track ‘The Ode To Eternal Darkness’ tacked on the end. It’s a lot longer and sounds better production wise and does show where the band were going later I guess. All in all I enjoyed this and it has certainly left me wanting to hear more of Demoncy including a 2012 album ‘Enthroned Is The Night’ which must have passed me completely by too. Still even though it’s considered a classic my mark reflects my opinion on hearing it now.

(7.5/10 Pete Woods)