In my almost three years of reviewing for AngryMetalGuy.com, very few things surprise me anymore. Yet, while doing research for This Burden Is Mine, the second album by Indian one-man project Demonstealer, I hopped onto their Facebook page, and realized just how prolific one Sahil Makhija, aka The Demonstealer, is. Not only is he the guitarist and vocalist on here (as well as in his main band, Demonic Resurrection), but he also runs his own eponymous record label (which is also India’s first extreme metal label). He also has his own online cooking blog. In fact, the first thing I saw on Facebook was was a link to a YouTube video for making bacon cake. I didn’t know such a concoction of magnificence even existed on this lowly plane, proving that magic does indeed manifest on Earth.
Okay, so what of the album? That’s where things get a little bit tricky to explain. Not because the quality is low (for the most part, it’s a good record), but rather This Burden Is Mine plays almost like an aural resumé for Makhija’s songwriting. Take opener “How the Mighty Have Fallen,” the heaviest song on the album. It starts off with some brutal riffing and deep growls, with some blasts by none other than George Kollias (Nile). It must be said that this sounds nowhere near as fast as Kollias’ main band, as it remains at a clip akin to early 2000s metalcore, á la Shadows Fall. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should be noted in case you were hoping for the annihilation of all things wicked. For whatever reason, though, the song becomes a ballad, with Makhija singing over a simplified melody. Thankfully, the song returns to a faster clip for the final two minutes.
This Burden Is Mine‘s strength (and biggest weakness) lies in the variety of the genres and tempos covered. No two songs sound the same on here. When Demonstealer keeps to the heavier, riffier end of the metal spectrum, it produces some great results. “When Hope Withers and Dies” rides in on a tight opening riff recalling Slaughter of the Soul-era At the Gates, Makhija’s strong thrash vocals (which are reminiscent to Shadows Fall‘s Brian Fair), and some pretty tasty sweeps by Demonic Resurrection band mate Nishith Hegde. “Where Worlds End” starts off sounding like a slightly muffled Nightwish, with keyboards all aflutter, before dipping its toes into slightly heavier waters. Album closer “From Rubble and Ruin” thankfully brings the fire and the fury, with one helluva scream from 2:17-2:34, some tasty leads by Hegde, as well as heavy-duty pummeling by Kollias to bring the album to a satisfying close.
As for the album variety being a weakness, there are some troubling sections that give me pause. There’s no polite way to put this, but the aforementioned halfway point of “How the Mighty Have Fallen” nearly killed the song dead in its tracks. Had that part been placed in a different song (like, say, follow-up “An Unforgiving Truth”), it would have fit better, as the first half was blistering, albeit long. And speaking of “An Unforgiving Truth,” it’s not a very strong song until it hits the heavier second half, where it eschews the Katatonia-lite balladry entirely to land in thrashier waters. In fact, when there’s so many genre changes, it does interrupt the overall flow of the album, especially since I referenced At The Gates, Nightwish, Katatonia, and Shadows Fall in the context of one album. Another problem is the album’s production, which is squashed pretty bad. You can barely hear Ashwin Shriyan’s (Demonic Resurrection) bass, which is a shame, as when he does pop out, you can hear him playing his ass off. Also, Kollias’ drums sound muffled, especially in the bass drums, and if there’s ever a drummer you don’t want to have sound all quiet and docile, it’s Kollias.
Still, there’s no doubting Makhija’s convictions, nor where his heart lies, and the good does outweigh the bad overall. The fact that the dude’s not only juggling two bands, but his own extreme metal label AND a metal-themed cooking blog speaks volumes of his loyalty to all things metal. I see great things in his future if he keeps at it and does away with the abrupt style changes within songs. Also, I want that damn bacon cake.