It’s no use making fun of Gazpacho for the name. I did that once already and unfortunately they’re still named after a type of tomato soup. While this tomato soup isn’t cursed, it does contain MSG, which is about as close to ‘metal’ as one needs to get to be reviewed here at AMG. Or well…, I guess this introduction is going nowhere and I should probably move on. So let’s make a long story short: I really dug these Norwegian proggers’ 2012 release March of the Ghosts, which offered up a slab of what I like to call “post-Floyd prog rock.” With this, I mean, they like soundscapes, they like melody, they’re moody as shit, and they can do basically whatever they want when they’re writing songs, but they don’t head off down flute-and-LSD-driven corridors of abstractness like many think of when they think of “prog.” I’m gonna guess these guys are into downers, not hallucinogens.
Case in point? Demon. While the four-track album isn’t surprising at all—it still blends ‘alt’ rock and prog sounds to form something that sounds like a sweet blend of Kent, Radiohead, Anathema, and Porcupine Tree, the build and form is quite different from its predecessor March of the Ghosts. Demon is a solemn record, chock full of deeply moving melodies and instrumentation more fitting on a Beirut record than in reference to the metal that we normally review. The feel is morose at times, but delicate, bittersweet, and heart wrenching in its beauty.
There are even moments where these Norwegian proggers knock out some heavy riffs — like on “I’ve Been Walking (pt. 1),” where these old guys lay down a fat groove with thick tone. Though few and far between, these moments help to punctuate the genius that is Demon. It doesn’t hurt the effort at all that vocalist Jan-Henrik Ohme has such an evocative voice, and the band certainly takes advantage of him and multi-instrumentalist Mikael Krømer’s mad violin skillz to make the writing here haunting. On top of these two, the guitar tone and bass heavy nature of the music helps to create an otherworldly feel that is hard to match.
Demon is like a dark, surrealist painting. It’s dour, twisted, and it zigs where zagging would normally occur, using the variety of styles that the band is able to navigate with ease to create momentary joy or crushing depression. While it’s seemingly familiar, it’s simultaneously so layered that you never really quite feel that you have a complete grasp of what’s in front of your face. “The Wizard of Atlai Mountain” drops a klezmer wedding dance on you, while “I’ve Been Walking (pt. 2)” is a chilling soundscape; sad, fragile, beautiful and deep — dropping both opera samples and bass heavy riffing. Every time you hear the Demon, something new stands out from the woodwork.
It should be noted that it certainly doesn’t hurt that the production on Demon is amazeballs, and with the final product/mastering job clocking in at a DR11 (two 10s and two 12s) it has the space to breathe and the listening experience on my monitors, and even in my earbuds (!) was incredible (I’d’ve liked punchier drums at times, but that’s quibbling). The room to breathe and the noticeable textures mean that this is the kind of record that should be purchased so that you’ve got hi-res files and can get the most out of your listening experience. And it’s nice to know that the digital master for the CD is this good, instead of saving that shit for vinyl like somehow only people who buy vinyl like music for real.
All-in-all, the abstract nature of Demon, but the sense of familiarity and deep beauty, makes it remarkably easy to get in. This despite having tracks at 10, 12 and 18 minutes. The simplicity, fragility, yet depth, makes for an addicting and gripping listening experience. Every listen to brings forth new experiences, new ideas, new emotions and a repeated sense of having found that amazing listening experience that you’re going to love for years to come. Between this and the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack, I won’t have to hear a new record for months!
Format: FLAC and ALAC (and 320 kbps mp3s as promo, hooray!)
Release Dates: US: 04.15.2014 | UK: 2014.03.25 | EU: 2014.04.15
Websites: gazpachoworld.com | kscopemusic.com/gazpacho