Metalheads know very well their favored genre is among the most complex and the deepest music composed today. Getting lost among intricate compositions and soundscapes both atmospheric and complex is all in a day’s listening for us. Maligner doesn’t concern themselves so much with intricate soundscapes, though. No, this Swedish trio is more concerned with fucking shit up as hard and fast as they can, and Demon is their declaration of war.
And what a declaration it is! At no point does this contain the missteps and awkwardness you’d expect from a 17-minute debut EP. Demon rides in on a hyper-speed locomotive called “The Die is Cast” with all engines firing and all guns blazing. Tremolo picking blackens the initial barrage of riffs until the first verse deems the song too slow and goes into proper speed metal overdrive. Vocalist Maligno snarls into the mic with such rapid fury the spit flecks can almost be felt on your face. Any gap that could occur is skillfully crammed with drum and/or guitar fills, keeping the adrenaline high and the blood pumping. The momentum carries over into the blistering solo, a tasteful homage to Carcass’ “Thrasher’s Abattoir” is incorporated, and before any of these elements can start to bore in the least the track is done. This is the modus operandi for Demon, the rare debut that knows what it’s about from note one and executes it with near-perfection.
Now, to be fair, the album is not entirely flawless, but instead of any consistent problem it’s more individual moments that disagree with me in a sea of exhilarating machine gun fire, such as the ill-advised falsetto scream halfway through “Adrenaline Rush.” The high-speed can make the songs less memorable and less unique than ideal, but it’s also essential to Maligner’s no holds barred approach. Catchiness is not the objective here anyway, so I can’t call it a real demerit.
This would not be the first band to use a high tempo as a means to cover up for lack of musicianship. Being overwhelmed by sheer speed is a good way to forget about melody and structure, but Maligner doesn’t take shortcuts, from the fast and accurate drumming to the many licks and fills on the guitar to the Waking the Fury era Annihilator inspired solos. It’s fast, short, snappy and low-fat.
Demon is a very pleasant surprise this late in the year and Maligner have the trappings of a band who will be making waves when their first full-length hits. I just hope they’ll keep it as lean as these 5 tracks because this is not music that benefits from running on too long. As it is, this is a blistering debut that sets the Swedes off on a great, hard-hitting start.