Night Demon - Darkness RemainsMy perpetual desire to keep up with the new, the strange, and the inventive in the metal landscape betrays one of my greatest sins as a genre fan: I quite often forget to tip my hat to good ol’ heavy metal. Sure, I have nearly every Maiden record memorized front to back and I endeavor to wear my Motörhead shirt at least twice a week, but I tend to push modern homages to metal’s roots to the wayside. I think my ignorance is a byproduct of a general disinterest in new takes on traditional metal endemic to the current scene, and occasionally the metal community (and myself) needs a good ass-kick of a record to whip it into shape. Darkness Remains, the sophomore effort of California’s Night Demon, might not be that proverbial boot to the rear, but it is undoubtedly an effective reminder to keep an ear open for new traditional metal releases as impressive as this one.

Night Demon’s take on heavy metal plays like a happy medium between Iron Maiden and Diamond Head, sporting the galloping rhythms and soaring melodies of the former and hard rock influence of the latter. The guitars and vocals are, expectedly, the driving force behind Darkness Remains; the riffs flow briskly from swift palm-muted patterns to big, stadium-filling power chords, with the hooks being shared between the harmony-happy lead guitars and Jarvis Leatherby’s distinct pipes. This guy is a great frontman, at times sounding like a more proficient Gene Simmons while possessing a level of grime that’s a perfect fit for the genre. The lead guitar harmonies, meanwhile, are impressively adaptable, morphing from the huge, sweeping Maiden variety to upbeat, Thin Lizzy-esque hooks depending on the mood of the track. If you love classic metal, you’ll dig the hell out of Night Demon.

Each component of Night Demon is so solid that they could have easily gotten away with phoned-in pop song structures, yet with nearly every song the band makes an attempt to shake things up by kicking the tempo up (or down, in favor of a driving mid-pace) in the second half. This strategy almost always works in the band’s favor to deliver a shot of adrenaline to the proceedings. However, even when the tempo hikes instigate the intended reaction, it’s hard to ignore that some of them are carbon copied from other tracks (compare the riffs of the tempo changes in “Welcome to the Night” and “Hallowed Ground”) or that some build to an exciting crescendo before promptly fizzling out (“Life on the Run”). Even when they seem half-baked, I’m still happy whenever these tempo changes make an appearance as they universally make the compositions more engaging, if not outright better (“Black Widow”).

Night Demon 2017

Tempo variations aren’t Night Demon‘s only tool when it comes to making Darkness Remains a compelling package. There’s an ominous undercurrent that runs just underneath this record’s surface; it rises periodically, such as in the somber mid-point of instrumental “Flight of the Manticore” or the doomy “Stranger in the Room,” and culminates in the downbeat closing title track. This song is an extremely interesting choice to conclude the record with, a ballad with an epic feel that recalls the Western film work of Ennio Morricone. It hints at a greater sound that’s begging to be fleshed out on future albums, but for now, the brisk brevity of this release will more than suffice. Tracks like “Maiden Hell,” which stuffs as many Iron Maiden references as it can into three minutes (going so far as to mention “If Eternity Should Fail”), are reminders that Night Demon’s priority lies in crafting a fun, old-school romp. It would have felt more authentic if it hadn’t been mastered so goddamn loud, but with spot-on guitar tones and an audible bass, Darkness Remains sounds better than its DR5 suggests.

Despite some very minor songwriting flubs, Darkness Remains delivers pretty much everything you could want from a traditional heavy record. It’s a blast to listen to from the start and holds up quite well over repeated listens thanks to its occasionally intriguing atmosphere. Perhaps more importantly, I see much more potential in Night Demon than in their modern contemporaries to transcend homage status and become something truly special. This album is already a notable improvement over their debut, and I’ll certainly be keeping an ear open to hear if they can raise the bar once again for round three. Until then, I’ll be blasting Darkness Remains.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Steamhammer/SPV
Releases Worldwide: April 21st, 2017

  • Sean Sky

    I usually wear my Motörhead shirt to work on casual Friday but I also don’t own many band shirts… maybe I need some more variety…

    Looking forward to hearing the full album for sure as the pre-release tracks got nodding along in my cubicle right now. Gotta respect the classics, man! I’ll spin Stained Class any day.

    • Bearded_Relic

      Gotta say I’m interested to give the full album a spin too. And Stained Class – what a record!

  • Thatguy

    Ain’t reviewing a wonderful and subjective thing? I think this is pretty horrible but well played and sung. I couldn’t put a number on it. Those who love this kind of thing will love it, those that don’t will feel otherwise.

    • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

      I totally agree. It’s very well executed for what they’re going for, and for that I tip my hat. This style of metal is just torture on my ears though. Can’t stand it.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Ok, come on, you sound like a Death-Black metal fanatic!

      • Reese Burns

        Classic heavy metal is a genre I feel like I should like more than I do. I completely agree. Those who enjoy this style will find lots to like here, but it just ain’t for me at all.

        • I got into the genre by cherry-picking the crème de la crème of the classics (Black Sabbath, Maiden, Priest, Helloween, TS, WASP et al.) when I finally got old enough to spend time in second hand stores in the early nineties. I’m spoiled as a brat, and nothing new has lived up to my high expectations for the past two decades.

          It’s like horror gore movies. Two of the first such films I saw where Braindead and Evil Dead. Pretty hard to match.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      You don’t need to put a number on it, that’s what your Band Photometer is for. I hope you got it fixed already after that Lich King, mmm, “incident” so you can run this band picture through it.

      • Thatguy

        The Band Photometer finds it harder to fault the picture than the music. Those particular leather jackets are a bit too self-consciously retro and a bit too shiny and new. So it lines up with what I hear – well done but not my thing.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          So, those leather jackets look like they smell of leather instead of puke, beer and weed? I guess there’s nothing wrong with taking care of one’s jacket. And every leather jacket was new at some point.

          • Thatguy

            Yeah, but shiny new jackets are not as metal as well worn in ones. My day to day leather jacket is 30 years old! It doesn’t stink but it is not pristine.

          • Drew Music

            Fucking kids, unmetal youthful bastards.

          • Thatguy

            Probably ungrateful too…

          • Drew Music

            Getting bus rides that aren’t uphill either way, to boot.

          • Name’s Dalton

            Well, they’re not walkin’ so unless the transmission’sabout to crap out on that bus, hills won’t matter. But I get what you’re saying ’bout the youth.

          • Drew Music

            For the sake of defending my own basic knowledge on automobiles and how they work, I would just like to clarify that I was hearkening to an old stereotypical grumpy old man line:
            “Back in my day, we had to walk 15 miles to school, uphill both ways!”

          • h_f_m

            Metal is a state of mind, not a jacket.

            But I can definitively say it’s probably one of those 20 t-shirts I have! :P

          • Thatguy


    • Name’s Dalton

      Am I the only one who heard this and thought, “Why can I so clearly hear the bass?” Music sounded so formulaic, and I think every bad (read: all) high school metal bands from the ’80s and ’90s wrote a song exactly like this using exactly that bass line.

      • Thatguy

        Yep. It’s great to hear the bass, just not this particular bass line.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Proper way to wear your Motörhead shirt twice a week: First time Monday to Friday, second time the weekend.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    These guys look so fucking Metal I was surprised they are not Swedish.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This album is not going to change the world and even though the world sure needs changing, it would be foolish to expect so from a Metal album.
    On the other hand, this is well written, well sung, it’s overflowing with energy and hooks, recalls Iron Maiden as much as more melodic Metal bands such as Praying Mantis and High Spirits, the guys are all wearing plain black t shirts and leather jackets AND you can clearly hear the bass.What else could you ask for? An ice cold beer or two, for sure, since they would go down great together with this album. But you don’t expect the band to buy beer for you, right? That would be as foolish as expecting a Metal album to change the world.

  • The singer sounds like a rougher Eddie Money

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Dude in the middle even has a look of a young Paul Di’Anno.

  • I don’t love or hate this stuff, but I find the embedded track to be really dull. I was expecting a catchy chorus at least. I was listening to what I thought was probably the pre-chorus and then… nothing. That was it. I also don’t like the rather mono sounding production. I don’t think it’s terrible, but I won’t be investigating further. This is Shrug Metal.

  • Serjien

    Nothing against these guys, but if I am in a mood to listen to Iron Maiden, I will just spin one of their albums, not something that sounds a lot like it!

    • toxic_hat

      But then you have to endure Bruce Dickinson. There’s a better way!

  • Michael Saurette

    Reminds me of Savage Grace

  • Nice to see John C. Reilly showing off his musical talent, but this is only slightly better than Step Brothers.

    • Sean Sky

      Walk. Hard.

      • SegaGenitals


  • h_f_m

    Curse of the Damned was one of my favorite albums of 2015. Can’t wait to grab this one when it releases tonight/tomorrow.

  • Iain Gleasure

    Is that Eddie in front of Manowar’s Hall Ov Metal!?

  • Tofu muncher

    This hits all the right notes for me. Spinning this album HARD. On iTunes.

    • Mark

      Check them out live if you get the chance. Fucking great.

  • doom-erik

    Sounds similar to Black Trip, especially the vocals. By the way, I’m surprised noone mentioned the fact that the singer/bass player in Night Demon is a touring member of Cirith Ungol nowadays, and also had a pivotal role in their reunion. So kudos to him!

  • Innit Bartender

    That is one really fat beefy bass…

  • PotaD0s

    This does not suck but I probably won’t listen to it again. Does that mean it sucks? Someone help me.

  • Patrick W. Dunne

    Night Demon are awesome. I saw them opening up for Anvil and they completely stole the show.

  • Metalguuuy

    Angry Metal Guy seems to be goin’ soft…

  • Paul VH

    It got a spin.
    The cover of We Will Rock You was unnecessary to say the least.
    With so much originality out there I dont need to hear bands rehashing sounds that even the mighty Maiden threshed thoroughly.

    But…..if you’ve worn out Killers and just can’t get a fix this might float yer boat.

  • Vomit @ “Darkness Remains sounds better than its DR5 suggests.” Solid review otherwise but come on, I can’t imagine a more ignorant thing than somebody thinking “well my ears though this sounded good, but a mostly irrelevant and wildly meter reading had me suspicious”. ffs a vast majority of albums in this genre are mastered around DR5-6 which is quite easy to do these days without ruining dynamics. I mean I guess I would accept a “sounds better than it’s DR3 suggests”.

    Also just to back up why I say irrelevant, there’s a big difference between DR 5.4 and DR 4.6, both of which will read as “DR5”. Also if you do one giant noise part on an album it will read much lower, and if you do like a 20 minute quiet interlude in the middle of a DR2 album you can totally get it to read the album to read as DR6 since it’s just an average.

    Also apologies if that comes off harsh, I love the reviews on this site(I’m here reading obviously) I just gotta call out nonsense when I see it. You’re doing great work here

    • Eldritch Elitist

      You make a very important point – DR scores are, for many albums, an over-generalization of how good that album actually sounds. However, much of our readership pays attention to an album’s DR value, and I feel like there’s a certain stigma around here that anything below a DR 6 is a bad sounding record. The particular sentence you took offense to was written not to express my surprise that a DR 5 could actually sound decent, but rather to address any readers who might make any blind judgments based on the number in the review footer.

      If I had written this review for any other blog, dynamics wouldn’t have even been mentioned, but the very nature of AMG makes me feel like it’s necessary to at least touch on them in my reviews. I’m thinking about ditching this philosophy, though; it’s a rather technical subject to casually gloss over, and as you’ve pointed out, it can make me sound ignorant without the proper space given to elaborate on my thoughts. Still, thanks for you comment, and I’m glad you liked the review otherwise.