Night Demon – Outsider Review

Ventura, California power trio, Night Demon have been producing quality, workman-like metal for over a decade. Always dependable, they quickly honed their NWoBHM-infused trad metal into bite-sized, three-minute horror-themed nuggets and swaddled them in denim and leather. Their last full album, 2017’s Darkness Remains was a power-packed olde school homage that my brother-in-sump, Eldritch said “delivers pretty much everything you could want from a traditional heavy record.” After four years, the band return to haunt your dreams once more, but this time with a much more ambitious offering. Outsider is a thematic record about otherworldly portals, supernatural happenings, and the universal experience of human alienation. It features longer compositions, intricate songwriting and a dip into more proggy waters. Do you like where this is motor-heading or does the all-new Night Demon scare you even more?

Outsider starts with two prime Night Demon bangers. The title track is a catchy earworm that throws you up against the wall, slaps you around, and leaves you asking for another. Luckily “Obsidian” obliges. It’s not until the third song, “Beyond the Grave” that you realize things aren’t totally as they seem in the land of the demon. Clocking in at over six minutes, the song is a slow-burn pressure cooker that sees the band journey into new musical territory. Here they free themselves from the shackles of the riff and let each member bring a different texture to the composition. The parts fuse together in a more organic way that gives the song a greater depth than we’ve previously heard. This long-form experimentation returns at the end of the record with “The Wrath.” Arguably the band’s best song, it showcases their ability to take 50 years of heavy musical influences and create something familiar but fresh, compelling, and 100% Night Demon. Despite being their longest song, “The Wrath” leaves you wanting more.

With Outsider the band has created an album that showcases each member’s individual strengths. You get the sense that each spent a good deal of time practicing during the pandemic and returned to the studio with a proficiency we hadn’t heard until now. Most notable is frontman Jarvis Leatherby’s bass playing and vocals. There’s a melodic style here that fills the mix in a way we haven’t heard before. Vocally, Leatherby sounds something like a cross between Baroness’ John Baizley and Chris Cornell. He’s always been a solid singer but on Outsider he pulls off a more compelling and emotional performance. On songs like “A Wake” you can feel him pushing into something deeper and more powerful. Guitarist, Armand John Anthony delivers the riffs as always, but the guitar does so much more. Like Tony Iommi, Anthony effortlessly shifts from minor to major and back while embellishing the songs with tasteful blues licks and harmonic variations. Drummer, Dusty Squires is less Filthy Phil here and more Keith Moon. He adopts a looser style of drumming that often follows the melody line vs holding down the bottom. Collectively, Night Demon’s members create pockets throughout Outsider that allow each instrument to shine without ever losing sight of the song.

Outsider is a beautifully paced record that deftly floats from slow and dark to hard and heavy with masterful confidence. Slowly building songs like “Beyond the Grave” are balanced with burners like “Escape from Beyond.” You get the sense that there’s an overarching master plan behind every musical decision. “Rebirth” is the only song that feels a bit like filler but everything else is so good, it’s easy to look past it. While the band boasts about the hooks they’ve laid down, I’d argue that many of the smaller moments are the most compelling. The bluesy guitar solo in “Obsidian,” the acoustic opening of “A Wake,” the syncopated bass riff in “Beyond the Grave” or the way that the drums crush it at the climax of “The Wrath” are simple joys that keep me coming back.

Take some time with Outsider and let it grow on you. It’s a once-in-a-blue-moon chance to hear an emerging band realize their potential. Night Demon have worked hard to prove themselves as a dependable, go-to source of quality metal and Outsider is the receipt. There’s enough variety here to appeal to fans of all heavy genres without sounding like they sold out. I’m looking forward to seeing them live and I hope they get enough set time to play Outsider in full. It’s a rare case where I mostly want to hear the “new stuff.”

Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 17th, 2023

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