Foul Alchemy #3: Demilich, Nespithe
JFC, this album is 2 months older than I am! When death metal was taking the world by storm, I was nothing but a third-trimester fetus. I missed out on the primary evolution of my favorite genre, and that’s kinda mind-blowing to me, especially as someone who head Necrophagist before Suffocation. It’s important to listen to old stuff, you know? It’s easy to exclusively listen to new music these days, as I ranted about in the first installment of Foul Alchemy. I know it might be hard to believe, but I was pretty ignorant for the first few years of my life as a metalhead – I didn’t even listen to Black Sabbath until way after I’d discovered Korn and Slipknot. Shameful, I know, but I’m learning: the more deeply I’ve dug into the new bands I’ve discovered, the more I’ve found old, influential music that bears relevance to my contemporary favorites. Since I wasn’t alive for most of the releases that really made metal metal, I’m going backwards; rather than witnessing firsthand how the progenitors’ works slowly developed into modern metal, I’m tracing today’s works back to their roots. Thanks for letting me wax personal (I’ll try to keep that from happening too often) and let’s dig into one album that exemplifies this backwards progression below.
Demilich – Nespithe (Necropolis Records, 1993)
Finnish death metal band Demilich certainly put together one odd package with Nespithe. All atonal and technical (but not showy), to say nothing of Antti Boman’s inimitable toilet-bowl vocals, it’s a release packed full of unpredictable twists and turns alongside bewildering lyrical themes and titles. Even though Nespithe never really got the chance to emerge very far from out of obscurity, the album (along with its contemporaries and co-influences Incantation and Immolation) quite likely supplied the backbone of the modern dissonant death metal movement that’s cropped up of late. Gorguts get most of the credit, and sure, Obscura is responsible for much of the wackest extended technique and other experimentation that’s recently grown in popularity, but Nespithe provided many core ideas behind the riffs and the cryptic/Lovecraftian lyrics that would become commonplace by 2014. If you’ve read a third of the articles I’ve penned for MS, you know how much I like dissonant death metal, but while the album sure made an impact on some of my personal favorites and plenty of others, I’ve yet to hear an artist that has been able to replicate or emulate Nespithe‘s particular oddness.
The album’s undeniable underground influence notwithstanding, it’s still pretty clear why Demilich never found the major-label acclaim that some of its contemporaries did. Nespithe is sharp, but somehow slippery, and changes without warning. Serpentine chromatics streak through contorted time signatures like an out-of-order rainbow, rendering the music colorful and hypnotic despite its abrasive tones and timbres (these versions of the album cover that have napped through a few cycles in Google Deep Dream do a pretty good job of conveying the record’s mood). Psychedelic in more of a bad-trip sense than in a transcendental one, Nespithe still allows you to imagine how its riffs might be more melodic, consonant, how its fluidity might lend itself to a much more accessible sound if it weren’t packed so full of jarring intervals and clashing guitar lines. Like its song titles, which at first seem similarly senseless, the album reveals its mysteries if you approach it from the right angle; if you can transport yourself to the same dimension Demilich exists in, you can begin to understand how you might have composed the frenetic exchange of riffs in “Erecshyrinol,” conceived of the title “Inherited Bowel Levitation – Reduced Without Any Effort,” or come up with the specific reordering algorithm used to construct the album’s title. In other words – Nespithe doesn’t intentionally sugarcoat anything, but if you spend enough time with it, you’ll start to see just how sweet it really is, and just how often you notice hints of Demilich peppered throughout dissonant death metal today.
Nespithe and all of Demilich’s demos are available on the band’s website for free.
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