. . .

Extreme music listeners fetishize the demo. It does not matter what band you name. If a demo exists, someone will insist that it was all downhill afterwards. The most gratuitous example of this, Daniel Ekeroth's Swedish Death Metal, is more or less a 450-page essay on how that scene lost its magic after Entombed released Left Hand Path, implying that they would have been better off had no album ever been released.

"Don't you wish we could have just kept to the demos?"

I can't stand by that philosophy, and I frequently dislike demos. Demos are sketches, frequently rough ones. They are meant to sell the band, not stand alone.

But Black Monolith's demo is an outstanding exception. The band sounds so fully formed, it's as if the songs burst from the musicians' heads already complete. The three songs are concise and to-the-point. They convey a single idea very well: forward momentum. Sometimes the progress is fast ("Abandon Heart"); sometimes it marches ("Hedonist").

It was only a matter of time before this demo happened. Hardcore bands have re-jiggered death metal so much in the past three years that I'm surprised I haven't heard a blackened -core band sooner. Undying, a personal favorite, took a crack at this style over a decade ago, but took more from the Immortal/Dissection school of cold Nordic melody, where Black Monolith eschew melody for Mayhem and Celtic Frost.

Black Monolith take tones and chord choices from Nordic bands, but replace sloppy chaos with hardcore beats. The sound works when backed by swagger. At this point, it seems like American guitarists are using tremolo picking for atmosphere rather than raw aggression. Speed has lost its ability to impress; Wolves in the Throne Room prove that a fast enough riff sounds lethargic. Black Monolith make the argument for groove as a replacement.

They may turn their momentum into a full-length album - this demo has garnered praise from bloggers hand over fist - but I won't be upset if they remain a band with an amazing demo. It is available for free download on their Bandcamp.

— Joseph Schafer

. . .

. . .