Demons, the new project from Mae guitarist Zach Gehring, recently released its debut EP Great Dismal. The record, which was released via independent record label Spartan Records is a surprisingly interesting record. It is so interesting in fact that one could argue it to be one of this year’s best new EPs. The main way in which it earns this honor is through its musical content. Audiences will note in listening to the six-track record that the band’s members–Zach Gehring, Josh Whittle, and Jon Anderson–don’t stick to just one sound from one song to the next. Gehring’s own vocal delivery set against the record’s changing musical landscape makes it even more interesting. That is because his delivery changes just as drastically as the songs’ varied musical styling. Having noted both of these elements, it is only natural to make mention of the record’s production values. The record’s production values, while not perfect, still generate a full, powerful sound even in the record’s simple closer that will keep audiences listening from beginning to end. In listening so intently, audiences that give the record a chance will agree that considering its noted elements, it truly is deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new EPs.
Demons’ debut EP Great Dismal is one of this year’s best new EPs. Audiences that give this record a chance will agree with this sentiment. They will agree because in listening to its six total tracks, they will note a certain focus from the band in each composition. That focus is evident primarily through the variety of sounds that serve as each song’s backbone. ‘There Is No Reward,’ the band’s current single, and ‘Lenora Slaughter’ both exhibit something of a sludge/doom sound in the style of Crowbar, Witchcraft, and Black Sabbath. By comparison, ‘Radical Cure,’ the record’s fourth track, carries something more of an old school 80’s thrash/punk sound. It is a sound that is completely opposite of the record’s first two opuses and a welcome change of pace, too. ‘Parallel Lines 2′ changes things up even more with something bordering between stoner rock and sludge. And then there are the two completely contrasting works that are Godless Girls,’ which is in this critic’s eyes, the most radio ready of the record’s works, and ‘Quietly Waiting,’ the record’s closer. ‘Quietly Waiting’ is a stark contrast to any of the other songs featured on Great Dismal stylistically speaking in that it is a simple, acoustic piece. It features Gehring alone singing and playing guitar as he sings about what can only be assumed to be a broken relationship. ‘Godless Girls’ on the other hand has a much more radio friendly rock sound even with the constant change in its mood. Taking into account each of the different sounds exhibited by Great Dismal’s songs, it offers audiences plenty of variety. What other way is there to put it? And that variety in and of itself is more than enough reason for audiences to give this EP a chance.
The variety of musical styles exhibited throughout the course of Great Dismal’s six tracks and twenty-four minutes makes for more than enough reason for audiences to give Demons’ debut EP a chance. They are just one part of what makes this record worth the listen. Believe it or not, Gehring’s vocal delivery style actually plays its own part in making the record worth the listen, too. That is because just as with the songs’ varied musical styles, Gehring’s vocal delivery style changes just as much from one song to the next. His vocal delivery in the record’s first two songs makes them especially interesting because it isn’t the standard screaming and gutteral growls that are so commonplace from other bands that perform that form of music. Yet somehow the contrast works quite well and in turn makes both songs interesting in their own right. Even when he uses that same style against the work of his band mates in the more stepped up ‘Godless Girls’ the contrasting styles still works just as well surprisingly enough. On the other side of the proverbial coin, his vocal style matches nearly perfectly with the remainder of the songs as their musical styles change and change again right down to the album’s melancholy closer ‘Quietly Waiting.’ That Gehring and his band mates would take into account something as simple as the relationship of vocal style and musical style shows even more how focused the band was as it wrote and recorded Great Dismal. Being that the band was so focused both in this avenue and that of composing the songs’ musical side, it shows even more clearly why it proves itself to be such a surprisingly interesting first effort from the Virginia Beach, VA-based band.
The thought and effort that the members of Demons put into the creation of its debut EP is a rare thing for an independent band. That thought shows real focus and effort on the part of the band’s members. In turn it makes Great Dismal a rather surprisingly interesting first effort from the band. As important as that effort and thought proves to be, it still is not all that makes Great Dismal worth the listen. The record’s production values as just as much worth noting. It should be noted here and now that the record’s production values are anot perfect. But they are not terrible, either. It is just that at times Gehring’s vocals come across as being overpowered by the talents of his band mates. Those moments are not so prevalent that they kill the record, though. So to that extent the record’s production values aren’t that bad. As a matter of fact, the work on the record’s first two tracks gives them a full, almost booming sound. In the same vein Gehring’s powerhouse vocals are expertly balanced with the talents of his band mates in ‘Radical Cure,’ with the end result being a purely classic punk/garage sound that will take so many listeners back in time. Even the melancholy, acoustic sound of the record’s closer ‘Quietly Waking’ shows its own emotional depth and power thanks to the work of whomever manned the boards for the record. These are just a few examples of the influence of the production values on Great Dismal. The record’s other songs could be used just as easily as examples of the influence of its production values. Regardless of whether those songs are used or the ones noted are used, it can be said with certainty that even while not perfect, the production values incorporated into Great Dismal are just as important to its enjoyment as the thought and focus used in the creation of the songs both musically and lyrically. All three elements combined, Great Dismal shows in the end to be clearly a candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new EPs.
Great Dismal is just the first effort from the members of Demons. Yet for a first effort, it is a surprisingly interesting and impressive work. Gehring, Whittle, and Anderson exhibit a thought pattern and focus rarely seen among underground bands in their debut records. That focus and clear thought resulted in six tracks that will keep audiences listening from beginning to end. That clear thought and focus coupled with the record’s overall impressive production values makes the songs even more impactful. All things considered, Great Dismal is anything but a dismal record. Rather, it proves in the end to be, again, one of this year’s best new EPs. It is available now and can be ordered direct from Spartan Records’ web store at http://spartanrecords.limitedrun.com/products/549458. More information on Great Dismal is available online now along with all of the latest news from Demons at http://www.facebook.com/demonologie.
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Hey, this is Zach from Demons/Mae. I feel like this is the first time I’ve read this review. Thanks for digging in and discussing the EP. ❤