NIGHT DEMON – Outsider (Album Review)

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A less trodden trail is blazed.

With well over a decade in the rear view since what has been dubbed the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal became a force to be reckoned with in the metal underground, some might say that the formula has been completely established, but they would be quite mistaken when considering the likes of California’s own Night Demon. Though an outfit that has been making waves since the early fringes of the 2010s, their presence would become better known at the very middle of said decade with their signing to Steamhammer Records and the 2015 unleashing of their debut LP “Curse Of The Damned,” an opus that arguably resurrected the old school NWOBHM sound in a place fairly close to where it was originally overshadowed by the glam-dominated Sunset Strip scene. The subsequent release of their highly acclaimed 2017 sophomore studio outing “Darkness Remains” would codify them as standard-bearers of the old school sound, yet only now 6 years later with the recent unveiling of their 3rd full length endeavor “Outsider” has this metallic upstart arguably tapped into their fullest potential.

At first glance, this latest installment of vintage heavy metal rage seems to stick closely to the familiar themes of swift, riff happy aggression that typified their previous album, but a closer examination reveals a band that has broadened their take on the power trio to a fairly different place. This mostly manifests in a greater degree of dreary, atmospheric tone to much of the songwriting and the album’s overall production that deviates from the expected mixture of Diamond Head, Tank and Iron Maiden influences that this group is known for wearing on their proverbial shirtsleeve. It doesn’t quite crossover into the realm of the sort of doom metal meets traditional stylings that one witnessed back in the glory days of Witchfinder General and Cirith Ungol, but it gets dangerously close at times, and sees guitarist Armand John Anthony touch up his affinity for Brian Tatler and Mick Tucker with some Tony Iommi trappings, while Dusty Squires’ drumming has definitely acquired a looser, almost jazzier affectation that occasional reminisces upon vintage Bill Ward high-jinks, while Jarvis Leatherby’s flashy, Steve Harris-inspired bass work often exhibits a wandering, Geezer Butler-like quality. Truth be told, the only element that has retained all of its familiar character is Jarvis’ mid-ranged, Algy Ward-like every man vocal persona.

The structure of the final product is no less intricate and evolved than the individual players that crafted it, and takes on a sort of vivid, almost theatrical character. Adorned with a somber instrumental at its inception simply dubbed “Prelude”, a clear signal of a change in direction is sent between the blend of 70s prog-like synthesizer lines and dense piano sound, as Leatherby’s bass drives things along with occasional interplay from the rest of the band. In essence, this is the sort of elaborate introduction that paves the way for something truly impactful, and it can’t be understated just how much of a triumphant fist in the air that the subsequent title anthem “Outsider” proves to be. Picture a brilliant blend of Iron Maiden-inspired melodic splendor from Jarvis’ bellowing baritone, a driving to thrashing drum display and an elaborate dance of flashy guitar work and one would still need a bit more to fully comprehend it all. A similar story is told with more of a jazzy shuffle at an even more blistering pace with the entry of “Obsidian”, possessing a dank and often haunting character that dovetails with some of the faster work of early Saint Vitus. Other fleet-footed bangers like “Rebirth” and “Escape From Beyond” prove to be fair from slouches as well, with the latter featuring one of the most thrilling spectacles courtesy of Anthony’s guitar work yet.

“Outsider” Album Artwork

Be this all as it may, the truly awe-inspiring moments of this well-crafted series of old school serenades come at a much slower tempo and in a far less triumphant air. Taking heavy cues from the traditional and epic doom trappings of Candlemass and Cirith Ungol, the slow-trudging dirge “Beyond The Grave” could have all but been accomplished by a different band save for Jarvis’ vocals, which brilliantly walk the line between a heartfelt croon and an agonized wail. The brilliance of the interplay between the instrumentation rounded out by these three surgeons cannot be understated, erecting a towering wall of sound and maximizing the dynamic capabilities within a doom setting masterfully, with Leatherby’s droning bass often resembling a tolling bell as the wild kit work of Squires continues to be on another level. The dreariness factor is increased further still on the woefully balladry of “The Wake”, which often draws from the blues/rock roots of Sabbath as it progresses from a subdued elegy to a metallic storm of grief, culminating in a less than subtle nod to Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” during the guitar solo at its tail-end. Functioning as a sort of extended successor to the aforementioned doom-drenched ballad, the closing epic number “The Wrath” draws the deepest from this outfit’s expansive well of ideas and demonstrates the widest dynamic range, often blurring the lines between doom and thrash metal in a manner highly becoming of a band seeking to recapture the unfettered stylistic character of early 80s heavy metal.

Thus far, there is a solid case to be made that Night Demon has truly come into its own and delivered something worthy of magnum opus status, though still a relatively young act in the grand scheme of things. It’s the sort of album that greets one with a very familiar set of ideas, yet keeps the listener guessing throughout, touching upon that progressive stylistic ideal that was a staple of the NWOBHM scene and often found the bands involved being comparable only in terms of their shared country of origin. Combined with the rare and arguably unconventional disposition of attacking the metal genre from the standpoint of a trio arrangement, this band has climbed the proverbial mountain and has shouted from its peak that old school metal is not a fad with a termination date. It is difficult to surmise where this California-based outfit will go next, let alone how they would go about topping this compact yet colossal collection of metal magic, but regardless of how things roll out, this is a band to watch regardless of what one’s preferred sub-genre happens to be.

Order “Outsider” HERE.

Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: March 17th, 2023
Genre: Heavy Metal

Musicians:

  • Jarvis Leatherby / Vocals, Bass
  • Armand John Anthony / Guitars, Keyboards
  • Dusty Squires / Drums

“Outsider” track-listing:

  1. Prelude       
  2. Outsider     
  3. Obsidian    
  4. Beyond the Grave 
  5. Rebirth       
  6. Escape from Beyond         
  7. A Wake      
  8. The Wrath  
  9. The Last Day
9.3 Great

Proving that there is much more to the traditional heavy metal revival movement than an assembly line of throwbacks; Ventura, California natives Night Demon recapture the original spirit of the early 80s metal sound and bring it into the 2020s with a fresh coat of sonic paint and a diverse array of stylistic devices

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5
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