E-Force - Demonikhol - (8/10)
Published on July 30, 2015
You don’t expect to hear Obituary’s distinctive rhythm guitar sound on a thrash metal album, but that’s exactly what you get from Demonikhol. The vocals are closer to death metal too, coming across like a slightly more scream-y, higher pitched Chuck Schuldiner. Death metal guitars, death metal vocals, surely this is death metal? Well, no. Formed in 2001 by Voivod vocalist and bassist Eric Forrest, E-Force play music that is unmistakably thrash, with elements that you might expect to find in a death metal album.
Thrash with harsh vocals is nothing new; bands like Legion Of The Damned and Sacrifice have been doing it for some time. The guitar sound is a bit more unusual and unexpected, but seems to work as Demonikhol is a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
There’s little wrong with Demonikhol, but it isn’t perfect, so let’s get the gripes out of the way first. The cover at initial glance looks like one of those fun, colourful thrash album covers of the eighties and early nineties, but a second look reveals it to be deeply (and unnecessarily) unpleasant. The music is what counts though, so….
Along with countless other metal albums, this one opens with a pointless intro track. It’s just some nondescript sound effects and has no real value whatsoever. Unfortunately, this is only one half of a pair of pointless bookends. Final number, “Last Call”, is even worse, an irritating yawn-fest lasting for over four minutes and again consisting of dreary sound effects. Sadly, that’s not quite the end of the rant. “The Day After” sounds like the intro to a thrash ballad of the type so expertly executed by Testament and Metallica in years past, with acoustic guitars and cleaner, almost spoken vocals. Those vocals sound somewhat unhinged, also bringing to mind Crimson Glory’s wonderful-yet-demented “Lost Reflection”. This all leaves you waiting for the heaviness to kick in … surely any second now they’re going to bring the thrash, but … that’s it. It stops. It doesn’t go anywhere, just plods along for far too long, those sneered vocals promising an explosion that never happens. The only purpose it serves is to make the following track sound better, but that’s the same principle as inadvertently hearing Ed Sheeran or Ellie Goulding on the radio and then scrambling for your rock or metal CDs to make it all better.
This all just intimates a band trying to be clever, but there’s absolutely no need for it when you can produce high quality music. And E-Force are most emphatically able to do just that. Yes, there are three irritating, wasteful tracks. That still leaves eight examples of lovely thrashing goodness for our pleasure. They are all winners, a number of them starting with screaming lead guitar, which may not excite everyone, but it makes my ears very happy indeed.
Nowhere is E-Force’s sound better exemplified than in “Debauchery”, with its catchy chorus, marvellous lead guitar and all-round headbangableness (which is definitely a word, trust me). It’s like a glorious amalgam of Sepultura, Obituary, Nuclear Assault, Exodus and Annihilator, which can only be a good thing, can’t it?
The same influences crop up throughout, highlights including the wild guitar leads and Sepultura-esque rhythm guitar in “Grievance” and the hugely catchy “Invasion” with its excellent solo and a rhythm section that gives a clear nod towards Nuclear Assault.
Had the band not indulged themselves with the worthless “Last Call”, the album would have closed with “State of Delusion”, a fine thrasher with more great lead guitar and a big, aggressive, rousing chorus. This would have sent us all home happy, with a very positive impression of E-Force lingering in our ears.
The only sensible course of action is to skip the final track and leave “State of Delusion” merrily floating around in your head. Or to go back to “Grievance” and enjoy (almost) the whole thing again.
While purists may be put off by the death metal elements, if you can tolerate Obituary-like guitar and a bit of throatiness in your thrash, Demonikhol is exactly what thrash is supposed to be: a lot of fun and a sore neck.