SonicAbuse may harbour eclectic tastes, but few things make us happier than a package bearing the Inferno records hallmark. A label built exclusively about a love of, and a passion for, heavy metal, Inferno have proudly released gems by acts such as Axecuter, Clenched Fist, Lady beast and Elvenstorm and their roster shows no sign of dipping in quality yet. Quite simply if you live and breathe heavy metal in its purest form then you need Inferno records in your life because they’re a label who take their position seriously, doting on everything from the quality of the music to the artwork and packaging.
First on the list are Chilean/ Canadian four-piece Demona whose blistering take on speed metal will set teeth rattling on this, their second album, ‘speaking with the devil’. Fronted by warrior maiden Tanza who provides both guitar and vocals ( the latter approximating a cross between Karen O and Dave Mustaine), the band also features Gabrihell (guitars), Jeff (Bass) and Antoine (drums) and the band collectively grab the attention with the old-school styling of the cover (evil demon emerging from the underworld) and song-titles like ‘dirty speed metal’, ‘mercenario’ and ‘traitors’, the latter featuring a powerful lyrical punch as it relates Tanza’s determination to overcome betrayal.
Before we get that far, however, there is the instrumental opening of ‘exordium’ to set the scene, which it does by introducing the various musicians’ skills on their respective instruments, beginning with Jeff on the bass. Almost Metallica-esque in its powerful, baroque feel, it does not take long for the mechanistic onslaught of ‘Malvenidos’ to launch itself straight for the jugular. This is speed metal with no concession for delicacy or subtlety and Tanza delivers her lines like a character from Hemingway’s masterly ‘from whom the bell tolls’, the Spanish lyrics laden with fiery passion whilst the band deliver a blistering soundtrack. It recalls the youthful thrashing of ‘killing is my business…’-era Megadeth and if the production errs on the fuzzy side with a healthy dose of reverb, the effect is only to make the whole sound more like a classic tape of the kind traded throughout the 80s. ‘Dirty speed metal’ is a leather-clad gem with a salacious attitude and cast iron riffs all set to Antoine’s pulverising percussion. Gabrihell, meanwhile, is no slouch on the guitar and solos are liberally dispensed whenever a break in the vocals appears. ‘Speaking with the devil’ is, remarkably, even faster than what has gone before, the band seemingly locked in a battle with the power of their own adrenalin and rapidly losing the fight. Riffs are dispatched with merciless precision while the devilish opening vocalisations are pure Maiden in melody and feel.
‘Traitors’ kicks off with a churning riff and an intricate solo that carves brutal figures through the mix before heading into pure speed territory, the band gleefully channelling Angel Witch vi Megadeth and sounding furiously tight. It’s got to be one of the highlights of the album with its brutal guitar work and powerful vocal performance, the deliver bordering on punk such is its brutal honesty and frantic approach. ‘Bad boy’ is more orientated toward classic thrash with its groovy opening riff and elegant leads demonstrating that in Gabrihell the band have a guitarist to treasure, a notion reinforced by the finger-shredding opening to ‘demona’ a track that features Tanza’s increasingly excellent vocals atop a gnashing whirlwind of sound. It’s dramatic, potent and delivered with unerring conviction, and it cannot fail to get the blood pumping around the body with its primal power. More epic in feel is ‘stronger than the hardest stone’, a melodic, metallic gem that is guaranteed to get all who hear it slewing a Demona patch onto their denim jackets instantly, so insistent is the melody and confidence of delivery. Make no mistake, demona are a band cast in the familiar mould, but their songs are powerful beasts that are quite irresistible, growing only more powerful with each subsequent listen. ‘Mercenario’ (with a solo from Pascal Michaud) is grand Guignol metal on an Iron Maiden scale, the opening notes recalling ‘phantom of the opera’ and the intricate guitar work drawing gasps of surprise and respect. ‘The Sorcerer’s escapade’ (featuring another guest guitarist in the form of Mauricio Godoy Diaz) literally explodes from the speakers in a multi-coloured flash of guitar-led pyrotechnics before the album draws to its close with the elegant outro of ‘cease to exist’.
Listening to Demona is truly like awaking in the mid-eighties to find a new tape neatly wrapped next to your bed – a nostalgic feeling of excitement and anticipation that has been largely stripped away by the instantaneous nature of the ubiquitous internet. The production is mostly excellent, although vocals do sometimes get lost in the reverb-heavy mix, but it’s the feel of the songs that appeals the most – the band untainted by the cynicism that set into heavy metal in the mid-nineties – the music recalling the raw majestic evil of Venom and vintage thrash. As such the album carries with it an irrepressible sense of excitement coupled with a tinge of nostalgia that is quite impossible to ignore. Fans of pure heavy metal will love the unhinged speed of the riffs, the unquestionable skill of the band and the dirty, yet powerful production which has admirably captured the raw sound of a band honed by practice and months on the road, but not digitally enhanced or sandpapered the music into smooth anonymity. Overall this is the sound of a band perfectly capturing the hedonistic spirit of traditional heavy metal and delivering a ferocious, beautifully poised performance that could only really be improved by seeing them in the flesh. All hail Demona – the beautiful sound of darkness awaits.