Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields: Ventum Procellarum

demon-head-thunder-on-the-fields

A central question posed by Demon Head‘s second full-length, Thunder on the Fields, is whether or not a band can still capture sonic lethargy while coming across as energetic and excited at the prospect of doing so. The Copenhagen-based five-piece — comprised of the all-initials lineup of vocalist M.F.L., guitarists B.G.N. and T.G.N., bassist M.S.F. and drummer J.W. — of course answer in the affirmative, and on the seven-track/40-minute follow-up to their 2015 debut, Ride the Wilderness (review here), they set themselves to the task of proving this hypothesis in briskly executed, semi-vintage-style heavy doom rock that’s proto-metallic in its central influence but by no means trying to pretend the last five decades of genre development never happened.

Released through Caligari Records on tape and The Sign Records on CD/LP, Thunder on the Fields also reaffirms a key proposition laid forth by its predecessor — namely that Demon Head know precisely where they want to be in terms of aesthetics. The Danish-lyric opener “Menneskeæderen” (translates to “cannibal”) and the later, push-minded “Hic Svnt Dracones” (video posted here) pair up as leadoffs for a classically-constructed side A/B LP or tape, and in their propensity for rolling grooves, for moody, low-register vocal melodies and for interplay between swing and rhythmic bounce, Demon Head make a convincing argument for vibrancy in languid execution. If Thunder on the Fields wasn’t actually recorded live — and I don’t know that it was or wasn’t, though they apparently locked themselves in a cabin and went direct to tape — it comes close enough to capturing that feel, and if the question is can a band sound like a downer without actually being one, Demon Head confirm a resounding yes.

Those who took on the debut — and if you didn’t, I suspect after digging into Thunder on the Fields, you might be tempted to go back and do so — will be relieved to note the persistence of that natural vibe, and with the opening thrust of “Menneskeæderen,” which winds its leads over crashing rhythm tracks between its chorus and verses, and into the lumbering start of “We are Burning” that leads to a tense interplay of guitar noodling and jagged, angular percussive stomp, Demon Head are doing little to hide it. Thunder on the Fields, ultimately, is less about fixing what isn’t broken than taking what the band was able to accomplish their last time out and moving ahead with its development. A pretty common narrative, but justified in the progression they show in their songwriting and in the momentum they manage to conjure, regardless of pace.

demon head photo lalla oledal

The title-track, which follows “We are Burning,” is a highlight both in terms of its own hook and the flow already set up by the cuts surrounding, and no doubt youth is still a part of the equation when it comes to Demon Head — there’s a certain burgeoning maturity of approach, but they’re still a young band and that’s how they come across — but on the basic level of their construction and willingness to shift themselves from nodding doom to the jangly strum of “We are Burning” within the span of a measure, they demonstrate the ability to hold the reins on a sense of chaos in their execution that can only be the result of a band actively working to become stronger in their presentation. Sorry, but it just wouldn’t work otherwise. And likewise, the slower title-cut, which is still just four minutes long, drives knowingly toward a righteous apex and tracklist centerpiece “Older Now” revives a grim boogie that seems by the end of its own four-minute run to have made efforts to tear itself apart, only to find a firm, steady foundation in the layer beneath.

A tolling bell, acoustic plucking and some longer runtimes signal a clear difference in intent for Thunder on the Fields‘ side B, but the overarching atmosphere remains largely consistent between the record’s two halves, and as “Hic Svnt Dracones” gets underway, it further notes how far Demon Head have come in the three short years since their Demo 2014 (review here) and the Demon Head b/w Winterland (review here) found them worshiping at the altar of Pentagram and how much they’ve been able to craft their own sonic footprint in that time. “Hic Svnt Dracones” is full of motion once it kicks in from that intro, but winds up in a patient place behind its soulful post-midpoint solo, and in picking up tempo again just before its end, it reinforces its own structure and sets up the drawn-out standalone riff that starts “Gallow’s Omen” (video posted here) as all the more of a focal point. There’s still the nine-minute closer “Untune the Sky” behind it, so I wouldn’t necessarily call “Gallow’s Omen” the most sprawling inclusion, but being jammier on the whole makes it all the more distinct in its surroundings, as Demon Head seem to find a balance between the more taut execution of cuts like “Older Now” and more open-feeling methods.

One might expect “Untune the Sky” to further let loose in this regard, but the finale is defined by its plotted course, sleeking through early verses toward an acoustic-inclusive midsection en route to a classic-rocking shuffle of a crescendo and comedown that remains vibrant thanks in large part to the memorable guitar work, lead and rhythm. The guitars have been a major component of the album’s success all along, so it’s only fitting the final statement should underscore the point. They do so fluidly, and Demon Head cap their second outing with one more affirmation of the vitality that has become one of their core appeals along with their depth of tone and varied songcraft, as well as the impression that their growth is in progress and the steps they’ve taken with Thunder on the Fields will continue to lead them forward into whatever they might do next.

Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields (2017)

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

Caligari Records webstore

Freight Train mailorder

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply