Review & Track Premiere: Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies

demon eye prophecies and lies

[Click play above to stream ‘The Redeemer’ from Demon Eye’s new album, Prophecies and Lies, out Aug. 11 on Soulseller Records.]

North Carolinian double-guitar doom-rocking four-piece Demon Eye have been up front all along. Really. Since the band made their debut on Soulseller Records with 2014’s Leave the Light (review here), they’ve made no effort to mask where they’re coming from in terms of blending the ways of modern garage doom and classic ’70s heavy rock, bridging a gap between Uncle Acid and Pentagram, with KISS hooks and early Rush shuffle and Judas Priest metallurgy thrown in for good measure. Prophecies and Lies is their third outing for Soulseller behind 2015’s Tempora Infernalia (review here) and it pairs the band with founding Corrosion of Conformity bassist/vocalist Mike Dean as producer, resulting in the tightest incarnation of their sound to-date.

Songwriting has always been a feature of their work, but to hear them groove their way through “Dying for It” or the swaggering “The Redeemer,” their path of development seems to have taken another forward step in efficiency even from where it was two years ago, and as the returning lineup of guitarist/vocalist Erik Sugg, lead guitarist Larry Burlison, bassist/vocalist Paul Walz and drummer/vocalist Bill Eagen dig into the cowbell and dual leads of “Vagabond,” the motor-riffing of “In the Spider’s Eye” or the crisp ’70s proto-metallic starts and stops in the verses of “The Redeemer,” it’s their penchant for memorable choruses that unites Prophecies and Lies across its 11 tracks/42 minutes, so that the record flows consistently despite its primary impression being as a showcase for its individual pieces.

It is in that that Demon Eye are perhaps at their most loyal to classic notions of what an album is, and again, they’ve yet to bring it to such realized fruition as they do here, having their cake and eating it too as they tie the standout hooks of the Wino-style-riffed “Politic Divine” together with “The Waters and the Wild” through a consistency of approach and tone. The latter cut opens Prophecies and Lies with a forceful introductory wash of cymbals and thuds behind its first riff — a subtle introduction to the course of what’s to follow — and soon enough is galloping through its first verse. Already — less than a minute in — Demon Eye have given crucial signals to their audience of their intentions and the methods they’ll use to convey them throughout the album that follows. “The Waters and the Wild” trades between its gallop and a more rolling chorus, stepping aside for a nodding bridge in its second half leading to a solo section and final run through the hook. Clean, crisp, refreshing. Nothing spare to it. And that’s how they’ll continue to operate as “In the Spider’s Eye,” “The Redeemer,” “Kismet,” “Infinite Regress” and “Dying for It” complete a Side A evenly split in 21-minute increments with the second half still to come.

demon eye

Some groups just have an innate sense of structure. Demon Eye would seem to be such a band, but as listen back to Leave the Light or Tempora Infernalia shows, they also work at it, and that work is paying off here, whether it’s in their ability to pull off the sudden doomly slowdown in “In the Spider’s Eye” or in the way “Kismet,” with no major change in its overall sound or feel, seems to become anthemic simply by matching Sugg‘s and Burlison‘s guitars in quick lead sections. Every flourish, every nuance on Prophecies and Lies, from the turn into a calming presence for “Infinite Regress” to the all-out double-time hi-hat from Eagen on “Dying for It,” serves a purpose, and that willfulness of execution underscores both the clear effort Demon Eye have made to advance themselves stylistically and the organic place from which their impulse toward structure comes.

One guitar, Walz‘s bass, the other guitar and the drums as the final component lead the way into “Politic Divine” at the start of side B, a lyrical reference to a thunder god soon to follow as Sugg‘s layered vocals tie terrestrial concerns to spooked-out themes in classic metal fashion. I don’t know how thematic Prophecies and Lies is meant to be as a whole, but this too is an example of how Demon Eye have grown over the last couple years, since as “Politic Divine” finishes and “Power of One” immediately picks up on the next beat — the two obviously meant to be taken as a pair — the examining of social themes, even couched in metaphor, comes across as a newer or at least more-focused-on idea for the band. That is to say, while they may have been offering similar commentary in the past, the way they’re doing so in these tracks is clearer about what it wants to say and the judgment it’s making. A clue to the album’s title, which also blends the ethereal and the worldly? Maybe.

In either case, Demon Eye remain as clear-headed as ever throughout those two, the Maiden-esque “Vagabond,” the spoken-word-over-quieter-fare title-track — consider it a mirror in purpose to side A’s penultimate cut in “Infinite Regress,” but more fleshed out — and seven-minute closer and longest inclusion “Morning’s Son,” which uses its extra space to compel the band into a well-earned grandiose finish, marked by keyboard flourish and a cymbal wash to bookend that which started “The Waters and the Wild.”

The more one digs into the details of Prophecies and Lies, the more there is to find that reinforces the idea of how sure their foundation and delivery has become, and the final crashes from Eagen are a last-minute reminder from Demon Eye that while they may be writing individual songs that work very much on that level — that is, you could pull just about any of them from its surroundings, even “Infinite Regress” and “Prophecies and Lies,” and make it a single — there is a larger purpose at work in making them function together as a single, fluid entity. This level of construction might be the greatest achievement on Prophecies and Lies, but make no mistake, whatever else is accomplished, the album rocks and at no point fails to fully engage its audience on whatever level they might want to meet it.

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