Demersal – Demersal


Danish hardcore quartet, Demersal, are not ashamed of the “screamo” or “emoviolence” tags. Their music searches for melody in chaos and revels in vocal expressions of overflowing emotion that would rather not be tainted by overthinking. In other words, a heavy band that prefer Radiohead to Machine Head despite the violent dynamics of their music. Now on their second album after a slew of EP and split releases in 2021-22, they return with a sophomore effort of high ambition. But can they cram all their ideas into thirty-five minutes?

Your excitement levels will reach fervency when you hear ‘Bedrager’ explode in an unhinged math rock paradigm with black metal tremolo fills. Listen how the guitarists frets the abstract chords in a monstrous distortion to produce a shade of melody reminiscent of Sonic Youth. There’s an excellent alternation between groove and aggressive violence here that will remind you of Danish hardcore act, Eyes. By contrast, staccato guitars and vocals are at the forefront of the action on ‘Lys I Natten’. Is there a brass section in the background? The screams have a desperation to them as if the voice will sever the vocal cords at any moment.

At a guess, one can assume that most songs come into creation at the direction of the band’s fondness for sorrowful arpeggio shapes. Ruminating acoustic guitars provide the luscious melodies for a whispered verse in ‘Something’. Then the blast beats kick in and annihilate you before racing through d-beats in the next section. The second half of this song is a paean to solitude built around piano and cello. Demersal seldom stick to one tempo, which helps to enhance the power of their half-timing breakdown riffs. You can hear the influence of Refused on the experimentation and start-stop dynamics of this record.

The heavier songs are stubborn in their refusal to confirm to any one genre – that’s a good thing. Perhaps the only predictable element is their avoidance of power chords. How they unearth thoughtful melodies among this bleeding amp gain is one of the supreme achievements of this record. Which brings us to the question: why do metal fans baulk at the prospect of screamo music? Is it the high-pitched screams that are deliberate in their tuneless delivery and confident in their vulnerability? Maybe it’s the unusual fretboard choices? Could it be the way these types of artists insert as many ideas as possible into one song? You can hear the hardcore punk roots in ‘Kunsten At Slå Tiden Ihjel’, but Demersal’s love of post-rock and math rock is also a prominent feature.

Those bands that want to incorporate the ethereal melodies of shoegaze into heavy music should listen to ‘Vakuum’ for a way to calibrate the two. Here, high register chords and string-picked intervals give way to dramatic drum patterns and spontaneous scream vocals. There’s a shadow of At the Drive In’s music in ‘Androide Identiteter’, but the heavier parts have more in common with metallic hardcore, especially the use of growled vocals.

At times, the combination of luscious melodies, distortion, and self-sabotaging screams make it difficult for your brain to acclimatise to the chaos. Closing track, ‘Som Et Barn Mod Dit Bryst’, presents you with this conundrum when you’re at your most confused. Demersal are a more enticing proposition on songs like ‘Selvhjælp’, where the thunderous drums and unrehearsed screams fight with the medieval joust of a martial guitar hook. It seems that the idea here is to make the melancholy guitar arpeggios awaken your conscience and reflect on the mistakes of the past that you can rectify. In this sense, Demersal’s music encourages you to be a better person and avoids being sanctimonious.

There’s much to discover in this LP, and you can get a lot out of it with repeat listens. You might even be confident in your understanding of it after three spins.


Verdict


Release Date: 10/05/2024

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Something, Vakuum, Androide Identiteter

Suggested Further Listening: Eyes – Congratulations (2023), Akersborg – Feelantropicoco (2023), Hammok – Now I Know EP (2023)