What do you look for when you listen to a supergroup? Do you like it to sound like a combination of the different members’ bands or a totally new project? Do you prefer it spread across multiple genres or fit more neatly into one? Does each member need a moment in the spotlight or should it sound like one unit? All of these questions are, of course, totally irrelevant. Further, you should feel shame for partaking in such pseudo-intellectual music nerd wankery. Go shave your neckbeard and stick your head in the toilet. I’m kidding…well, only somewhat. These are worthwhile inquiries, and I’m sure we can debate them endlessly over pints of rare New England style DIPA’s and/or cups of monkey shit coffee, but it’s all missing the point. The question you should ask, as you should ask of all albums, is: are the songs good? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you found yourself listening to Lock Up‘s latest album, Demonization.
If you don’t know, Lock Up is a deathgrind supergroup founded by Napalm Death‘s Shane Embury and original Cradle of Filth drummer Nicholas Barker (also ex-Dimmu Borgir). They’re joined on this album by a new vocalist, Kevin Sharp (formerly of Brutal Truth, but also the vocalist for Venomous Concept, a group he formed with Embury) and guitarist Anton Reisenegger (Criminal and the Chilean Pentagram). Basically, it’s a solid group of musicians playing some kickass deathgrind. It’s a 42-minute album and it’s pretty relentless, but still catchy. You’re going to find some of these mid-paced death riffs stuck in your head for days and you ain’t gonna regret it.
The album is pretty much ready to rip your face off from the get-go. The opener, “Blood and Emptiness,” fades in for only about 20 seconds before you start getting hammered with riffs. It’s fairly punishing, and some of the fast-paced and thrashy chord changes really get you headbanging. Like I said though, there’s plenty of mid tempo death metal riffs that are going to get suck in your head. The title track is over five minutes long and is fairly slow and brooding. It’ll make you stomp your foot to the groove (careful not to spill your beverage…I may have) and, in my opinion, is a good change of pace to keep the listener from getting bored with the faster and grindier stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with speed, but a whole album needs to have some dynamic to it. Demonization does a good job of changing up the tempo.
Aside from the riffs, I’m also a big fan of Sharp’s vocal delivery. He’s got a low and harsh scream that really brings out the old school vibe on the faster tracks. He snarls his way through verses at a rapid pace, but he’s clear enough that you can make out the lyrics and shout along (which you will want to do, a lot). On the slower sections, Sharp lets out longer, more painful sounding screams. There’s even a bit of layering that gives it a darker and haunting vibe. Definitely an excuse to keep the album cranked.
Sadly, we’re not done yet. We answered the aforementioned question. Yes, the songs are good, but something is not quite right. Let me tell you: it’s the production. It’s a common complaint of mine these days, but it really kills the old school vibe that the riffs and vocals have otherwise It’s not the most compressed I’ve ever heard (I didn’t find my ears bleeding), but it’s enough that I’ve got a problem with it. The guitars drown everything out. Sharp’s vocals are great, but they tend to bleed into the same range as the guitars, making some parts feel noisy in a way that makes the riffs hard to discern and enjoy. Embury’s bass is barely audible except for a few key moments. The drums don’t aren’t necessarily bad, but with the guitars jacked up to eleven it feels somewhat in the background unless Barker is wailing on the snare.
However, Lock Up‘s Demonization is still, all in all, a fun collection of deathgrind jams that is short and diverse enough to be enjoyed. If you find yourself a fan, odds are you’ll end up returning to it as well. If the production doesn’t bother you, even better! It’s a fairly solid collection of angry tunes that grindcore and death metal fans shouldn’t skip.
3.5 OUT OF 5 FLAMING TOILETS OV GRIND
The album is out March 10th on Listenable Records. Currently that only includes a European release, which you can already preorder, but they’re supposed to be announcing North America and other regions soon. Keep your eyes on the dang ol’ Facebook, I tell ya what. Yep.