Demo:listen: Best of 2016

Welcome to Demo:listen, your weekly peek into the future of underground metal. Whether it’s death, black, doom, sludge, grind, thrash, heavy, speed, progressive, stoner, retro, post-, etc. we’re here to bring you the latest demos from the newest bands. On this week’s Demo:listen, with a little help from some of our friends, we reflect on 2016, a year of great demos.

Because we’ve already featured so many outstanding demos this year—from bands like Hexenslaught, Maltheist, Horns & Hooves, Temple of Abandonment, Enge Store, Pile of Excrements, Devil’s Dare, Sombre Mundus, Massive Retaliation, Tideless, Ceremented, Malleus, Garroted, Verbum, Terravore, Graveolence, High Command, etc. etc.—my entries are designated to other and no-less incredible demos that I never got a chance to cover before, for one reason or another. It’s been a great year for demos, readers. I can’t remember a better year, but then again I’ve never paid so close attention to demos as I did this year. Suffice to say, thank you for your ongoing dedication to this column and to Decibel magazine.


I know I just said I wasn’t going to mention any demos that we’ve already covered, but we should at least talk about the Best Demo of the Year, right? Rather, in Tomb Mold’s case, the Best Demos of the Year. While you’re well aware that Derrick and Max put out not one but two demos this year, did you know that they also recorded a full-length that’s coming out in February as well as locked down a full line-up and performed live for the first time? Aside from their abnormally prolific nature and their serious dedication to their undertaking of death metal, these Torontonians have that inherent zeal that sets them not only above and apart from the crowd, but beyond time and era.

Kevin Fitzgerald, vocalist of High Command’s Top 5

  • Malleus – Storm of Witchcraft
  • Innumerable Forms – “Petrified”/”Joyless”
  • PMS 84 – Demo 2016
  • Wound Man – Fever Session
  • The Impalers – Cellar Dweller promo tape

Iron Bonehead Productions Boss’ Top 5

  • Sorguinazia  – s/t
  • Vitriol – s/t
  • Worm – Nights in Hell
  • Tomb Mold – The Moulting
  • Hexenslaught – Demo 2016


Mike from Loss/Graceless Recordings hipped me to the unblessings of these sorrowful Dutchmen. Their demo Sic Erat Scriptum is four tracks of heart-strangling, breath-stealing blackened funeral doom replete with cleanly sung vocals performed by a young woman named Michelle Bouma whose voice is like crystal clear water trickling through the idyllic cemetery. A dynamic and epic demo that’ll break your heart and shoot your soul straight at the sun in a matter of thirty five minutes. Over the years I’ve seen too many brilliant doom bands like Locus Amoenus show up out of nowhere and then fade into nothingness just as surreptitiously. Here’s hoping we get more out of this camp, but if not, Sic Erat Scriptum is more than enough.

Ripping Headaches Promotions Boss’ Top 5

  • Ēōs – Third Demo
  • Tomb Mold – The Moulting
  • Devil Master demo
  • A.S.M. – Demo 2016
  • Sanguine Eagle – Individuation

Honorable mentions: Extended Hell – Demo 2016; Brazen Gate – Trials of the Will; High Command – The Secartha Demos

Caligari Records Boss’ Top 5 (+ 1)

  • YITH – Dread – Perhaps the best one man band in the US. Dude has been hard at it for the past few years, issuing demos constantly but with Dread, he finally seems to have built a more robust sound that serves his arrangements perfectly. Projects like this make me wish, lonely dudes would just get some friends and hop on the road.
  • MALLEUS – Storm of Witchcraft – Pulling the necro thing is easy, but writing good tunes on top of it, not so much. Great debut; killer riffs, sloppy beats, typical degenerate vocals and an 80’s aura that makes you think of how pathetic everything was and still is.
  • TOMB MOLD – The Moulting – These Canadians deathheads have issued two demos this year, and both feature a sound that is close to perfection. Claustrophobic production or lack thereof. What matters is the aura and the aura is dark and dank.
  • CHAIN – Subway Stabber – Classic heavy metal has never lost its charm and bands like this one from NY know that all too well because basically they just lit up the torch and are sucking at the teat of not giving a fuck. For real, listen to those vocals, that means, i can sing heavy metal, you can sing heavy metal and our moms can sing heavy metal.
  • VITRIOL – s/t – Another killer death metal recording. The atmosphere is suffocating, the guitars almost make pure noise but don’t get to bestial levels and the drums kind of sound like pots and pans. And oh yeah, the vocalist is deranged. Sweet, sweet death metal.
  • HEXENSLAUGHT – Demo 2016 – I believe you don’t need an actual recording studio to make a demo that sounds like this. You just press Record in a boombox and bash way until the beer and the coke are gone.


These youngins get my pick for the most promising band and best demo to come out of this year’s recent death-thrash revival. Their debut Midnight Forces is sweet music to those ears attached to skulls wont to bang! Caligari put this one out, as well as their satanically prompt follow-up, Void Fumes.

morbiddeceiver, demo connoisseur/o.g. vocalist for Nunslaughter’s Top 5

  • Karst – Demo 2016
  • Nefarious Spirit – Demo 2016
  • Finis – At One with Nothing
  • Solar Mass – Pseudomorphosis
  • Ancient Rain – The Rain

Graceless Recordings Bosses’ Top 5

  • Nocturnal Triumph – Into Light’s Graven Womb
  • Ēōs – third demo
  • Locus Amoenus – Sic Erat Scriptum
  • Olkoth – The Immortal Depths
  • Verbum – Processio Flagellates


Got a bad case of the “cry laters” over this one. Conflagrate Swedish black metal that brings to mind the days when only fire, rock and darkness populated this world. Contra Mundum in Aeternum started out as a self-released demo tape limited to 92 copies, and I deserve my fate for having slept on it. Somewhat fortunately for those of us who aren’t among the 92 dudes who quickly nabbed their copy, GoatowaRex has since reissued this insanity on 12”.  GoatowaRex is located in Beijing, and getting anything from them into the Occident is never cheap. But in the case of Flame Acausal’s Contra Mundum in Aeternum it’s unquestionably worth it.

Ancient Future Records Boss’ Top 5

  • HORNS & HOOVES – Consecrate the Marrow – Pure black chaos on tape.  Musically, this is fantastic black metal, but what makes this unique is the vocals.  Check this one out for sure.  Also, each tape comes with a pin and a deconsecrated (non)holy host!
  • HELLREIGN- Demo ’16 – I’m not sure how I came across this, and I’m not sure if this even got a physical release.  This demo is loud, raw and brutal.
  • TAPHOSDemo MMXVI – I fucking love *good* death metal.  But so many death metal bands sound the same, so whenever one stands out from the crowd, I definitely take notice.  This demo was sent to me a few months back and I think I listen to it at least once a day.  This is well worth your money and I can’t wait to see what they release in 2017.
  • L.O.R.E – Demo- Lo-fi metal that hurts your ears.  I’m a sucker for this stuff.  How something this grim comes from Florida is puzzling, but this is a good listen.
  • EVICTION – Struggle With Society Demo LP- Not new at all (originally recorded in 1988!), but this classic demo tape by Pittsburgh’s EVICTION was released on vinyl this year by Mind Cure Records.  I absolutely loved this band while I was growing up and this band was the real catalyst for my interest in metal.  Eviction were a true crossover band back in the day (late 80s, early 90’s) and would open for a ton of punk bands coming through town – and also metal bands.  It was on these metal shows that I got my first taste and appreciation of a lot of good metal bands.  If it wasn’t for Eviction, there is no way I would have the love for metal that I do today.

Ghastly Apparition Records Boss’ Top 5

  • Naked Star – Bloodmoon Prophecy
  • Obscure Evil – Midnight Forces
  • Enucleator – Demo 2016
  • High Command – The Secartha Demos
  • Perverted Ceremony – Demo I

…plus everything I’ve released, but I have considered it to be far too biased thus kinda unfair to list those!


Synth-haunted and judiciously raw black metal from the Netherlands. Night of the Blood Moon was originally released by The Shadow Kingdom, but copies remain available from the Tour de Garde reissue. Meanwhile these Dutchmen are already poised to release a full length on Iron Bonehead. If you’re into the wampyric black metal scene, or the necrostethic sounds emanating from Portugal as of late, Blood Tyrant’s Night of the Blood Moon is crucial to your ongoing unsurvival.

Fellow metalscribe Jon Rosenthal’s Top 5

I bought a lot of tapes this year, so it was difficult for me to compile this list. It isn’t in order, and I’m sure I will regret not including a few (like Old Tower, whose tape is still in the mail from Canada), but this is the nature and shortcoming of “best of” lists. I hope you find something new to listen to here.

  • Rites of Thy Degringolade – “The Universe In Three Parts” [Self-Released] – New Rites of Thy Degringolade – I was lucky enough to nab one of these tapes, of which Paulus Kressman had made somewhere around thirty-five, when I saw them perform in Chicago. Their first effort as a full band (now featuring members of Amphisbaena, Antediluvian, and Svolder), “The Universe In Three Parts” is a reminder that Rites of Thy Degringolade is a force to be reckoned with. Paulus just finished recording drums for their upcoming full-length. Prepare.
  • Sombre Mundus – “Demo I” [Self-Released] – Raw and melodic black metal with competent, compelling songwriting. Really can’t wait to hear more from the Sombre Mundus camp.
  • Ghaisiuan – “II” “III” and “IV” [Defiled Light] – Mechanized, horrific, devastating, but surprisingly beautiful brackish atmospheres. Defiled Light was a kind of “flash in the pan” this year and fizzled out after something like twenty releases, and Ghaisiuan was by and far my favorite project under that banner (followed closely by Orgy of Carrion and Bastard of Majesty Sin). Word has it there will be a proper full-length next year on their new home label Perverse Homage. Be prepared.
  • Ärid – “Omen IV” [Eerie Silence] – Uniquely grating, drum-led black metal. Similar to Ghaisiuan in the sense that it, too, comes off as slightly mechanized and emotionally detached, but Ärid is more sonically aligned with Striborg’s more fast-paced works. Gloriously “outsider” in nature and absolutely addicting. Eerie Silence is one of the most interesting new labels out there. I already have ten or so of their tapes. Keep up.
  • Ēōs – “third demo” [Self-Released] – Devastating, powerful funeral doom in the vein of Thergothon and old Skepticism. However long-form Ēōs’s work may be, and the single, twenty-one minute song which comprises this tape certainly fits into the “long-form” category, the beautiful, morose glory of their thick, organ-drenched march to the burial warrants multiple listens in one sitting.

Special Mention:

  • Vpaahsalbrox – “14 Sovereign” (Re-issue) [Pale Horse Recordings] – Easily the best demo of the new century. I wish Vpaahsalbrox offered up more than the three songs found on this tape, but, even so, the chaotic, sharp, Hellish sounds of “14 Sovereign” still manage to stand alone eleven years later. Vpaahsalbrox eventually splintered into the small faction of “Pale Horse Recording-related bands” in the mid/late-2000s – Senthil, Nivathe, Absonus Noctis, and now Erraunt and Abduct, and this nightmarish impetus offers a brooding cross-section of underground black metal’s most frustratingly creative minds. The since-resurrected Pale Horse Recordings released a beautiful, vinyl-only re-issue of this demo earlier this year and for some odd reason it hasn’t quite sold out yet. Correct that.

Underground Soundscapes Records Boss’ Top 5

  • ALTAR STOMPER – Grand Offering
  • BLOOD TYRANT – Night Of The Blood Moon
  • SORGUINAZIA – Sorguinazia
  • UTZALU – Drowning In Sanguine Screams

Honorable mentions:

  • CÉNOTAPHE – When Death Comes, Everything Moves [Note: Two demos are conflated here, on accident, Cénotaphe’s La Larve Exulte and Elemental’s When Death Comes, Everything Moves both released by Kuunpalvelus this year.]
  • IRON SCEPTER – Black Fucking Portal
  • NIGHTWALKER – Nightwalker
  • WORM – Nights In Hell


Needly and necro black metal from the US, and that’s about all I know regarding Olkoth. Which is more than I knew before just now because their demo, The Immortal Depths, always grabs my attention to the point that I’m far too lost in the black madness to care where this band came from. It’s no more surprising that this mysterious duo is from the US than it is that they’re from this plane of existence at all. Hails to Jake from Graceless for not only hipping me to Olkoth, but for sending me a copy of The Immortal Depths.


That’s it for this week’s retrospective Demo:listen. We’ll return to our regular programming next Friday. Happy New Year!