Demo:listen: Kommodus

Welcome to Demo:listen, your weekly peek into the future of underground extreme metal. Whether they’re death, black, doom, sludge, grind, thrash, -core, heavy, speed, punk-, stoner, etc., we’re here to bring you the latest demos from the newest bands. This week’s Demo:listen is captured by Australia’s one-man black metal operation Kommodus.

Kommodus is Lepidus Plague. Being both well-read and rabidly misanthropic, Plague makes for an archetypal black metal curmudgeon. They even cover “War” on Will To Dominate All Life, their seven track demo that dropped only a month ago and is already on its second round of 30. Besides the Burzum cover, Lepidus Plague wrote and recorded all of the music on Will To Dominate Life. Their “ally” TRJ played drums, and someone called AH played the trumpet on the intro track. And unlike so many intros, the intro to Kommodus’ demo is actually a worthy track. A brief jaunt through the poppy fields of late 80s English neo-folk that doesn’t so much set the mood as it warns you to disarm your expectations. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This is just one of those demos you can’t wait to talk about, apparently. First, let’s meet the Infernal Empeor, Lepidus Plague.

“It’s just a classic Roman name,” Plague says about “Lepidus,” the first part of their nom de black metal.  

In explanation of where they came up with their band name, Plague reveals themselves to be a history buff.

“Commodus was a morally-corrupt, egomaniacal failure and disgrace. Son to revered and celebrated Marcus Aurelius, Commodus was one of the few emperors to ascend to the position by blood over merit. The idea of an unstable and wicked ruler, prodigal-son-type, seemed fitting and appropriate to the project and genre. Commodus tried to present himself to the Roman people as a reincarnation of Hercules, and this idea of something sinister hiding within the guise of something ostensibly virtuous and respected is something I (bitterly) feel is reflective of all humanity, including myself.”

Plague says they’ve been in “a few bands which have all sat somewhere on the metal/hardcore/punk spectrum,” but that’s about all they’re ready to divulge concerning their past in music. But evidence that Kommodus’ influences reach beyond black metal mark every aspect of Will To Dominate.

“Kommodus was conceived as a solo project,” says Plague. “An avenue to explore the ideas, philosophies and concepts which deeply resonate with me, as well as serving as a means to expunge all my misanthropy, self-loathing and frustrations with the world . . . I’ve been a fan of the more morbid/subversive shades of the arts since day dot. When I discovered black metal in high school there was something about it that always stuck with me. […] I feel I have no choice but to make it.”

Quintessential black metal motivation right there. But, as mentioned before, everything else about Kommodus is entirely novel, from their sound to Plague’s outfit on the demo cover. As for the former, Kommodus’ sound, Plague says: “A Sorcery Written in Blood by Gorgoroth is a favourite and served as heavy inspiration for me. I’m also in awe of the early Leviathan demos, as well as the entire discography, and the influence of Wrest (Jef Whitehead) on my music is paramount.”

As for the Kommodus demo cover, which features a corpse-painted Lepidus Plague in a cemetery, wielding a pistol, a combat knife, and wearing a camo cape and hat. Concerning these aesthetic choices, Plague is totally candid.

“That cemetery is a local one and my first decision for photos,” Plague says. “Upon reflection the songs off the demo either celebrate or lament the loss of ancient ideals surrounding empire, honour and war. Requiem songs fitting for a graveyard. There’s also no shortage of forests in Australia and I plan to photograph them for upcoming releases. I’m a fan of vintage military clothing and items which I believe to be congruent with my music and black metal in general.”

Of the many highlights on WTDAL, one of the most interesting is the folksy and melodic breakdown at the end of “Schlacht im Teutoburger Wald.” or “The Battle of Teutoburg Forest.” After reading about what this ancient battle was all about, it’s clear that Plague intended this song, especially the ending, to be a sort of requiem.

“Countless Roman soldiers were betrayed and slaughtered in the Teutoburg Forest by an assembly of Germanic tribes led by Roman raised Arminius. The traitor feigned allegiance to Rome but orchestrated the massacre, one the Empire’s worst militaristic defeats.”

The hand-dubbed tape copies of The Will To Dominate All Life are on a second run already.. Who knows if there will be a third run, and why risk missing a demo this good? Better catch up quick, though. Plague says a second Kommodus demo is already on its way.