NIGHT DEMON - Outsider
March 1, 2023, a month ago
It's been several years since the Ventura, California trio issued a completely new studio platter, surviving the pandemic with a series of singles/B-sides that were compiled into the Year Of The Demon compendium. Safe to say the intervening time was not spent idly, as the concept/storybook tale, initially begun in July 2020, is a masterwork. Outsider is eight songs, with the CD getting a bonus, "The Last Day" (formerly available solely as a Decibel magazine flex-disc). The quick/immediate heavy metal on their initial platters has been upgraded to grander, more far reaching tunes. As happened a lifetime ago, this is their Sgt. Pepper, to the rudimentary, easily digestible Meet The Beatles/Rubber Soul material, which birthed them.
The eight song arc starts with haunting, syncopated electronic bounce and acoustic guitar (plus a bit of piano), courtesy of the pre-release single, "Prelude/Outsider". Once the title track kicks in, the whispered chorus has received a heart rejuvenating shot of adrenaline and everything bursts (back) to life. Still, amidst the staccato, punk-fueled tempo, there's echoing vocals and a general aura of (not stifling sophistication), but definite maturity. As our disaffected hero leaves home (in search of happier pastures), he journeys through the green cloud adorning the sleeve artwork, only to arrive at an alternate universe, a bizzaro world populated by the alter-egos of his father and friends. He ends up killing his doppelganger and needs to return "home" although he's followed through the portal by one of his evil "friends" who wreaks havoc before Johnny can set things right.
Life imitating art, interesting choice of character names: as the protagonist is a play on guitarist Armand John Anthony and one the friends is called Dusty (also Demon's drummer, Mr. Squires). The script is reprinted in the liner notes, but the song lyrics are not a verbatim narrative of the tale and thus can be standalone songs, devoid of the bigger picture. Cute choice of words throughout, including the descriptor "iron grip" which is the handle of bassist/founder Jarvis Leatherby's management company!
The whole thing lasts just a hair under 35 minutes (including the 6:21 "Beyond The Grave" and 7:26 concluding "The Wrath"). Following the kick-off, which wouldn't be out-of-place on previous Night Demon works, there's the rollicking, mid-paced "Obsidian". A real drummer's track, check out Dusty's repeated journeys around the kit. The aforementioned, brooding, minimalist "Beyond The Grave" comes next: slow, jangly and at times, nearly a cappella vocals from Leatherby. The initial half is a moody, semi-ballad, closer to evocative Evergrey territory than traditional Night Demon, complete with layered, multiple voices. Midway through, it flips a switch, Anthony and the bassist each getting a few bars to demonstrate prowess before a quick instrumental jam and briefly enlivened spurt, before returning from whence it came.
Ultimately, lumbers to a fades out of acoustic guitar atop military cadence snare and cymbals. Aptly entitled, "Rebirth" hits the reset and the band is bashing out the metal once more. It's the first of a trio that are each a few second above/below 3:30 in length. Urgency (and killer main riff!) return to gritty, guitar dominated "Escape From Beyond", although it's not a start-to-finish burner, as a few moments of subtlety are inherent within. Imbued with the sadness Irish folk (and in the rock world, Thin Lizzy) exhibits so well, touching "A Wake" benefits from Jarvis' pandemic years in Ireland, although it too ends in a military inspired flourish. By the way, his girlfriend is credited aiding him construct the album's lyrics.
The finale, nearly twice as long as some of its neighbors, heralds jangly guitar and drum sticks striking the metallic rim of the kit. "Welcome back to the night," sings Jarvis, in a full circle moment within the concept, as well as the band's history, a reference to the lead cut off the '17 release, Darkness Remains. All three musicos play with the dynamics throughout its length, before once more ending with sporadic guitar note coda. Although previously available, it will be the first opportunity for many to actually own "The Last Day", a short (2:30) old-school, full-on speedster.
Given Night Demon's proclivity for creating mini-horror movies, in the past, this seems a tailor-made treatment for another adventure, both aurally and visually. Tighten your safety belt and hang on!