Just one look at the cover of the demo tape tells us everything we need to know. Scanning the artwork, you see an all black and blood-red aesthetic featuring a medieval warrior sitting upon a throne. Your eyes are drawn to the words “WHETSTONE” and “ANCIENT METAL”. Now I see something like this and it immediately gives me a certain expectation of the band’s sound and luckily, Ancient Metal sounds exactly like it looks.
As media, communications, and technology became more accessible, the Latin American region saw an ever-increasing rise in metal bands. For this Demo Dungeon special, we look at some demo-only bands from various countries. As these are demo recordings, sound production tends to be of low quality, but just like with the pioneering bands of the early and mid 80s, the rawness of these recordings are part of the charm. These bands, like their predecessors before them, had to fight tooth-and-nail to play a demonized style of music in dangerous and neglected parts of the world.
Not long ago I was having dinner with a very good friend of mine discussing about all those demos that we wished to be reissued but we both knew that was only wishful thinking. And then he mentioned Candle Opera, an extremely obscure heavy/ power band from Canada that somehow he managed to get one track from their long lost 1992 demo to upload in his Youtube Channel. Little we both knew then that at the same time Cult Metal Classics was working on a release of their long lost demo titled Dream Theatre.
Some bands, such as Oblivion or Enchanter, make me scratch my head at the fact that they’re completely unknown, as they rule extremely hard and are similar to some more well-known bands (Sanctuary and Fates Warning, respectively). Clearly some metalheads just aren’t willing to go the extra mile and find the hidden gems – because plenty of people would go apeshit over those two acts, I’m pretty confident. A band like MaelstroM though – their obscurity is no surprise whatsoever – in fact I’d be surprised if they were well-known. Not because they suck, but because they’re so absurdly esoteric; neoclassical power/speed/thrash with extremely progressive song structures, random acoustic segments, and proto-death metallish yells alternated with really, really fucking strange and off-putting cleans. Add in songs that average around 7 minutes in length, and you have an inaccessible demo by some no-name power/thrash band.
Japan’s fascination and adoration with Traditional Heavy Metal is well documented and a boon that has provided us with a veritable buffet of incredibly passionate and well executed metal. Comparatively (and to my disappointment) the country’s abilities or interest never really made their way to doom metal. The Metal archives lists only 86 doom metal bands in Japan of which traditional and epic doom metal makes up only a small percentage. Outside of notable bands like Bellzlleb and Church of Misery, very few ever gained any real attention. Despite the massive influence that Black Sabbath has had over heavy metal, it seems that doom metal just completely failed to draw the attention that heavy, thrash or black metal did in Japan.