Reviewing a demo can often be a tricky proposition. After all, a demo is intended to be something slightly less than a “proper” release, acting more as a glimpse of things to come in terms of song-writing, presentation, and (especially) production. But especially in the age of home recording, is there any significant difference between a demo and any other sort of release? There’s no real answer to this, especially when bands are asking for money for copies of said demo (as, it should be clarified, they are well within their rights to do – recording may be cheaper now than in years gone by, but it’s still not free, and people have bills to pay).
It’s this question which hangs over the first demo from Aamutähti (which translates to “Morning Star”). The Finnish band stand out among their country’s black metal scene for not only being explicitly anti-fascist, but also for not playing in the typical Finnish style. Instead, this demo has a hint of punk-infused USBM to its second wave-inspired sound, somewhere between Woe and the 90’s output of Immortal and Satyricon. There’s plenty of riffs in here, and passionate vocal and drumming displays along with some solid songwriting. It’s clear that Aamutähti know what they want to do with their strand of black metal and have the talent to bring it to life.
The only real issue though is that one which often applies to demos. The production quality of the record muddies the sound quite considerably, with the dominant nature of the drums making it hard for any individual element to stand out, both in terms of instrumentation and most of the musical movements. The most memorable and effective sections are those where the band ease back a bit, whether it be in intensity or speed (as on the mid-tempo opening to ‘Cauldron of Blood’), giving the music a bit more space to breathe. Yet at the same time, it’s clear there’s some real potential here, and that a more sympathetic production would make these songs feel very strong indeed. As it stands though, as worthwhile a listen as it is in its own right, this record chiefly serves the purpose of a demo in the sense of hinting at what Aamutähti are truly capable of.
Demo 2021 is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain