For once, I’m not going to beat around the bush: this is an awkward one to call. Even as I write, I still can’t make up my mind about Las Vegas metallers Demon Lung‘s debut album, which is (hopefully!) a rare thing indeed for my points-of-view. ‘The Hundredth Hour’ is for the most part a languid listen, a twisted combination of “epic” doom atmospheres, chugging NWOBHM riffs and frontwoman Shanda Frederick’s ghostly wails for a better tomorrow. This is a record I really feel like I want to love, relish and enjoy but whilst there are plenty of components here which I’ll openly admit to admiring greatly, I just can’t get excited about the band’s direction, focus and overall sound.
‘The Hundredth Name’ does carry plenty of positives. This is definitely music void of an ease to pigeonhole with Demon Lung ably blending crunching guitar riffs, suffocating blackened-drone ambiance and grandiose, near operatic, expanses of pure Sabbathian commitment, most notably on opener ‘Binding of the Witch’, the thundering ‘Devil’s Wind’ and the listener-challenging ‘Eyes of Zamiel’. Drummer Jeremy Brenton delivers a standout performance utilising everything from polished funeral doom dirges to furious double kick-drum attacks. Add to this a stunning production job from a certain Mr William Anderson (Sleep, Melvins, and… oh man, do you really need to be told all his credentials again?!) and Demon Lung do sound truly enormous. Like Candlemass or Yob-style enormous. Like bigger than Silvio Berlusconi’s additional hotel charges enormous. Got it? Great.
Whilst I’ve expressed several varied views on Anderson’s “anyone and anything” approach to polishing mixes in the past, he genuinely feels like the fifth member of Demon Lung here and crafts a complete band sound which still demonstrates the individual traits of each instrument beautifully. Check out closer ‘Incantation (The Hundredth Name)’ to get full clarity on this.
The main issue I have with ‘The Hundredth Name’ is that no single song grabs me by the balls, throat or even hand and makes me want to play it again. Each track, save perhaps the proto-thrashing ‘Hex Mark’ or the well-crafted ‘A Decade Twice Over A Day’ is frustratingly slow to develop and really rather linear. Forget choruses or solos – you won’t find none of that fancy business in these woods and whilst Shanda Frederick certainly possesses a commanding pair of, err, demonic lungs, she doesn’t really reach the higher notes that it sounds to me like she’s probably very capable of hitting. Add to this guitarist Phil Burns’ slightly irritating knack of ending each of his giant riffs with a Zakk Wylde-esque motif on virtually every song and his insistence on sticking to over-cooking every six-string-led repetition for far too long (see any of ‘Heathen Child’, ‘Devil’s Wind’ and ‘Hallowed Ground’) and the approach begins to feel laboured rather than spell-bounding.
Much of the record’s disconnection also lies, I feel, with ‘Binding of the Witch’ as an album opener. The first five minutes are all droning feedback, muffled screams and seismic shifts of noise which, granted, does indeed sound exactly how I’d expect the slow, torturous mummification of one of Matthew Hopkins’ accused victims to sound. But instead of cutting the chord at the coffin’s close, there’s then a retro-rocking passage to tackle and THEN a doom metal passage which just don’t slot together coherently for me at all. Ultimately all of this thinking and changing of tune just takes up far too much space within one track and contaminates the rest of the record with a lack of accessibility and definitive direction. It’s great that Demon Lung constantly keep the listener guessing, but on each of these 8 tracks, there’s seldom a reward at the end of their brooding treasure hunts of metallic confusion.
I feel like I owe Demon Lung an apology at the end of all this. A hell of a lot of blood, sweat, tears and thought has clearly gone into the creation of ‘The Hundredth Name’, but ultimately for me, a hundred names or ideas is just too many and the material lacks a killer punch and instinct. At times it seems that there’s a dark quality to the band’s approach which will appeal to fans of the likes of Monarch, The Wounded Kings, Undersmile or Dark Castle, yet Demon Lung never actually reach depths as murky as those acts manage to achieve. Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong or I’m just not in the mood for another trad-doom record, but I genuinely struggled to encapsulate myself with much more than this Demon Lung debut’s stunning cover artwork. If you like your doom grand, sorrowful and BIG then by all means feel free to ignore me and resist taking ‘The Hundredth Name’ in vain.
Scribed by: Pete Green