Demons. Zach Gehring’s project. Guitarist for Mae. Harder edged. No expectations or pressure — just play. Side band.
You know who else has a side band? Slash. And no one cares. Why? Because it sucks.
It doesn’t matter how legendary Slash is. A band can either bring it or it can’t. All the backstory in the world isn’t going to save you if your band sucks. Either you can write great songs or you end up playing free shows in the Summer on some godforsaken beach somewhere. Guns and Roses reunites and all hell breaks loose, but no one can tell me the last time the Snakepit played in this town. Well, no.. I’m sure someone reading this will pop off with a date, a setlist, and a list of reasons on why my Mother shouldn’t have had me because I’ve just mortally offended the half dozen fans they’ve managed to hang onto. Doesn’t matter. They still suck.
It is of no consequence if you used to write great songs with some other band. That was then. This is now. And if you aren’t writing great music in the present? Your band is terrible. The end. Too bad for you. There’s seventeen billion different combinations of people making music out in the world these days. If you can’t give me a decent record right now? I’m off to the next. It’s a cold, cruel life. What can I say?
That being what it is? Demons totally brings it. And their new album fucking rocks.
We already knew that Demons is the best live band in the city, bar none. The Norfolk four piece is profoundly anchored by Drew Orton, arguably the greatest hardcore drummer ever to pick up sticks in the 757. Add to that a rock solid groove laid down by bassist Jon Anderson, who provides the underpinning for the sonic theatrics of Chris Matthews and an overall orchestration by Norfolk’s Philosopher King, Zach Gehring — who is oftentimes interesting as hell. “Embrace Wolf” proves that whatever the initial thoughts concerning this band’s trajectory as expressed at its inception? This is no flash in the pan. This is a project that deserves life beyond a status as a side-whatever. There’s magic happening here. Alchemist madness fueled through a commitment to leave nothing behind either on stage or in the studio. This is a band that should be touring nationally. A group that could have gone toe to toe with anything SST Records put out back in the day.
The ad copy on this denotes it as a debut album. I’m not sure I understand why the previous (and equally excellent) “Great Dismal” EP fails to qualify as their debut record, but whatever. There’s growth here. Ostensibly, the entire concept behind Demons is about Gehring exorcising his heavier instincts, which most of the time don’t really find a release with Mae. The sound, with a few exceptions, more fully embraces the Punk component of its Post-Punk heritage. Pushing off with the faintest echo of some Bad Brains kicking out the jams, it quickly shifts into a gear that would easily complement the heyday of Bad Religion or Fugazi.
At the same time, there’s a continuation of faint threads of a Proto-Seattle sound merged with a slight Queens of the Stone Age influence already established by their 2015 release. This record manages both cleaner than the first, while incorporating some surprisingly lush sound-play. It plays a neat trick in coming across as both dense and brash in equal measures. Matthews is given turns at vocals on “Always Your Own” and “Nobody Loves You the Way You Are.” I don’t have liner notes so it’s hard to tell who’s singing what where, but it seems like this album is spreading the vocal work evenly between its two guitarists. “Decibel Farmer,” a throwback to a more SoCal flavor, is a personal favorite of mine. And while Orton’s work is consistently excellent across the board, he especially shines on “Wish.”
Look.. I could go on and on, but the long and the short of it is: This is a badass record.
You should go out and buy it.
This isn’t a side band at all. This is meat and potatoes.
And it deserves your full attention.