Demos are fun, or at least they can be when you find some really good ones (they can be painful if you find a bad one), because it’s a look into the very primordial begins of a band, it’s the unrefined, dirty stuff that they will use to, hopefully, grow and progress and make their mark on the world of metal. Demos are the musical way of looking back into the big bang. You can see it all happen, the very first sound as it explodes into existence with defiance and wrath. Black metal demos are born in virulence and misanthropy so much so that (at least in my mind) there’s a market out there specifically geared to finding these demos and throwing them out into the light.
How we find these demos is a story unto itself really. How do we find demos? Word of mouth, read social media nowadays, is the best way but sometimes we just trip over them. What catches our eye in regards to demos? Is it the raw, unfinished nature of the artwork (yes I mean actually what catches our eye, even before the music)? Is it the stark, despondent looking logo that tries it’s best to be completely illegible? Is it the format? I will admit there is something about owning a huge tape collection of demos that very appealing.
I found Voidnaga just yesterday, by the recommendation of a friend, and I was impressed, to say the least. Voidnaga. The name alone caught my eye because of the promise of mythological or, at least, some folkloric references. The naga (nāga if you’re really picky) is a personal favorite of mine from Hindu folklore. Finding out that Voidnaga came from Malaysia gave me more hope, even before listening to them at all, that this was going to be a hell of a demo.
And damn was it. There was a reason this demo was on my friend’s “Favorite Demos of 2016” list. It was not your standard black metal demo, for starters, but you couldn’t really call it anything but black metal. It used a lot of culturally significant sounds and rhythms but not in a folk metal sort of way, Voidnaga is straight up black metal, it merely sounds different from most of the black metal we hear every single day. That unique sound will carry Voidnaga far in my estimation. The vocals are strong and even, something that is very important to get right on the demo, they are loud but not so loud that they outshine the music itself.
The music is raw and fuzzy, like drone. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but I felt like it gave the entire album a different framing. Normally demos are super raw and untouched, their instruments are often disconcordant and unevenly loud or quiet. The rawness is a byproduct of unintentional chaos on demos but fuzzy demos are something different altogether. The fuzzy sound is more often than not intentional, the guitar distortions usually overrun the rest of the instruments and create a smoky sort of atmosphere. Voidnaga has some killer, native riffs that sound completely otherworldly under all the fuzz and grime. Make no mistake, underneath all the fuzz and distortion Voidnaga is still a nasty, dirty band with some pretty harsh thrash influences that give the music speed and gravity. The sounds are thick and heavy but they have a weight of their own nonetheless.
It’s odd that a band’s sound can almost accurately be pinpointed to their country of origin. There’s something in the production and the underlying, subconscious that picks up familiar, folk type sounds. You can tell when a band is Finnish, Norwegian, or Swedish with varying degrees of accuracy based on that. What makes that sort of thing possible? Is Voidnaga the first in a new line of Malaysian sounds? I would hate to prematurely crown them as leaders of a new sound but I will be keeping my eye on them to see what else Voidnaga comes up with.
Voidnaga, I love saying that name, are really good, even as far as demos go, that was a good one. I know they’ve signed with Iron Bonehead, a top label in the underground, so I know that whatever they come up with next is going to be good. Check them out!
Listen and support!