Sophomore slumps are a real thing and they are an absolute bitch. You’ve seen this play out a million times before. Band X puts out a killer debut, totally catches you off guard even, an suddenly they are in discussions as one of your new favorite bands. Then Band X drops their second album and…poof. The illusion that they had something sustainable is either buried under layers of “branching out” or has vanished completely. Thankfully, for Las Vegas doom masters, Demon Lung, they’ve not only avoided the dreaded sophomore slump on their newest opus, A Dracula, but they’ve kicked it in the nuts and pushed it off a cliff.
Heavy Metal 101: If you are going to use some sort of classic and/or cult material as your muse for your album, you better damn well bring your ‘A’ game. You better do the source material proud or risk the additional level of disappointment from fans of both your band and said source material. Demon Lung rolled the dice using the cult, Mexican horror flick, Alucarda, as the consistent background image for this album. Forget coming up snake eyes on that dice roll, they came up Satan eyes. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better soundtrack this year for gratuitous amounts of blood, and sadistic hedonism.
One of the selling points of Demon Lung has always been their ability to take a traditional doom metal ethos and stretch, bend, and mold it like some sort of THC-laced putty. This album is no exception, except that in the process they’ve somehow managed to take the tempo up a notch and simultaneously get their sound even heavier, if that was even possible in the first place. Seems totally counter-intuitive for a doom band to speed up and still maintain nihilistic levels of heaviness but Demon Lung have seemed to have found the magic elixir. Tracks like “I Am Haunted” and “Deny The Savior” are just flat out oppressive in their delivery. Riffs and low-end are tossed around like blankets of cement. If they were any heavier, any more smothering, the Earth would open and swallow you whole. All the while vocalist Shanda Fredrick is like a specter just hovering in the corner, watching and recording all the madness and repeating it back in aural surrealism. One the other cloven-hoof they are able to deliver a track like “Mark of Jubilee” which glides and sails with hawk-like precision through waves of shoegaze-like ambiance before coming back down to Earth, talons ready for the kill.
The future of American doom metal is looking brighter (or is it grimmer?) by the day and Demon Lung are a big reason why. A Dracula comes out in North America via Candlelight Records in June 16. You can experience the track “Mark of Jubilee” over at the Decibel website.