The latest act to trot off the impressive SvartRecords conveyor belt, Danish quintet Demon Head like to maintain the traditions of Doom. Third full-length Hellfire Ocean Void sees their devotion to Proto and Psych Metal expanded with a little modernity but sticking true to the format, a feat undoubtedly assisted by having legendary producer Flemming Rasmussen at the knob-twiddling helm.
The album begins with the aching piano drops and guitar shimmers of intro ‘Rumours’, before erupting into the Trad Metal expression of ‘The Night Is Yours’: a rampant stallion whose sinister and melancholic undertones blend Europe with A-Ha; Pentagram with Kingdom Come. The howling, emotive dual leadwork is the big feature of the early stages, the B-movie jangles of ‘A Flaming Sea’ adding Beastmilk flavours to those dark, fuzzy rhythms alongside Ferreira Larsen’s deep timbre.
What resonates even more than Jeppe Wittus’ cushioned yet frenetic stickwork is the progressive nature of the music. There’s a loyal scent of patchouli and blood to the occult feel of ‘In The Hour Of The Wolf’ yet the melodies are wonderfully erratic, the second movement urgent and gothic with syncopated rhythmic patterns.
All this is accompanied by some truly Maiden-esque, occasionally Asian flavoured, dual solos which add a real spice. That Eastern atmosphere is continued into the semi-acoustic ‘Labyrinth’, with sixties Hippy Folk blending with penetrating percussion and more sparkling, haunting melodies.
‘Strange Eggs’ is as it suggests: an eerie, ringing opening moving towards another Goth-flavoured bluster which carries an air of weird magick throughout. The track’s second half is a maudlin drift through Limbo before a wailing echo sails into the penultimate ‘Death’s Solitude’: a less harmonic ‘Martha’s Harbour’ mixing with firing bursts of rhythm, and it’s here where one realises the size of the part Wittus’ drumming has played, his monstrous yet flexible patterns undercutting then rising above the core of the track.
Closer ‘Mercury And Sulphur’ brings all of this beauty together in swelling depth, ice-cold horror and decadent, vampiric warmth. Hellfire Ocean Void is an album of short stories in which the telling is full of stunning gravity alongside lighter, more trivial moments. It’s an album which is bound to grow and infect the soul which each added listen.
7 / 10