Unleashed upon the world through Fighter Records, a sub-label of Spain’s own Xtreem Music, comes a Swedish heavy metal band who do things the old fashioned way, sort of. This is something as unusual as a demo released by a label, as the title Demo 2016 subtly implies. Considering the quality of the music, it is obvious why this has been signed and released, while the production won’t let you forget that it’s a demo. More on that later.
A clear scent of New Wave of British Heavy Metal pervades the whole recording, many riffs bring Judas Priest and early Dickinson-era Iron Maiden to mind. The lyrics tell a story of a type very much in the vein of King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, whose sound is also a clear influence on the music. This storytelling style of lyrics is pretty fun – certainly no obvious expression of literary genius, but this sort of thing is not done as often as it could have been. It clearly adds a little to the overall experience.
The songs are filled with great riffs, licks and melodies, ranging from the heavy and simplistic, to quite technical guitarwork. The drums have a nice drive to them, and the vocals covers the whole heavy metal spectrum. There are a couple of high-pitched parts every now and then, but overall Erik Nordkvist is a singer more in the tradition of the already mentioned Bruce Dickinson, or perhaps rather Blaze Bayley (which is not meant as a bad thing – this reviewer loves the X-Factor, and Virtual XI had a problem with song writing, not vocals).
As for the production, it is clearly of demo quality, but that is not at all a bad thing. While we are all used to hearing black metal and certain sub-genres of grind/death (think goregrind/porngrind) with primitive sound, heavy metal tends to come in heavily polished packages these days. Now, obviously it would not be a particularly good idea to release a heavy metal recording with a production quality like that of some 90’s NSBM demo from Poland. Still, heavy metal could often stand to gain a little from a cruder, more down-to-earth sound. In this reviewer’s opinion, Candle have found the sweet spot here. There is a slight rehearsal room feeling – not in the sense of a rehearsal tape, but you can well and truly hear the instruments being played. There’s a corporeality to the whole recording, which simply said just hits the spot. Whether a similar feeling can be carried over to a full length album with a bit more money spent on the studio remains to be seen.
The only downside to this record’s demo status is the playing time – we are offered a mere four tracks. Each and every one of them are great, though, provided you like this type of metal. Demo 2016 releases today (2017-02-15), and is available for a very nice price from Xtreem Music, as well as for digital download from Bandcamp.