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Small Load Go Boom: Apothecary's Favorite EPs And Demos


Written by: Apothecary
Published: 03.05.2021


When we think of our favorite releases from our favorite bands, we're most probably thinking along the lines of their full-length LPs, i.e. releases about 35 minutes or longer in their duration. It's a lot rarer that people include bands' demos and EPs in these mental rosters, areas of bands' discographies often held in less regard and at times glossed over by fans entirely. Every now and then, however, these "small-time" efforts, more on the 10-30-minute side of things, do hold special weight in bands' discogs for listeners. And not without good reason.

What exactly makes a band's demo or EP stand out from the rest of their discography? It has to carry a certain memorability and lasting power to it, either by means of the atmosphere it conjures, new ideas it brings to the table, the overall "heaviness" of the music, or some combination of the three. This can be tricky, since bands normally have less room for making such an impression with demos and EPs than they do with LPs. But in the era of mass streaming, especially when we're bombarded with literally dozens of releases per day via Bandcamp, Spotify, Last.fm, etc., demos and EPs have gained a new significance, becoming a means by which bands can attempt to grab overstimulated, ADD-addled listeners by the ballz with a brief but impressive 20-odd minutes of mayhem.

Indeed, demos and EPs have become bands' prime mediums for stepping up to the challenge of making a big bang with a relatively small amount of ammo, if they weren't from the very beginning. More and more bands, younger and the more established, have been exploring the potential of the demo/EP deliver in the past decade, and the trend doesn't appear to be slowing for the 2020s, which makes an article on the subject feel particularly timely.

Come along, then, as I break down 20 of my favorite examples of bands absolutely nailing the demo/EP angle over a roughly 40-year period. I know I forgot to include your favorites, yes. I probably did so on purpose.




Metallica - No Life Til Leather [Demo, 1982]

Metallica are the most overrated metal band on the planet, but, hey, for the first 8 years or so, they kicked some serious ass. And it all started with this punchy little demo tape, the only (official) recording from the band to feature Ron McGovney on bass and Dave Mustaine on lead guitar, later replaced by Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett, respectively. The production here is pretty shit compared to future Metallica releases, but there's a certain raw beauty in that in a way. It's the sound of an energetic young band who started off in the garage coming up in the fledgling Bay Area thrash scene, ready to conquer the world. The demo is also notable for featuring a version of "Jump In The Fire" with different lyrics, as well as "The Mechanix," later stolen from Mustaine and rewritten as "The Four Horsemen" for the band's Kill 'Em All debut.





Mercyful Fate - Mercyful Fate [EP, 1982]

Yes, yes, Melissa and Don't Break The Oath are both fantastic, but we can't forget about the "Nuns Have No Fun" EP, now can we? To date, I still don't think there's anything that sounds quite like this. It was, in a way, heir to the Iron Maiden style, and the twin guitar work of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner was a bit derivative of Judas Priest, but still Mercyful Fate made their metal far more cryptic and transgressive with their lyrical content, and the magnificent falsettos of frontman King Diamond were simply unparalleled elsewhere in the metal spectrum at the time. This is also the one Mercyful Fate release that made me think the band was British for a while, as it has a noticeable punk-like edge to it as did many of the NWOBHM releases coming out at the time. Maybe not the best Mercyful Fate release, but definitely one that succeeded in bringing the band a lot of attention with a relatively small amount of material.





Morbid - December Moon [Demo, 1987]

More than anything, this demo will most be remembered for introducing the world of black metal to Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin, who would go on to front Mayhem before his untimely suicide a few years later. Aside from Dead's excellent grunts, shrieks, and howls, the music itself is delightfully well executed as well, sitting on the transitional cusp between first- and second-wave black metal and managing to be both thrashy and riff-heavy while also being darkly atmospheric. Something of a cult classic, December Moon remains an important piece of black metal history.





Woods Of Belial - Baxabaxaxaxaxabaxaxaxaxa! 666 Yndstr Draconis [Demo, 1997]

Many strange bands have come out of Finland over the years, but few quite as idiosyncratic and downright unusually as the criminally overlooked Woods Of Belial. Employing a spine-tingling, nightmarish fusion of doom, industrial, and black metal, this kvlty bunch dropped several demos in the late '90s before putting out their first and only full-length and then sadly breaking up in the mid-2000s. Baxabaxaxaxaxabaxaxaxaxa! 666 Yndstr Draconis leans more toward the doom/industrial side of things, and while it may be one of the less known demos in this article, readers would be remiss in underestimating its influence, particularly upon the later work of Blut Aus Nord and the prolific Maurice de Jong.





The Meads Of Asphodel - Metatron And The Gleaming Red Serpent [Demo, 1999]

The Meads Of Asphodel would ultimately end up getting much, much weirder than this, but even early on, as this demo demonstrates, the band was not one to be classed easily with its contemporaries. A folky black metal sound dominates here, but not Norse/Germanic "folky," no more like Monty Python playing black metal. The multi-instrumentalist known as Jaldaboath utilizes an array of instruments both traditional and not, creating a bouncy, energetic, medieval-ish atmosphere over which the tongue-in-cheek, story-like delivery of Metatron's vocals serves as the perfect complement. A bit overlooked in the Meads discography, this demo is an excellent testament to how the band came in heavy (and successfully) with the weirdness factor from the very beginning.





Wormphlegm - In An Excruciating Way Infested With Vermin And Violated By Executioners Who Practise Incendiarism And Desanctifying The Pious [Demo, 2001]

I already mentioned that some pretty crazy shit comes out of Finland. Here's another example. The subsubgenre of funeral doom was already fairly established by the time of this demo, but Wormphlegm, perhaps inspired by their contemporaries in Dolorian, made their take on the style far bleaker, more punishing, and more unrelenting. The title, while obnoxiously long, is far from inaccurate. This thing drowns you six feet deep in slime and torturous agony and never bothers to check whether you've come up for air. At the time of its release, this demo won the young Wormphlegm a fair amount of esteem in the metal underground, and nearly 20 years later it remains one of the harshest funeral doom offerings ever put to tape.





Blut Aus Nord - Thematic Emanation Of Archetypal Multiplicity [EP, 2005]

A word of advice to the up-and-coming bands of the metal world: if you're going to drop an EP in between two full-lengths, try not to make it sound too much like the one you just put out or the one you have coming next. Blut Aus Nord have always been masters of this technique. TEOAM came in between The Work Which Transforms God and MoRT, both landmark releases for the band, but it doesn't sound overly similar to either. This EP could actually very well be the most industrial-leaning material that BAN have ever put out, veering into outright trip-hop territory at points. Intoxicatingly hypnotic and eerily bouncy and groovy, this bad boy is easily one of my top five BAN releases, and it's an excellent example of a band using an EP to explore areas untouched on their LPs.





Bell Witch - Bell Witch [Demo 2011, 2011]

Bell Witch took funeral doom by storm in the 2010s, and I doubt many anticipated them becoming as popular as they ultimately did at the start of the decade, but their inaugural demo was a great starting point that hinted at a lot of promise to come. It should be noted, though, that the sound here isn't quite that of the present-day Bell Witch; it's a rawer, more smothering wall-of-noise approach that lacks some of the finer nuances the band would display with their later material. This may not be a bad thing, though, depending on what you're looking for. What this demo may be missing in emotional subtlety and compositional intricacy it more than makes up for with its sense of gravity and forward momentum. I've even seen a good number of Bell Witch fans say they actually prefer this demo and the band's Longing debut to what came after, and I can't lie in saying I may be among them.





Bølzer - Aura [EP, 2013]

This one made quite a lot of noise upon its release, literally and figuratively. Why such a strong impact? It was undoubtedly owed to Bølzer's effective nailing of the "new old" technique. On Aura, they channeled the legacy of '90s death metal, upgraded it with a present-day ferocity and strands of black metal, and packed the catchy, neck-breaking riffs for days. And all this in <30 minutes of material generated by just two guys. Seizing the reins of the death metal underground with an iron grip, Aura established Bølzer as a force to be reckoned with, and to date its signature energy and sense of gravity still haven't quite been matched by their subsequent material.





Wormlust - Svarthol [Demo, 2010]

Wormlust is one of the hidden treasures of the Icelandic black metal scene, a project never to be classed with contemporaries past or present. The brainchild of the exceptionally talented (but highly elusive) H.V. Lyngdal, much like Leviathan, Wormlust would actually pump out several demos before finally dropping a proper debut LP. Svarthol is the last of these demos, and while it features only one 16-minute track what a track, seriously. It begins with H.V. laying down a dense cloak of psychedelic atmosphere for a solid four minutes before exploding into a whirlwind of dissonant, wobbly riffage, phenomenal drum and bass, and Lyngdal's signature howling, then descending back into the formless murk that it started with. A downright excellent cut of ambient black metal, Svarthol successfully closed out Wormlust's demo era while also dropping many hints of the future trajectory H.V. would chart with his unique project.





Progenie Terrestre Pura - Asteroidi [EP, 2014]

U.M.A., the debut LP from these Italian maestros of cosmic black metal, was released to considerable acclaim in 2013. One aspect of its composition drew particular attention: the spacey, ringy-ding-ding electronic sounds that formed the bulk of its distinct atmosphere. Many began to question what the band would sound like were they to ditch the black metal and focus solely on their electronic side. Clearly PTP were paying attention to this questioning, because they then put out this EP the following year almost as an answer. When I staff-picked it back in 2014, I described the style as "inside Samus Aran's brain." I still think that's pretty accurate.





Alkerdeel/Gnaw Their Tongues - Dyodyo Asema [EP/Collaboration, 2014]

EPs that are also collabs? Hell yeah, fam. And this is easily one of the nastiest examples of such a case: the plodding, blackened sludge of Alkerdeel matching up with the sonic terror of Dutch madman Maurice de Jong's Gnaw Their Tongues. The resulting 14-minute track sprawls out across its duration like a slowly creeping disease, a horrific fusion of doom, black metal, and ear-piercing electronic noise madness. Never the types to go without a visual complement to their jamz, upon its initial release Alkerdeel and Mr. de Jong were kind enough to accompany their offering with a delightful video depicting the process of mosquito larvae hatching. Repulsive in every sense of the word, this is an EP for the true masochists of the metal world.





Sunn O)))/Ulver - Terrestrials [EP/Collaboration, 2014]

I'm probably in the minority in saying so, but this is easily one of my favorite releases from either band. They both cheated a bit with the release year, though, as the material here was actually recorded back in 2008. No matter. The resulting music is still an excellent synthesis of the parties involved, essentially wedding the throbbing, bass-heavy drone of Sunn O))) with Ulver's bright, buzzy ambient soundscapes. While not officially released as an EP, I tend to regard it as one, as its run time fits typical EP duration. Indeed, upon its release, my biggest (and, honestly, only) complaint with Terrestrials was that it wasn't longer. Truly not enough of a good thing with this one! But on the flip side, that also gives it tremendous replay value, which is rare for an EP.





Volahn/Shataan/Arizmenda/Kallathon - Desert Dances And Serpent Sermons [EP/Split, 2015]

Crepúsculo Negro, otherwise known as the "Black Twilight Circle," appears virtually defunct these days, but from the late 2000s to mid-2010s or so, the mysterious black metal collective from the American Southwest pumped out some seriously good, (usually) Mayan-themed kvlt jamz. This split, which honestly feels more like a "various artists" comp than an EP, was one of the last major releases from BTC before they ghosted, but if it ends up remaining as such, it's an excellent send-off. The Arizmenda, Shataan, and Kallathon tracks are impressive cuts of psychedelic black metal, neofolk, and atmospheric black metal, respectively. But it's "Chamalcan," the offering from Volahn, that really steals the show, with its wicked catchy riffs and its mesmerizing, western-tinged intro. The black metal headed west on a covered wagon for this one, and when it got there, it struck gold.





Urfaust - Apparitions [EP, 2015]

Yes, this 40-minute bastard is indeed marked by the band as an EP. Shouldn't be too surprising, as Urfaust have never been rule-following types with their unusual brand of mid-tempo, clean-vocal ambient black metal anyway. But Apparitions isn't that black metal; instead, the Dutch spookies opt for a more haunting dark ambient sound here, replete with chants and all types of weird, choir-like effects. Though it meanders a bit, this EP is still highly stimulating and hallucinatory, and it would serve as an important stepping stone to what Urfaust would do later on Empty Space Meditation.





Almyrkvi - Pupil Of The Searing Maelstrom [EP, 2016]

The resurgence of the Icelandic black metal scene in the early 2010s (with the exception of Wormlust) yielded a lot of good releases, but also many that felt a little too derivative of the French Deathspell Omega. This debut EP from the one-man Almyrkvi was one of the first releases that really made me sit up like, "oh shit, maybe Iceland's really got something else going on here." An excellent fusion of spacey, Darkspace-esque ambient black metal on the one hand and some Blut Aus Nord-ish industrial grit on the other, Pupil succeeded not only in differentiating Almyrkvi considerably from contemporaries, but also in raising hype for the project's debut LP, hype that was proven not undeserved with the release of Umbra the following year.





Skáphe - Untitled [EP, 2017]

This is another example of a successful execution of the "make an EP that falls between main LPs be different from them in sound" principle. Granted, this obnoxiously titled EP isn't too much of a deviation from the psychedelic vortex black metal of prior Skáphe material, but it is definitely notable for having a lot more contributions from Wormlust's H.V. Lyngdal, particularly in the noise department. This element helps to give the EP a significant formless dark ambient edge that earlier Skáphe releases might not have lacked but didn't have to quite this extent. As a result, this single-track, 27-minute monster sits nicely as a mild detour between Skáphe² and Skáphe³ in the band's discography.





Serpent Column - Endless Detainment [EP, 2020]

Serpent Column is one of the newer members of Mystiskaos, the tightly knit black metal collective founded by Wormlust's H.V. Lyngdal and Alex Poole of Skáphe and Chaos Moon around 2016 or so. Serpent Column differed from the largely psychedelic leanings of the other Mystiskaos members considerably, being far more inclined towards a sort of angry, cacophonous, tech-heavy black metal. Project mastermind Theophonos only further demonstrated his commitment to this distinct style with this EP. Tactfully dubbed "mathcore black metal" by another MS user, it's chaotic, violent, and quite original, and serves as a good example of a band using an EP to further explore a sound previously established on one of their LPs.





Zalmoxis - A Nocturnal Emanation [EP, 2020]

Until Esoctrilihum and Skáphe came through to floor just about everything, this was probably my favorite black metal release of the past year. German black metal in particular has long carried a reputation for the creation of grandiose, quasi-operatic atmospheres, and Zalmoxis hit this nail right on the head. A Nocturnal Emanation is a lovely little EP that packs quite a lot into its 20-something minutes: dense, cascading layers of riffs, a pleasantly audible drum and bass, and a wonderfully diverse array of shrieks, howls, and deeeep cleans on the vocal front. A release whose main objective as probably to tease at anticipation for the project's debut LP, I think it definitely succeeded at such efforts.





NGHTCRWLR - Let The Children Scream [EP, 2020]

Kristina Esfandiari is fast morphing into a highly versatile, multitalented performer. She fronts King Woman, has one-woman projects Miserable (post-grunge) and Dalmatian (trip-hop), and last year she added NGHTCRWLR as yet another knot in her ever-expanding belt. This project is not to be classed easily with her other three, though, being more of a juggernaut of angsty industrial madness laced with a few more mellow, ambient moments. Part Pharmakon, part Lingua Ignota, and part Author & Punisher, while thankfully not sounding to similar to any of them, with Let The Children Scream NGHTCRWLR raised excitement high for the debut LP of this new project, which could in time become my favorite of hers.





The After-Part(y)

As I hope this article has demonstrated, demos and EPs can be a lot for bands: hype-raisers before debut LPs, test areas for exploring approaches not taken on LPs, dropping hints at the sound of upcoming material, and much more. I don't think many here on MS do, but if I can stress one thing more than anything with this writing, it's this: don't ignore these areas of bands' discographies. Sometimes there's a lot more greatness to be found in them than one might initially think.

Hey, special shout-outs sa well to

  • Leviathan - Howl Mockery At The Cross

  • Deathspell Omega - Kénôse

  • Chaos Echs - Tone Of Things To Come

  • Street Sects - Gentrification EPs

  • Cloud Rat - Do Not Let Me Off The Cliff

    Now go damage my fragile ego in the comments section, ya sonnuvabitch. ~~~ <3






    Written on 03.05.2021 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.


  • Comments

    Comments: 16   Visited by: 142 users
    03.05.2021 - 22:56
    Bad English
    Tage Westerlund
    How Che could publ3it, ic he us offline 130 days
    ----
    Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

    Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

    I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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    03.05.2021 - 23:08
    Bad English
    Tage Westerlund
    Nice, well balancet short stories about EP where all what is need to knoll was written, good work, well dono. Now radu needs mix up own version
    ----
    Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

    Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

    I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
    Loading...
    03.05.2021 - 23:32
    musclassia

    Some solid releases in here, as well as many I should have listened to but haven't; very enjoyable read nonetheless
    Loading...
    04.05.2021 - 04:00
    Lord Slothrop

    I used to have the Mercyful Fate EP and took precautions to make sure my mom never saw it.
    Loading...
    04.05.2021 - 04:01
    Lord Slothrop

    Written by Bad English on 03.05.2021 at 22:56

    How Che could publ3it, ic he us offline 130 days

    Some kind of voodoo?
    Loading...
    04.05.2021 - 15:14
    Mr Sausage

    Where's Ensiferum's Demo III ?
    Loading...
    04.05.2021 - 16:15
    RaduP
    CertifiedHipster
    Written by Mr Sausage on 04.05.2021 at 15:14

    Where's Ensiferum's Demo III ?

    Any reason why it should be here?
    ----
    Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
    One day there will be no heart at all?


    2021 goodies
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    04.05.2021 - 16:56
    Bad English
    Tage Westerlund
    Written by Lord Slothrop on 04.05.2021 at 04:01

    Written by Bad English on 03.05.2021 at 22:56

    How Che could publ3it, ic he us offline 130 days

    Some kind of voodoo?

    Maybe Rougarou
    ----
    Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

    Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

    I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
    Loading...
    04.05.2021 - 17:20
    nikarg
    Mod
    I'd put No Life Til Leather, Mercyful Fate, Kénôse, and Aura in my list too. It's so great to read something from Che again.
    Loading...
    06.05.2021 - 06:37
    tintinb

    We need a volume 2.
    ----
    Leeches everywhere.
    Loading...
    06.05.2021 - 12:12
    Dinruth

    Very good article! agree with many EPs especially Bölzer's and Almyrkvi's .. will have to check out a few others that I do not know yet. What i would also include are: Gallowbraid - Ashen eidolon and Deep Mountains - 深山,
    Loading...
    09.05.2021 - 00:03
    Bad English
    Tage Westerlund
    Written by nikarg on 04.05.2021 at 17:20

    I'd put No Life Til Leather, Mercyful Fate, Kénôse, and Aura in my list too. It's so great to read something from Che again.

    I was thinking write an article about list demo bands from demo colection I has from good bands. 5 years ago moveving. Whole work is on old pc. Maybe I consider re write it.
    ----
    Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

    Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

    I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
    Loading...
    09.05.2021 - 02:00
    nikarg
    Mod
    Written by Bad English on 09.05.2021 at 00:03

    I was thinking write an article about list demo bands from demo colection I has from good bands. 5 years ago moveving. Whole work is on old pc. Maybe I consider re write it.

    Sure, why not? But just so you know, we are thinking of charging a fee for editing from now on. We will contact you soon with a price list.
    Loading...
    09.05.2021 - 04:16
    Batlord666

    This was a fun article, thanks for sharing. I hadn't heard of Woods of Belial somehow even though Moonsorrow is one of my most favorites.
    Loading...
    11.05.2021 - 02:47
    Uxküll

    Wasn't aware of a few of these, thank you for sharing.
    ----
    "Nullum unquam exstitit magnum igenium sine aliqua dementia [there was never great genius without some madness]."

    Best of Metal A-Z: http://metalstorm.net/users/lists.php?user_id=158339
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    29.06.2021 - 12:40
    Zap

    Written by nikarg on 09.05.2021 at 02:00

    But just so you know, we are thinking of charging a fee for editing from now on. We will contact you soon with a price list.

    I think this is my favourite comment on this website.
    ----
    And the tears that we will weep today
    Will all be washed away
    By the tears that we will weep again tomorrow
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