Ušumgal - DEMO MMXXII (Self-released)

As someone who thinks that the production of an extreme metal record should be as confrontational and ugly as the music therein, I love a good demo.  They're usually recorded on a budget, and when they're executed well, they can distill a band's primordial quiddity down to its crudest essence, before that ichor is diluted by poor studio decisions, lineup changes, or the complacency that often follows commercial success.  The abbreviated format also forces a band to make their case as quickly as possible.  In a scene that's bustling with budding talent (and desperate wannabes), first impressions are critical.

Sometimes a demo does more than just grab you by the collar, and also bashes your face in with a well-timed headbutt. Ušumgal's demo bloodied my nose when I chanced across it a couple of months ago, without wasting a second.  The three tracks on their first release barely exceed ten minutes, but they maintain a convulsive, adrenaline-fueled intensity that left me shell-shocked (and eager to click "play" again).  The band's core sound is steeped in a particularly primitive strain of war metal (WM), but it also hijacks a few elements from grind—the tornadic blast-beats are more spastic than those deployed in traditional WM; there's a jaunty call-and-response between the barks and rasps; and it worships at the chrome altar of unfettered speed.  Despite the demo's harried feel, it still manages to clobber with beefy slabs of monobrow groove, and the interplay between those tempo shifts and the frantic, headlong riffs that clear their path to them is where the band truly shines.  This agile, combat-ready mien resembles a larval version of Black Curse, or a grindier take on Profane Order's spiteful sadism, but the result doesn't sound derivative or hackneyed.  Ušumgal have already carved out a niche of their own.