Démonos - Anno Daemonium (Self-released)

Bubbling up from India’s churning ferment of metal bands, Démonos’ hazy and meditative black metal (BM) affords an opportunity briefly to survey that region’s rich and diverse ecology for extreme music. Newly minted as the most populous country in the world, it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that India has become somewhat microcosmic of the global metal community, in its encompassing the oddball aesthetics and attendant ethics—good, bad, and ugly—of everything from harshened Motörhead speed metal (see Kryptos); to rap-laced nü metal (Bloodywood); to sketchy war metal trading in hateful, ethnonationalist symbolism (Tetragrammacide). At this point, one can just expect that most types of headbanging music being played anywhere else in the world have a torchbearer or two on the subcontinent.

Without denying that I’ve cracked a smile listening to the leather-jacket theatrics on Afterburner, I’m thankful that Démonos solo-artist Dipankar Roy has steered clear of these and other compatriots’ more campy and/or abhorrent claims to fame. If this full-length debut Anno Daemonium begs any domestic comparison, it’s that Roy burns incense with a similar aroma to the stick sparked by the nameless ascetics in गौतम बुद्ध (‘Gautama Buddha’). I’m definitely not qualified to discuss the alignments or conflicts between that band’s spiritual iconography and Démonos’ fascination with occult mythologies, but their black metal shares a warm and almost buttery melodicism. And yet, whereas 2021's पुनर्जन्म भाग १ (‘Rebirth Part 1’) offered a singularly mantric iteration of what has already become a banner decade for raw-BM esoterica—in Vauruvã's jungle bacchanalia, in Gudsforladt’s surfside jousting matches, and in Kexelür’s soot-stained necromancy—Anno Daemonium translates a kindred grit into something more like the existentialist pontifications of Vitriolic Sage or perhaps (early) Leiþa. Much of this hifalutin affect can be attributed to Roy's bilious snarl and free use of non-BM instrumentation (check out the painterly "Clair de lune" arpeggios on the piano interlude, "Oneiric Proselytism"). Still, he's at his best when he's binding all these trendy flavors and textures together in a viscous slurry of stirring and recurring melodies. Opener "Magma Stigmata" sprouts from the seed of a single ascending leitmotif and, thanks to its tripartite structure, imbues the entire nine-minute meditation with enough narrative to carry its own EP. A perfect encapsulation of Anno Daemonium's dreamy appeal, it coaxes listeners with the promise of hypnagogic revelation, only to leave them with a nagging sense that they've been wading—and sinking—in quicksand all along.