Every year, hundreds of metal bands materialize on Earth. They put out albums, they go on tour, and a few find an audience. They keep the grind going for as long as they can, and then they sink back into the muck, never to be heard from again. But some are good enough that even if they don’t “make it big,” their music sticks in your head after they’ve faded away.
I’ve been listening to Demiricous’s second album, Two (Hellbound), for almost 15 years. It came out on Metal Blade in October 2007, and I got a copy when I was working at Metal Edge. I loved it instantly, and it’s always in whatever digital music player I’m using at the moment.
Their sound was a kind of grimy redneck thrash; on their debut, One (Poverty), they’d done little but recycle old Slayer riffs, and gotten slagged for it, but this time out they had swirled hardcore, noise, and a post-Slipknot Middle American rage (they’re from Indianapolis) all together into a thick brown-gray sludge. Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal produced Two, but you could have told me Kurt Ballou did it — it had that kind of face-punching energy that makes you want to crank it up and do donuts in high school parking lots at two AM, screaming “Hail Satan” out the window.
I assume Demiricous toured hard in their time, but I never got the chance to see them live. And neither of their albums sold well enough to keep them on Metal Blade’s roster. Before long, they were forgotten, by the market anyway. I never stopped listening to Two, and could even be convinced to play One sometimes.
This month, out of nowhere, Demiricous are back. Their third studio album, Chaotic Lethal, is on the Post. Recordings label out of their home city, and it’s great. It’s got the same foaming-at-the-mouth rage as Two, but there are a lot of subtle elements that show musical growth, as players and songwriters. The first track, “Unconditional Hate,” begins with an ominous intro (ambient sound, horror-movie piano), followed by a shredtastic guitar solo, before bassist/vocalist Nate Olp begins howling the lyrics in a hoarse, almost panicked shout. “Fuck the Fire” has fist-pumping, shout-along energy, guitarists Ben Parrish and Scott Wilson sprinting downfield as drummer Dustin Boltjes carpet-bombs everything. He delivers the same kind of blast-beat avalanche on “Terminal Future,” one of the catchier songs (Olp almost sings on the chorus) and the first single. Meanwhile, the title track is a crawling postpunk-industrial-metal death march that reminds me of Ministry’s “Scarecrow” (a very good thing), and the nine-minute final track, “Faith Crime,” ends in a wash of noise and static, bringing the whole thing full circle. This is one of 2022’s best metal albums, even better because it’s so unexpected.
I emailed Scott Wilson some questions about the new album and the state of Demiricous generally. His answers are below.
On your debut you were a Slayer clone band, but on the second album you really had your own sound — this kind of grinding redneck thrash. How did that sound develop so quickly, and if you had it to do over again, would you have released the debut at all?
Slayer clone, huh? So you’re asking if we regret One? Nope. We still play a lot of those songs and people go the hell off for them when we play them live. So I don’t regret a fuckin’ thing about them. I’m also a bit confused as to why anyone would expect us to “change the shape of metal as we know it” anyways. Nobody is really asking that question to all the other “clones” out there. You know, we never claimed to be reinventing the wheel here. So if that’s what you expected from us… On our debut album? In our early 20s? I don’t know what to tell you.
The reality of Demiricous is that we’re just four best friends trying to have a good time together and create music we want to hear. You guys can call it whatever you want. But that’s all it is to us.
You worked with Zeuss on your first album and Erik Rutan on your second. How would you contrast those two experiences? What did you learn from each of them?
We learned a lot. And those guys are great at what they do. But I think what we learned mostly was not to rush it. I’d rather talk about Wes Heaton and 1857 Studios and our experience there. Wes is amazing at what he does and we had the time we needed to get exactly what we wanted. This album sounds exactly the way we wanted it to and is more “us” than we’ve ever been able to capture.
Looking back now, was there anything in particular that you could have done to get bigger but didn’t, or was the audience just unresponsive?
We made a lot of mistakes. One of which was allowing our manager at the time to take the wheel. We played tours that didn’t make sense, bought from companies that didn’t make any sense… we wasted a lot of time and money. We should have been much more DIY. But we were talked out of it.
We’re not concerned with getting “bigger.” We don’t have any delusions of grandeur. Our music would sound a lot different if “getting big” was the goal. But we do want to play music together. Unfortunately a lot of terrible financial decisions were made back in the day that eventually stopped that from happening. So it goes.
How did your relationship with Metal Blade end? Your first two albums are on your own Bandcamp page now. Did the rights revert back to you, or did you have to buy them back?
I’ve always felt that Metal Blade was fantastic to us. Maybe too good to us. Everything that I want to complain about as far as our experience with the music biz has nothing to do with them. They were fantastic. And they’ve really been great recently too. Getting back to us promptly and whatnot.
I’m not too sure of the ins and outs of the first two albums. What we can and can’t do with them. But it’s been over 10 years so we can pretty much do whatever. There was talk of releasing them on vinyl… but I think there are some details we have to work out with them before that actually happens. I’m not quite sure. But for the record: Metal Blade was great.
The new album has all the same musicians as the last one. Have you all been getting together continuously the last 15 years, and if so, how long have the plans for this re-emergence been in the works?
Nah… we all thought we were done. We were all still great friends through the years. But I think we all just moved on. Were just ready to forget about it. But one day MetalSucks wrote an article and included us in it 12 years later. And it kinda got Dustin thinking. So he started hitting us up asking if we wanted to start playing again and everybody was like… “OK!” We played a reunion show in our hometown that went balls to the wall and just went straight from the show into the basement and started writing Chaotic Lethal. That was that.
What do you all do for a living, and what was the “Oh, now we have to get real jobs” adjustment like after your initial run?
We always had jobs. I’m not sure I ever really even saw a dollar. I watched everybody around us get paid. But we just had to figure it out. Tour had a $5 a day rule. That’s all we allowed for ourselves. And when we came home we went right the fuck back to our jobs. Had to. I came home empty-handed every time. Gas prices were fucked. We were playing with bands that didn’t make a bit of sense. Our guarantees were $100. Every dollar we made was spoken for. The one tour where we actually were doing pretty good, someone broke into the van and stole everything. So… we’ve always worked.
Nate’s got his own leather shop. I do internet horseshit. Dustin bartends. And Ben wears a hazmat suit, making weird-ass drugs or some shit. I’m not really sure.
It’s fairly easy to draw a line from Poverty to this album, but there’s been some evolution, too. There’s some industrial noise on “Chaotic Lethal” and “Merciless Slut Cult,” and the piano on “Unconditional Hate” and the clean guitar bit on “Fuck the Fire.” How would you describe the new material in terms of your overall catalog?
There’s a few differences… we’re older. Our tastes have evolved. We had a lot more freedom. We had Wes Heaton on our side who was very patient with us. We have Post. Recordings on our side who were also very patient. We got what we wanted this time. We had the time, the freedom, and the right people around us to help make it happen. I think that’s the big difference. The people involved. A lot of our very talented and true friends came together and helped us put this fucker down. And you can hear that, I think.
What’s the best riff on the record? Or your favorite moment on it in general?
Oh man… best riff, huh? “Fuck The Fire” has a few of my favorite moments. The midsection is one of my favorites. And Nate’s vocals are just so hateful and sing along as all hell. Ben’s solos pretty much everywhere too. Ben’s solos are singalong! Ha ha. And emotive as hell.
What are your goals this time around? Are you making another run at success, however that’s defined in 2022, or are you just doing the record because you enjoy making music together?
I already feel successful. So anything else that happens is just icing, you know? I get to make music with my best friends? Still? I’m happy with that. I’m not sure much else matters. But I’m sure we’ll tour a bit. See what’s out there that makes sense for us to do… and we’ll do it.