Century Media
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Prelude
02. Outsider
03. Obsidian
04. Beyond The Grave
05. Rebirth
06. Escape From Beyond
07. A Wake
08. The Wrath
09. The Last Day

NIGHT DEMON has been wielding its heavy metal axe since 2011, and the devoted road warriors have remained as active as possible. Beyond their debut EP, a live release and last year's "Year of the Demon" compilation, the Ventura, California-based unit has only released two "proper" long players — until now, that is. The power trio returns with "Outsider", an album that finds NIGHT DEMON remaining true to its no-frills, succinct presentation of heavy metal whilst growing and reaching beyond that more immediately recognizable heavy metal format. What's more, it's just as memorable, powerful and interesting on a thematic level as it is musically.

"Outsider" is a concept album that's fully developed and based upon a short story written by vocalist/bassist Jarvis Leatherby. It's a fictional piece about a small-town young man who aspires for more in life than those around him. He unknowingly enters a portal toward an alternate reality. The story takes interesting twists and turns and touches upon loneliness, guilt, ambition, regret and confusion. All of this, and a dose of bloodshed and revenge, was inspired by Leatherby's longtime appreciation for horror movies in addition to his internal challenges experienced during his pandemic exile to the Northern Ireland countryside. The subtextual depth and real-life struggles can surely connect with many of those who take the time to fully absorb this album and its detailed storyline. The script is available in the liner notes accompanying "Outsider", however the lyrics are not verbatim of the story, meaning that the songs can be analyzed and appreciated independently as well.

While a good storyline doesn't necessarily equate with a good musical album by default, in the case of "Outsider", NIGHT DEMON has hit a home run. The grandiose narrative is indeed matched by songwriting that's much more expansive compared to all that came before. It's familiar and rooted in what NIGHT DEMON has built over the years. Yet there is no mistake that they boldly reached beyond with a forward-thinking mindset. The title track and "Escape from Beyond" seem informed by punk rock to a certain extent. "Rebirth", on the other hand, sounds like a good slice of contemporary hard rock more than anything.

Elsewhere, "Beyond the Grave'' slows things down with a gloomy doom intro. But this isn't a doom metal song, it's a somber number that's augmented midway through with intricate yet concise progressive flourishes highlighting the considerable talents of drummer Dusty Squires, guitarist Armand John Anthony and Leatherby. Album closer "The Wrath" is jam-packed with emotive soaring vocals, high-intensity metal, and ominous bending guitars that one wouldn't expect from NIGHT DEMON.

In addition to the album's eight songs, the CD version includes the bonus track "The Last Day", a stabbing, thrashing up-tempo song that was previously available exclusively as a Decibel magazine flex-disc. It doesn't suit the nature of the rest of the album, but in fairness, it should be perceived exactly for what it is, a bonus track. It does effectively serve to remind listeners of how much NIGHT DEMON has grown and how diverse their expression can be. The ensemble has grown more musically, but one can assume they're still the fun-loving heathens that they're known for, especially considering that one of the album's bundles includes a "party mirror," whatever that might be for.

Author: Jay H. Gorania
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