Demilich – Nespithe (1993)
Nespithe is a great example of what I’ve come to think of as “academic” death metal – the sort that emphasizes difficult, rhythmically complex content above all else. Suffocation is a good point of comparison, although they’re rather more accessible than Demilich. One reason you might’ve heard of this band, if you know of them at all, is that they offer their entire discography for free at their official website… you can still pay for physical copies if you wish.
Nespithe‘s main hook, though, is not its price, or even its construction, but its infamous vocals and lyrics… although when I say “infamous”, I may be exaggerating for comedic effect. If burp metal is a thing, it probably had its start here in the exceptionally low pitched, albeit not particularly harsh tones of Antti Boman. On the grand spectrum of death metal vocals, it’s firmly in a sector that emphasizes aesthetics over intelligibility. Ultimately, these vocals are in service to lyrics that tend more towards Lovecraft-style “cosmic” horror than some of the other modes death metalheads like, such as gore, Satanism, warfare, science fiction. Potentially unsettling stuff; you could argue that the incomprehensible vocals either push listeners to the lyric books, or that the vocalist should’ve used a more intelligible style, but if you did, you’d be wasting your time trying to influence an album that’s old enough to get drunk.
On the other hand, good songwriting keeps an album fresh for longer than gimmicky vocals. Nespithe has the interesting dichotomy of being both highly melodic and highly dissonant; the former in fact is used in service of the latter. There isn’t a lot of metal period that does this – my usual go-to example is Kreator, who uses a lot of major intervals to create a similar effect, but they don’t even do it nearly as much as Demilich, even on such albums as Extreme Aggression. It’s definitely unique, although again, unique alone is not enough to make a metal album valuable. The other major thing I’ve noticed about the songwriting on Nespithe is that the band never changes up their style. All songs here use the same basic building blocks and achieve variety solely through arrangement. Still, songs sound the same even when they aren’t, so I predict this is going to be a polarizing album, at least for the masses.
In my experience, this is one of those albums I kind of have to get into the mood for to properly enjoy; not particularly ambitious, definitely skilled at what it aims for, surprisingly sensical if you pay attention, and so forth. I would recommend it conditional on you having some experience with vaguely similar bands, but then again, most of my recommendations are conditional, and when was the last time you jumped into a genre you had no experience with anyways? To be fair, Nespithe isn’t a bad way to shock therapy yourself into being a death metal fan, but it’s definitely going to leave you with different predispositions than, let’s say, Morbid Angel…
Highlights: “The Sixteenth Six-Tooth Son of Fourteen Four-Regional Dimensions (Still Unnamed)”, “The Echo (Replacement), “Erecshyrinol”