Album Review | Clairvoyance | Demo ’20

With the state of the world as it is, it’s really no surprise that so many new death metal bands are erupting onto the scene. 2020 has been bludgeoning us over the head since late February, so what better soundtrack to that metaphysical beating than some dank and disturbing death? The latest record to whip my ears into submission is the debut demo by Polish old-school death metal outfit Clairvoyance, whose belligerent riffing could very well be the background music to Satan’s torture pits.

Demo ’20 is Clairvoyance’s opening salvo, their introduction to the world, and good god is it beastly. The vocals live at the very bottom of the throat, like Cthulhu itself is wrangling the microphone. From blastbeats to booming kick patterns, the drums are tight, technical, and terrifying. The bass fills the low end with sludgy fuzz while running up and down the neck. The guitars feel almost like percussive instruments with how aggressively they are played, yet there is no lack of finesse in those frenzied leads and crushing palm mutes. Clairvoyance clearly wear their heroes on their sleeves, but rather than simply emulating them, they’ve synthesized their old school idols into something fresh and fearsome.

“Pointless Rebirth” opens the EP with a quiet scrape of noise that swells ominously for a few seconds, the reborn soul of the song that quickly bursts into life as a blastbeat. Vicious growls announce the arrival of the band proper as they sling distortion and hectic drums across the sonic landscape. Between bouts of tremolo picking and thundering double bass, the band pulls the tempo back to a slow trudge, the guitar palm mutes leading the band through a valley of dark ugly chords. “Pointless Rebirth” undulates between tempos and feels, creating a push/pull effect that one might say mirrors the movement of a cyclical reincarnation: soaring highs leading to gritty, abominable lows and back again through eternity.

Unlike its predecessor, “Broken Shackles” dives right into the heavy, opening with a stomping drumbeat carrying a guitar riff that reminds me of a funeral march. The band maintains this tempo through the first half of the song, filling the space between beats with plenty of wailing guitar work. The song grows slightly more triumphant as it progresses, until the vocals issue a guttural howl, and the band breaks into a sudden charge, capped by a squealing guitar solo. This culminates in a brutal breakdown that seals off the song like a cave-in. I can’t listen to “Broken Shackles” without imagining the beast on the album cover arising from an underground prison, shattered chains swinging from its wrists as it pulverizes its captors into dust and gore.

The final track on the EP, “Abyss,” opens with a roar of feedback before the band dives head-on into the darkness. This track is the mosh-call of the live set, featuring multiple grueling rhythmic moments that demand thrashing. The overdriven bass stands out on this track, locking with the drum patterns while painting them with rapid-fire melodics. The song is split into two by a low rumbling vocal break, as if the abyss isn’t just looking back, but speaking back as well. The final 1.5 minutes of the track then center on the most brutal riff on the record, one that launches like a swan-dive into the open mouth of hell and slowly fades to nothing, truly reflecting the concept of a bottomless, lightless hole that the title conjures.

As far as introductions go, Clairvoyance kicks in the front door with Demo ’20. These three tracks show the band not just working out their sound, but honing it, pulling from their forebears without being derivative. The performances are visceral, the songs collected and creative without dragging on or beating a single guitar motif to death like so many other bands of the genre tend to do. Assuming that hell doesn’t open up and swallow us all before the year’s end, Clairvoyance will be the band to watch in the coming months. And if the abyss does come a’calling for us, at least we’ve got an appropriate soundtrack ready to go.

My Top Track: “Abyss”

Demo 20’ is out via Caligari Records; you can purchase a physical copy from Bandcamp or stream the album on Spotify. For all things Clairvoyance, follow them on Facebook and Instagram @clairvoyancedeathmetal.

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