Nespithe, the title of Demilich’s sole album, is an anagram. If you rearrange the letters, it reads “The Spine. Or alternately “The Penis.” It’s an obscure double entendre. Technical death metal bands love obscure insular mythology. They aren’t generally known for their wit though—nor for having any particular interest in sex.
In this, as in many things, Finland’s Demilich is both a weird, clotted, vomiting encapsulation of its genre and some sort of weird clotted vomiting refutation. Start with Antti Boman’s vocals, which are a parody of death’s cookie monster growl. Lots of death metal “singers” use incomprehensible demon gutterals and gargles.
But Boman burrows down beneath the under-abyss into someplace wetter and choked with methane. On the ridiculously equally elaborately named “The Sixteenth Six-Tooth Son of Fourteen Four Regional Dimensions (Still Unnamed),” Boman doesn’t so much sing as rhythmically and incomprehensibly belch. It’s what it would sound like if testicular cancer tried to rap about the cosmic emptiness of the multiverse.
You were born by
Fourteen Four-regional Dimensions
Their milt and spawn gave your life of various alterations
You know there’s no god or belial
Your mission’s to show the only way is denial.
Demilich’s songwriting is also both thing and anti-thing—or both not-god and not-belial, as Boman might have it. Just listen to the opening blast of “The Cry,” choking on its own tangled gonad-ripping landspeed churn, and you can tell that guitarist Aki Hytönen, bassist Ville Koistinen, and drummer Mikko Virnes adore a good riff as much as the next Deicide, and embrace the technical death-metal remit of impossible prog time changes and fearsome instrumental metastasizing competence.
In fact, they love those things so much that they hate them and want to devour them in a spewing geyser of viscera. Every track on Nespithe is a severed heap of death metal tropes, with bludgeoned bits of quivering flesh flopping and sweating to the thing that does not beat. “The Putrefying Road in the Nineteenth Extremity (…Somewhere Inside the Bowels of Endlessness…)” for instance, starts with a mid-tempo doomy death trudge, before a stop time break at about the 28 second mark.
Then it rushes up to a thrash free jazz assault for the next quarter minute. When Boman comes in (“After too many dimensions/Arriving to the last one/A road covered with the dying/Shadows masticating them,)” the band does a feral pivot to pummeling almost dance rhythms, until around 1:20, when Hytönen launches into a solo, picking out individual notes like vibrating broken teeth for a few seconds.
And then the band heads for another riff… There are some precedents for what for want of a better term we have to refer to as Demilich’s sound. The band was surely influenced by Atheist’s flirtation with jazz, and possibly by the Minutemen’s fractured hardcore punk funk. The rhythm section’s imitation of busted industrial machinery lacerated by electric guitar might almost fit into the Jazz Satellites compilation.
Maybe Nespithe is fusion with the skin eaten off the skull. But even if you can sort of see how Demilich got there, the there they got to is still likely to make your inner ear leak an ooze with several too many legs. The album jerks with a parody of vitality; try to head-bang to it and you’ll probably snap your neck. As in the song title “The Planet That Once Used to Absorb Flesh in Order to Achieve Divinity and Immortality (Suffocated to the Flesh That It Desired…),” the band is both ambitious and the humid tomb of ambition.
They’ve managed an amazing achievement in the vivisecting of rotten meat. It’s music meant to make you cackle and retch and cackle again, as Demilich lusts for some mutilated something—a new, hideous genre of penis-spine, where death metal goes to rise zombie like into whatever form of existence is more hideous than death.