Demetrius Grave was originally formed in 1994, and has gone through too many obstacles for me to list them all here. Shortly, the project has been on/off since it's formation, and has made a handful of very limited releases during the time. "The City Is So Big" is currently it's latest aural incarnation, and it's all the more relevant this day as it will get a proper CD-pressing in 2011.
The album is meant to deliver the artist's own vision of Black Metal with no compromises or mimickry, and it can surely be heard that Mr. Grave is not trying to appeal to the masses; the songs team together hissing, harsh, and lo-fi guitars and damp industrial- and techno-elements. The raw guitars range from more atmospheric expression to pure aggressive shredding, and overall they are akin to the most traditional black metal-riffs, but while still carrying such an amount of personal touch that I can't point out any specific influential bands. The vocals are raw screams and growls, and what can be heard from them is pretty traditional as well. What makes the songs more special is the clearer and more groovy (but still simplistic) bass guitar that provides the strong backing pulse for the songs with it's beating, and makes the song structures less of a mess. The industrial elements vary from plain electronic drum loops and backing ambience to more dominant techno-oriented synth madness, all the way to some samples of classical instruments such as cellos and a saxophone.
It surprised me how stylish and serious this album sounds and feels like, as I've heard more than a few of black metal-bands mixing electro- and industrial elements into their music in a way that makes the end result sound like a bad joke. One of the main things that Demetrius Grave did right is that he didn't overuse the industrial gimmicks, and that he crafted them to fit the compositions and to work in unison with the actual instruments. They add a twist of surprise to the music, keep the album interesting and give it a good dose of variation, making it last better through its lenghty playtime. One other noteworthy thing is that the industrial sounds share a good amount of the same harshness and crudeness as the black metal -elements instead of sounding like lifeless plastic, making them fit really well together with the guitars. The soundscape is surprisingly holistic and unified.
The negatives consist, if shortly said, of the album carrying a too large amount of unfinished ideas. The songs vary a lot from each other, but don't leave much to the listener's mind aside of their overall pleasing and surprising sound. I think that the artist lenghtened the album too much and tried to fix the lenght by adding some filler elements here and there, whereas he should've made the album more concise. By giving the songs a bit stronger contrasts, balancing out the build-ups with a few more thought-out calmer spots, and by throwing out all the mediocre and most usual ideas of the bunch, the album could've been published as a killer 40-minuter.
I can only salute the artist for sticking to his chosen style and approach, and for actually aiming for his own sound instead of being a follower. I'll be waiting for the CD-version, hoping it will include the lyrics and have a less boring visual side. Meanwhile, the tape should be available for purchase.