Elderhead is a solo black metal band from The United States, and this is the band's second recording. It seems that things have gone forward a lot since Elderhead's debut demo from 2009, made back when the band was a trio instead of its current one-man state. Maybe this "shrinkage" is the cause behind the band seemingly getting their pieces together, who knows.
The band mixes tradtional norwegian black metal together with clear influences from older progressive rock (such as Hawkwind and Blue ÷yster Cult, both of which the artist has covered), both sound- and composition-wise. The guitars are slightly thin and lo-fi, and their mixture of clean-ish rawness works perfectly in delivering the simple riffs with a really appealing rock-touch. It's as if the guitars played slightly progressive rock-riffs with a primitive touch at a calm and self-secure pace, making them fittingly crude while retaining their free flow. The drums employ really basic and steady black metal-beats with equally simple but effective fills, and a bit surprisingly this works really well as they make the guitars stand out less, while still giving them the room they need. The vocals are pretty personal-sounding low croaks and shouts that fit the soundscape really well, making the whole sound rawer without the vocals even trying to stand out too much.
In the review of Hilsen Fra Vinland I complained about the songs' illogical progress and compositional messiness, but luckily these problems were fixed before recording this demo; the songs are lenghty and versatile, but sound natural. The overall flow is really good as well, from the near-epic opener to the rawest and most black metal-based song "Dod Ravn Jar," to the rocking and progressive B÷C-cover with its ending sample of a rainstorm, to the over six minutes long closer which lies somewhere between brutality, rawness, speed and lighter and more "trippy" spheres. Unlike on the previous demo, this time the cover song fits the whole really well, and sounds like a natural and functioning part of it.
I've listened to this demo for well over a dozen times, and it still keeps on intriquing me. One factor which keeps the demo interesting, aside of its overall good quality and well thought out structure, is the fact that it has a varying soundscape. My guess is that "Corpse Values" was recorded in segments during a period of time, as although the songs share enough similarities in their soundscape for the demo not to sound like a compilation, especially the second track is easy to notice as having a different soundscape (in this case meaning a rawer, more distorted one). I have to count it as a slight negative thing too, though, as it left me unsecure about whether or not the band would be able to carry through an EP- or an album lenght employing a perennial soundscape.
The demo is a quality one. The negative aspects consist of the uneven soundscape, as it makes the demo feel less of a whole and makes it too easy for Elderhead to come out as seemingly capable of creating natural variation, as well as the lack of clearer hooks and gimmicks to really make the demo crush skulls. It takes a couple of spins to get into the songs due to the lo-fi soundscape making the songs hide their sharpest hooks, and this fact makes the demo sound a tad safe and overall not as striking as it could've been - although the songs might not come together as well if they had a different soundscape.
An interesting effort, but not as memorable as it should've been. I'll be waiting to hear more.