Smoke from The Netherlands is back with a second demo, this time consisting of more recent material from 2009. The style presented on the tape hasn't changed much from the group's debut demo. The A-side is twenty-two minutes of chaotic, improvised and raw black metal, and the B-side consists of an eleven-minute live gig recording.
The songs on the A-side tend to be of the faster kind. The riffs are simplistic, but have such good rhythmics and a the necessary amount of short slower parts that they'll stay interesting. The guitars have a raw and grainy sound which truly creates a deep and hostile soundscape, and the slightly damp and fittingly violent, even noisy drums enchance the chaos. The vocals are hoarse growls and shouts pretty much in the back, and their sound does compliment the overall atmosphere nicely. They suffer from too much echo every now and then, though, and it innecessarily softens them up.
Overall the A-side shows that the band has gone forward. The songs are of overall better quality, and the soundscape now compliments them better, while creating a more chaotic feel. The sub-par moments are all the rarer, although there are still a couple of fumbling parts that could've been left out altogether. The duo behind Smoke seems to be more capable and "at home" with their style now, and the next step would be to raise the bar a bit higher. It's a shame that some of the songs end to or begin from a crude cut-out, the band would do well pay some more attention the song transitions in the future to create a stronger flow. I wouldn't mind if their next release was a bit shorter, too, as they could make a really great EP if they tightened their ideas and chaos into a more concise form. We'll see.
The B-side consists of a live-recording with a weaker and more usual soundscape. The instruments sound imbalanced, and when the guitars play a weaker riff it's clearly audible. This side has a more freely flowing feel, but overall it moreso presents the band's flaws instead of their strenghts, and the transitions between the songs have been cut from the whole performance, and it damages the atmosphere. It's a nice gesture from the band to offer a glimpse of their live performance, but in this case it merely lenghtens the demo and brings out the band's flaws. Some negative feedback must be sent to the label as well: the covers look really dark and cheaply printed, and do no justice to the music. I hope the label puts more effort into the quality of the covers in the future.
Smoke has gone forward, but still has some flaws the band should really work on. These recordings are from more than a year ago already, so it'll be interesting to hear more recent material from the band when the time comes.