Will heavy metal ever really die? Not on Night Demon‘s watch, that’s for sure. Stalwart defenders of the faith to a man, the California trio have been keeping the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal fires burning for the last decade come hell or high water. What we get out of the deal this time around is “Outsider”, the band’s third attempt at keeping the spirit alive since their last all-original release in 2017. Expecting a great sense of change wouldn’t ordinarily seem counterintuitive, given the length of time. but Night Demon are in no mood to rock the boat.
From the off, the album is packed with little nods and homages to their forebearers; a maidens-style breakdown in “Escape from Beyond” here, a Thin Lizzy-style shout in the fuzzy chug-a-long “Obsidian” there. This is “classic rock” in every sense of the phrase, replete with galloping drum lines and cuttingly clean vocal wailing. Even the sections that run much lower and slower, like the doom-meets-Deep Purple Beyond the Grave era Black Sabbathall ends up.
But none of it feels like mere aping for the sake of trying to “be” the bands they idolize, more carrying that sound forward into the modern day out of a sense of purpose, or pride. Take rebirth, a mish-mash of at least four distinct 80s metal heroes that aptly coalesce into a new, cohesive phoenix that feels notably new. As closely as it sticks to the traditions that inspired it, it’s clear that outsider is attempting to reach beyond those works as well. Not in the sense of truly re-inventing the wheel – nothing here really falls outside the bounds of what you’ve already heard for the last four or five decades – but more in the sense that Night Demon also want to leave their mark on the genre.
In that sense, the title track infuses a rough and ready sensibility to what might otherwise have been a galloping if not fairly sterile affair and elevates it as a result, while experimental closer “The Wrath” almost feels out of place due to the much heavier influence of Night Demon‘s personal preferences splitting up the distinct sections. Again, this is no bad thing – the talent of the band could have supported whatever style they wanted to put out. It keeps things fresh while hinting at any number of directions they could move in, should the NWOTHM angle run its course.
Given the passion on display for the glory days, however, methinks Night Demon are on course to creating the best version of it they possibly can; if you literally need heavy metal to live, then outsider might be immortality on tap. It’s a no-fuss, no-mess motorcycle ride along the highway of heavy metal history, blaring anthemic earworms and fist-pumping choruses all the way down. While that highway might be a straight and fairly unchallenging one, Night Demon have still captured and recreated that sensation of past metal glories as close to truly as possible while implementing their personal touches.