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Demon Incarnate – Leaves of Zaqqum

Demon Incarnate
Leaves of Zaqqum
by Leanne Evans at 10 July 2021, 3:38 PM

DEMON INCARNATE see themselves as “a rigid and defiant monolith in the current of time”, citing influence from the likes of BLACK SABBATH, CANDLEMASS and THE OBSESSED. Hailing from Saarland, Germany and setting their roots in 2010, DEMON INCARNATE view their sound as a blend of doom, stoner and 70’s rock. With three previous releases under their belt, the band showcase the new label debut, their latest LP, “Leaves of Zaqqum”.

According to the Quran, ‘Zaqqoum’ or ‘Zaqqum’ is a tree that “springs out of the bottom of Hell”. Some Islamic scholars believe in a literal meaning of this tree grown in fire, showing the inverted flora of hell. The inhabitants of hell are forced to eat the tree’s fruits, which tears their bodies apart and releases bodily fluids as a punishment. Once the palate of the sinners is satiated, the fruit in their bellies churns like burning oil. Other scholars suggest the tree is grown by the evil deeds of the sinners, therefore, the devilish fruits are the fruits of their despicable actions during life. Either way, both concepts fill my cold, dark sadistic soul with delight at the prospect of such an interesting thematic for an LP. Casting my eyes over the cover art to “Leaves of Zaqqum”, a gloriously desolate, forlorn, withering tree of death, in all its sad wretchedness, ominously looked back at me, seemingly setting the tone of what was to come.

With a bit of knowledge under my belt to really dig into this LP and do it justice, I cracked open “Leaves of Zaqqum” and poured over it numerous times. With each listen, I hoped to understand DEMON INCARNATE’s intentions more, but try as I might, I just couldn’t fathom where the doom/stoner context appeared. The supposed CANDLEMASS and SABBATH references came through in the textural layering of heavy distortion within the tracks, but that’s as far as it extended. Strangely, there are a lot of ‘uplifting moments’ – which isn’t what I crave from my doom/stoner music - and the upbeat tempo appearing in the likes of “In Disguise”, “Black Veil” and “Over the Under” detracted from what should have been an unnerving listen.

Instrumentally, DEMON INCARNATE is a force to be reckoned with, the virtuosity coursing through your veins, making “Leaves of Zaqqum” an all the more frustrating listen as it never hits that warped sweet spot you crave. The initial instrumental “Longing for Pt 1” is a bizarre listen, almost akin to ‘elevator music’, or the sort of teeth-itching inducing annoying hold music when you’re trying to contact customer services; perhaps this is DEMON INCARNATE placing us in a type of music purgatory? Maybe it’s musical irony? Either way, I didn’t ‘get it’. Conversely, “Longing for Pt 2” is a pleasant instrumental that showcases the talented facets of the musicians and momentarily redeems, but it’s sadly only one of a clutch of sporadic moments of enjoyment on this album.

I refuse to be all ‘doom and gloom’ (ironic when that’s exactly what I’ve been hankering for throughout this listen) and feel that the eastern flavour riffs DEMON INCARNATE inject in the likes of “In Disguise” and “Grave Worms” are utterly delicious, and the syncopated rhythm of the latter track is enticing. Contrastingly, though, the vocals, whilst they’re mellifluous and celestial, are too clean and polished, a lot more grit and forked tongue execution would go a long way. There’s a very wholesome vibe to “Leaves of Zaqqum”, which could be a gentle nod to the 70’s rock output, but even then, I’m not convinced and it’s not something that satisfies in the doom/stoner realms.

The disjointed partnering, and distinct lack of synergy between the rhythm section and vocal output, makes it incredibly difficult to forge a connection with DEMON INCARNATE’s latest LP. It’s not that it lacks talent, far from it, the talent of the band smacks you as hard as a brick in the face. Collectively, the band feel bland and lacklustre, a serpentine or demonic aspect would certainly entice more, and the lack of didactic portrayal, complete omission of impending doom or eternal punishment for bad deeds is a missed trick with such an interesting thematic. “Leaves of Zaqqum” should conjure lucid images of writhing, pained souls in eternal torment, or at least create a sense that there’s black shroud of death, ready to pounce and asphyxiate in a thick wall of sound. For me, there was just nothingness. Not even the beefy, oriental spiced riffs can salvage this record.

Songwriting:   5
Musicianship: 6
Memorability: 5
Production:     7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. In Disguise
2. The Liars’s Tongue
3. To Resist
4. Longing for Pt. 1
5. Black Veil
6. Lunar Majestic
7. Over the Under
8. Longing for Pt. 2
9. Serve the Cause
10. Grave Worms 
Lineup:
Lisa Healey - Vocals
Jan Paul - Guitars
Kai Schneider - Drums
Matz Naumann – Bass
Donny Dwinanda Putra - guitars
Steve Biber – Keyboards/Media
Record Label: Metalville Records
     


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Edited 01 August 2021
 

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