Yet another of the myriad projects of Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury, Lock up has been around for nineteen years now, but between various lineup changes, and being a side project for those involved through the years, Demonization is just their fourth album in all that time. Replacing the outgoing At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindburg with ex-Brutal Truth and Venomous Concept vocalist Kev Sharp has been was an inspired move, as has been the move from a more buzzsaw guitar edged Swedish death metal sound to a somewhat more American death metal/grindcore sound, and it’s their best album to date.
As much as I like At the Gates, I could never get on with Lindburg’s vocals in Lock Up, they don’t really fit with the more grinding sound of Lock Up, so getting one of the all time grindcore greats on board in Kev Sharp was a great move, his deranged snarls and aggressive screams while still sounding completely comprehensible is one of the album’s biggest assets. The guitars have moved to more of a grinding guitar tone similar to Napalm Death’s from the buzzsaw sound of the earlier albums. Unlike Napalm Death the songs are a more standard death metal length, around the 3 minute mark rather than the 1-2 minutes of most Napalm Death songs – and some of the songs are more satanic in their lyrical approach rather than the political vitriol from Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway. With more emphasis on straight forward song writing with verses and choruses, the repeated riffs and vocal lines get stuck in your head, especially on the Decay Within The Abyss and Desolation Architect.
That’s not to say the album has no technical flourishes, some of the riffs here are lightning fast or somewhat dissonant and unexpected, while the echo on the drum fills is fantastic at accentuating the heaviness of the grinding guitars. Honestly, Nick Barker has been one of extreme metal’s great journeyman drummers with little name recognition compared to others out there, but the ex-Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir drummer puts in one of his best performances on this album. It’s both barbaric and creative and he definitely pulls your focus for a lot of the album length. Each track has a different feel to it because of the strong song writing and never once feels like the sprint to the end common of a lot of grindcore and death-grind bands, indeed the slow moving title track is ominous and eerie through use of dissonant writing rather than full force speed.
Demonization might be overlooked as just another Shane Embury side project release, or indeed if like me you just didn’t really like Lock Up’s previous works when standing up to those of Napalm Death and At the Gates you might skip over it, but this is easily Lock Up’s most creative and heaviest album to date – varied, vocally brilliant and fucking brutal. Up there with the most different sounding death metal albums of the year so far.