Ireland’s finest death metal merchants dive down into the depths to reach new heights with four track EP recounting the tales of Dracula’s cursed vessel The Demeter.

2015 saw the band unleash their impressive debut EP/Demos Codex Perfida. That EP showcased the band’s potential and gave a hint at what might be to come. However, one could not have expected such a coherent and structured 26 minutes that makes up The Cursed Travails of the Demeter.

In terms of quality and ambition it immediately brings to mind the work of AHAB and in particular their stunning 2015 album The Boats of Glen Carrig. Both share the same structure and visual quality that separates them from the usual fare. There has been a lot of time and energy on getting right the subtleties and intricacies on this album and it pays off handsomely. It is the atmosphere and harrowing visuals that the four tracks on offer conjure up that is the band’s main achievement. There are moments of technical excellence to be found but nothing gets in the way of telling the story. Everything has its place on this EP and not a moment is wasted. Attention to detail is very much the by word.

The title track provides the opening chapter in this story of the horrors upon Dracula’s ship The Demeter as he travels to England. As you might guess things rarely go well in stories of this nature and for the crew of this cursed vessel this is no exception. As Dracula author Bram Stoker was from the very same place as the band, Dublin, it seems a fitting subject for the band to explore.

Also included in the EP are references to the ancient tradition of shamanic rituals and rites from ancient plains of Ireland along with the viciousness of Roman Emperor Caligula’s reign and the allure of the witches beyond the woods. Plenty of literary and historical content to get stuck into then and the near seven minute opener is the perfect introduction to the forthcoming peril and it’s darkened aura unsettles as much as it enthrals the senses. From the ferocious yet controlled opening salvo it soons settles into a dark rhythm and the torment unfolds before your ears.

The vocals, provided by Laoghaire, sway with the waves between blackened roar to tortured growl. However, a well trained ear will pick out the lyrics, unusual in itself with death metal. This is not your usual death metal fare though, this is something far more sophisticated and measured.  The rhythms are complex and relentless. This is never more highlighted than on “Charonic Journey (Stygian Revelation)”. The shortest, and most immediate, track on the EP it is on a mission to tear one asunder. A double guitar solo provides brief heightened respite from the suffering but it soons comes spiralling back down to a twisted and demonic barrage.

“Lascivious Cruelty” flows at the same pace as its predecessor and echoes strains of early Mastodon at their most creative and lucid. Hammering riffs batter the doomed craft and its plague-ridden inhabitants. Cruel indeed.

Closing the EP out is the sinister and destructively haunting 10 minute opus of “Betwixt The Devil And Witches”. It’s a slow and tormenting end to a harrowing 26 minute journey. All hope is lost and The Demeter is slowing sinking under the weight of its own desolation.

Donnie’s Rating: 10/10

The Cursed Travails of the Demeter is out now on Dark Descent Records. Make it your first essential purchase of 2017.