Goddamn… that cover art sucks.
And that right there is my biggest critique of Nube Negra, the newest album from one of South America’s premier extreme metal bands, Chile’s Demoniac. If you haven’t been paying attention, when it comes to strong thrash, death, speed, and even some proggy metal, South America is a well of talent, hardly ever recognized as such due to many things like the distribution and marketing these bands and their albums get, not to mention our Western world’s primary focus on other Western arts. I’m just as guilty - rarely do I go out of my way to search for new Asian, Hispanic, or African bands of which there are plenty.
In 2021, Demoniac dropped So It Goes, my introduction to the band and one of the best albums I had heard that year due to its absolutely unrelenting power and progression of old school death metal tinged with thrashy speed and attitude. Featuring lyrics mostly in Spanish, it’s far from a barrier to enjoy their blackened sensibilities, and it’s very apparent Demoniac are big, big fans of the types of music they incorporate into their sound.
Nube Negra means “black cloud” in Spanish, and while the overall themes of the album mostly escape me (my Spanish is… not good), it doesn’t take long for the mood to set in. The title track crashes in with a thunderclap and torrential downpour while bird calls and acoustic guitars play pensively in the foreground. Then, it happens - a full-bore launch into thrash metal corruption. Straightforward, yes, but immensely captivating. It’s a fine thesis statement to lead the album off with.
As we get deeper though, Nube Negra really starts to show its vivid colors and it’s not all black. “La Caída” (“The Fall”) for instance has lovely melodies for such a dark album, and the solos are impressive feats of technical fingerwork that really show of what the band is capable of. Vocals are fiercely growled, but take time to harmonize nicely in the song’s midsection. The piano at the end reminds me of something Fleshgod Apocalypse would use. Definitely one of the album’s best tracks.
“Synthèse d'accords” (French for “summary of agreements”) is an instrumental track that may feel out of place at first. It has clarinet and accordion leads, the tenor of the former sounds MIDI-like, like I’m listening to the soundtrack of a DOOM WAD or early Faith No More song, and I mean that in a positive way. It’s very different and manifests this eerie quality for the song, like ghosts howling in a battlefield that’s been settled for years, all bones picked over and nature regrown to reclaim its territory. Unexpected, but very welcome.
Then again, the album’s first single “Granada” had clarinet too. Though it’s a slightly weaker moment on Nube Negra, this track was a good choice to show off the whole picture of the album. It has the ruminant woodwinds, caustic guitars wielding acidic riffs, and a pummeling tone to everything that demands a headbang or three. Drums are serviceable with their punked-out rhythms, but still a key aspect of Demoniac’s presence. The album’s last two songs do well to bring the quality back up to near maximum though. “El Final” (“The End”) especially ties the album up with a neat bow and throws it square into your nose with complete disregard. A fine end to a finer album, though not without some flaws.
Nube Negra is eight tracks, only two of which don’t feel up to the extreme standards the band have set previously (the other being “Marchageddon” which is an interlude that lacks purpose and vigor). The highs are high and the lows aren’t even bad, just fair and wading. When put up against the likes of fellow countrymen Inanna or Critical Defiance, they’re still among the best I’ve found. Maybe they need more time to let ideas simmer more - hardly any band can turn out masterpiece after masterpiece in just two years’ time. Then again, it’s weird to expect such a thing from artists we like.
Bottom line: Nube Negra is a fine example of the skill and passion you can find south of the equator. Demoniac are so well-adjusted to provide expert Latin lashings of dense, fast metal and should be looked to by the more die-hard purists of the genre for their next fix of the stuff. While this album isn’t as perilously good as others in recent years from that region - including the band’s own So It Goes - it’s more than worthy of an attentive listen as well as a gateway to an often forgotten realm of extreme music.