3rd February 2016 – Self-release
02. Nolita Lullabies
03. Frenz Lyke Theze
04. Van Sicklen Valley
05. Lovely One
08. First Light Of Dawn
In June 2015, Candiria guitarist John LaMacchia surprised many of us by quietly slipping out Parallels, the rather excellent second release from his long-dormant side project Spylacopa. Less than a year later, he has repeated the trick with a third, Demon John - but behind this similar, low-key approach lies a very different collection of songs to those we’ve heard previously from the project.
It is perhaps both unsurprising and somewhat unfair that a lot of the attention give to Spylacopa in the past was hoovered up by some high profile guest appearances, The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s Greg Puciato on the 2008 debut EP, and Julie Christmas on both that and Parallels, but there are a conspicuous absence of guests on Demon John, and it’s whole vibe is noticeably more introspective than its predecessors.
Perhaps the closest track for comparative purposes to the vibe of Demon John from Spylacopa’s back catalogue would be “Betrayer“, the long, doomy centrepiece of Parallels, but this time around John has replaced the more straightforward, up-tempo riffy tracks that characterised Parallels with more downbeat, down-tempo affairs. Sounding a little like Tomahawk or Queens of the Stone Age, there’s a distinct sense of melancholy that pervades the record.
At times the tone is distinctly ominous and claustrophobic – like album opener “Duskeyhead“, with a slow, stately pace and washes of minor-key synths and a doomy chord progression. At others, however, the mood shifts to something more dreamy and expansive. “mAlice” is the standout track in this department, with its scratchy, fuzzed out guitars and pointedly simplistic drum patterns.
The full-length songs are joined together by a clutch of shorter, interlude-style tracks, which contribute significantly to the both the cohesiveness of the release and the overall atmosphere. The first of these, “Nolita Lullabies“, sounds like a clandestine recording of a slightly troubled soul talking to themselves on the street. We hear him ruminate that “good friends would never harm me” in a tone that suggests that’s exactly what those he considered to be good friends had done. Elsewhere, “V” is a combination of practically hymnal vocals and plaintive piano. “First Light Of Dawn” bridges the gap between song and interlude, as a five and a half minutes ambient composition built around an acoustic guitar.
Demon John is definitely more of an album to listen to when you’re more in the mood to pull your duvet over your head, than to spring out of bed and bounce around the room, but these delicate tunes are infused with an undercurrent of tension and unease, seemingly due to John LaMacchia wearing his heart on his sleeve with disarming honesty. Whilst it is a clear departure from the Spylacopa material of the past, Demon John remains another compelling chapter in the career of one of progressive metal’s true pioneers.
There’s almost no indication of where the project may go next, which surely is a hallmark of genuine experimentation, we can only wait and see whether Demon John marks the beginning of a new trajectory, or is more of a temporary diversion into calmer, yet broodier waters. Either way, it is as engaging as it is surprising.