High concept records can often become decidedly hard work or terribly boring but as with the case with Demon, Gazpacho’s eighth full length record, sometimes all the elements combine to create a work that touches the soul and forms a very present world to fall into. Demon is a work that follows a particularly conceptual theme, that being a journey into the mind of a man possessed by the titular demon. The record is formed from his manuscripts and writings left behind in an apartment in Prague and his subsequent voyage to discover the basis of his own evil and the lengths he will go to. It’s a trip into incredible spheres of sound with the vocal of Jan Henrik Ohme truly giving a gorgeous voice to this otherwise heavy subject matter. His style is wrapped in beauty but it’s able to dip into the full spectrum of emotion – first track “I’ve Been Walking Part 1” sets the scene and Ohme’s cadence reflects the beginnings of this tale, exploring and probing for knowledge with sweet lines and subtle melodies adding the aura of discovery to the proceedings. Strains of violin (Mikael Krømer) echo into the closing moments of the song and a sombre and melancholy presence is cast over the work.
The Norwegian group have been active for nearly twenty years and Demon is by far their most elaborate and rich work to date. The central story comes from what is likely a wonderful urban myth, but nonetheless sets up a winding and gorgeous album that shifts and turns from moment to moment, incorporating words from the texts left by this madman and allowing his words to breathe life into long forgotten tales. “I’ve Been Walking Part 2” is separated from the first by a lovely traditional Czech folk instrumental piece and walks in dark corridors of sadness and gloom while picking different styles and sounds to create an atmosphere of loneliness and emptiness. Sudden strikes of piano play off subtly heavy guitar lines – hidden and soaring in conjunction with softer moments – and once again Jan Henrik Ohme and his voice ties the sections together to give cohesion in what could be, in a lesser bands’ hands, a disastrous amalgamation of sounds.
The build to final track “Death Room” is suitably intense, and it falls into view on electronically enhanced vocal lines, strings and a very slight hint at a martial beat. The neo-folk influences are much clearer here than on other tracks but Gazpacho are truly a unique entity within the progressive rock scene. Not one thing or another, they are defiantly their own beast and Demon follows suit in its surreal landscapes and narrative. “Death Room” steadily works towards the inevitable end but does so in gentle motions. It never leads itself into obvious territory and constantly looks for new routes and angles to spread its sorrow into. The soft industrial nuances of this last song sit comfortably alongside sections of soaring violin, which in turn play off dark piano lines, and the track moves forward to the oncoming devastation with grace and measured calm. It seems strange to think that the knowledge of your demise would come in such soulful tones, but often those who are aware of the end reach a certain serenity and Demon is brimming with composure, quietude and elegance.