Pit Therapy – 100 Demons: Horiyoshi’s Warriors

This month’s session is a tale of art as much as it is one of music. The band 100 Demons came onto the Connecticut hardcore scene in the late 90’s, after having chosen quite the curious name for itself — a name that is significant enough to expound upon for a brief moment. Born in 1946 in Japan, a man named Yoshihito Nakano became fascinated with the full-body tattoo suits of Japanese gangsters, or Yakuzas, at a very young age. This artistic fascination lead Nakano to receive his first “tattoo” from Horiyoshi II (we’re not talking about an anchor or heart on a bicep here), apprentice of Yoshitsugu Muramatsu or Horiyoshi I (Hori means “to engrave” and Yoshi means “good” or “righteous.”) This most honorable title was eventually passed on to Nakano, who has since become world-renowned for his tattoos, his decision to switch to electric needles, and his sketchbooks, which include 108 Heroes of the Suikoden, 36 Ghosts, 58 Musha, The Namakubi, Ryushin and of course 100 Demons. So as not to diverge too far away from the session-at-hand, I’ll just leave any art collectors with this: If you manage to get your hands on one of these books, buy it. The above sketches are pure, organic works of art, and can only come about by living a lifestyle dedicated to said art form that has been honorably passed down from generation to generation. As you listen to music that is to follow in today’s session, remember that all art — whether it be ink under the skin, pages of an old sketch book, or 1000 pounds of reverb blasting through a Marshall half stack in a small apartment — can only play as big a role in your own life as you allow it to play.

“You know who I love? NOBODY! You know who I trust? NOBODY! You know who I fear? NOBODY! / I prayed a thousand times, he never answered me.”

100 Demons injected a much needed fierceness and intensity back into the hardcore scene when it released the first of its two albums, In The Eyes of Our Lord. The debut, released via Belgian record label Good Life Recordings, is far and away the better of the two albums and will be the keystone of this this session. In The Eyes of Our Lord is the less “metal” of the two releases and is therefore harder, meaner, more pissed off, more hostile and more aggressive. To be frank, this band just fucking hates everything and if you’re not careful, they will make you hate everything as well. In the album’s opening track, “Forsaken,” Jacob Fuller’s famous From Dusk Till Dawn quote, along with the concluding lyrics “Just fucking kill me/Put me out of this pain” both do pretty good job of setting the pace for the entire rest of the album.

“Too many times you fucked me over, too many times I believed your shit / I smell your fear and weakness and it makes me fucking sick.”

One of the greatest musical aspects of In The Eyes of Our Lord, is that it accomplishes such extreme amounts of heaviness without needing the overwhelming “Hatebreed” type breakdowns you’d expect from a band that existed almost exclusively within the last decade. If the lyrics don’t say it all, the notes will, as the songs are structured in such a way that make the music so distinguishable from the rest of the more death metal influenced sound that was so popular at the time. Ultimately, it’s the album’s uniqueness that gives it such high replay value, as this disk seems as if it hasn’t aged but a few minutes since the day it was pressed. After Bruce Lepage desperately shouts “I know you heard my cries, saw the faith in my eyes/then you turned your back on me, made me suffer alone” the chord progression and stomping beat down pattern that follow are just legendary, if only for the reminder that music that is extremely pissed-off doesn’t have to possess some misplaced macho statement of tearing heads off or endless chugging. Let’s examine one more track from this album, shall we?

“I’m already dead, I just don’t know it yet / Because you stole my heart, a love I can’t forget / Slowly dying, when will I go? / I wish that I was dead – I feel so alone.”

 

Bear in mind, these songs have been lined-up in this session the same way they are in the album — right out of the starting blocks. If you bring one thing out of this, remember that the descriptions heavy and hard, even though nice when hand-in-hand, are not mutually exclusive. The vocals sound more like a loud grumble than some of the vocal chord-bursting yells you might be used to, Rich Rosa’s choice of cymbals during instrumental segments is not always the biggest and the loudest, and guitarists Jeremy Braddock and Rick Brayall prefer short solos and down-tuned power chords as opposed to drop-C palm muting 24-fucking-7. To top it all off, the lyrics are more of a cry for help than anything else. In all of that, is something truly hardcore. Although we’ll be moving onto the next album now, your sole mission until next month is to acquire this album and digest it like you would a 50 pound tapeworm.

“Fuck your destiny. Fuck your golden child. Fuck your women and children. Fuck you and die.”

 

Two major changes occurred when the group decided to sign with Deathwish in 2004 for the release of the group’s self-titled and final album to date. First, Pete Morcey replaced Bruce Lepage as lead vocalist. Because Bruce’s vocals were somewhat of an acquired taste to begin with, Pete was well-received at live shows for both his monstrous yelling (this dude is a fucking giant) and also his clean vocals (he’s also a trained “singer,” from what I can remember). The second big change was in the production. Zeuss, of whom you should already know and of whom I am not a fan, handled the recording and mastering of the album and, like many other records he’s been a part of, hits you like a damn sledgehammer but leaves the mark of a cookie-cutter. You can take this how you’d like but for his time, Zeuss was the proud “McDojo” instructor of hardcore. Although being able to put that infamous PRODUCED BY ZEUSS sticker meant getting to sell your record at Best Buy, it also meant that the record would be about as generic-sounding as Rex-Kwon-Do eating a Big Mac at Wal-Mart, which I’m sure he does frequently wherever he may be. Throwing metal into hardcore is, at times, no different than throwing processed shit into food. It sells, it still tastes good, and the people consuming it are often too fucking stupid to realize it anyways. But fuck it. The self-titled album is still a worthy follow-up for a few reasons.

“Rage unbridled / Not what I used to be / Pain so vital, it’s necessary / My dear, I’m so sorry / I can’t control myself / It’s real, no story / I am broken again.”

Despite all the changes, 100 Demons never lost the fuel that made them rise to the top of the underground. As you can see, the sophomore release is hard AND heavy, and the clean vocals add something to the already-existing desperation with which the lyrics are expressed. All Zeuss-bashing aside, the man did a marvelous job with the production of this bad boy, so much in fact that I might go so far as to say it’s probably his best work. Surprisingly, the main thing that holds 100 Demons (the album) back is actually the songwriting. Aside from starting out quite nice, the album hits kind of a lull after the fourth track (featured above) and never really bounces back until it’s too late. Although the final two tracks, namely “His Father’s Son” and fan favorite “Never Surrender Virtue,” grab the listener’s attention, the album ends shortly right around the 24 minute mark. Unfortunately, no other recordings have been released, although there have been rumors that Bruce Lepage has rejoined the band and that something should be getting released soon. It would be nice to see something fresh from these now-veterans, especially a tour or some festival dates. But until then, clear your room of all furniture and breakable items, and enjoy what has been given to you.

 

Not fuckin’ around since the year 2000.

Not fuckin’ around since the beginning of time.

 

[Konrad Kantor]

Posted by Konrad Kantor

Staff Bartender -- I also write about music on occasion.

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