Demo Review Of Nevermore's Van Williams' Project, Pure Sweet Hell

By Eden Capwell, Contributor
Thursday, June 27, 2002 @ 7:48 PM

(Unsigned - Demo)

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Pure Sweet Hell... finally, I get my greedy little paws on this six-song demo.

Van Williams (Nevermore) is one of the few instantly recognizable drummers in the world of hard music. He has a dominant and signature style that features highly complex time changes, freakish speed, and an overall dense sound. Between recording with Nevermore, he has formed a power duo band with an old friend from his New York days, Christ Eichhorn. Pure Sweet Hell has Christ on bass, guitars and keyboards. On drums and vocals is Van himself. Guest guitar work by Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), and Curran Murphy (formerly with Nevermore, now in Annihilator and Aggression Core). Produced and mixed by the band as well as Curran Murphy.

This is clearly sold and talked about as a "demo." It plays, looks, and most importantly, sounds like a polished EP. The packaging is a black DVD type case with full cover art and graphics created by Van. Inserts are devoid of lyrics, but contain the bands background information. Production makes this sound like any other finished CD you'd buy, no one instrument dominates another. Vocals stand out slightly more than anything else. Details were paid attention too, and experience shows. I have not ever seen or heard a "demo" that looks or sounds like this one.

The overall and general sound that I get from this is evil. Exquisite evil, with a sense of impending doom. I find the eerie quality to be seductive, luring and enticing you into a place you don't or want to visit, but are oddly drawn to. There is nothing uncertain about this, nothing tentative as musicians record together for the first time. This is full bore, unrestrained -- every disturbing sound, emotion, or thought is exposed. Van’s vocals are unlike anything I've heard. Warm, deep, yet animalistic and almost inhuman. He hits few high notes, relying mostly on his power, singing from the gut. His voice is truly demonic, but it’s not a forced effect, it’s simply how he sounds. At times it’s a growl, a blood-curdling scream, or whisper, with some droning chanting/chorus moments. Drums are similar to his work with Nevermore, but more experimental. “I recorded with my electronic drum kit – it’s a Yamaha D-Extreme kit… I also combine a Roland kit I had [previously] for the cymbals, though there’s one real cymbal also.” ~Van Williams.

Keyboards are used sporadically, used to support the spine-chilling sound. Bass is not dominant, except one song, where it’s used heavily during an intro. Christ's guitar work is outstanding, all tuned, consisting of long, sustained notes. His overall sound is brooding, intense, and sinister. He uses six-string Les Paul.

Track listing is sequential, including impressions of each individual song. Each song is unlike the one before, or after... they all deserve some notes.

1) "House of God's" starts with a heartbeat, ungodly gurgle, woman screaming. Guitars are smooth buildups to brief wails. Vans vocals beckon and snarl simultaneously. Definitely a song that questions religion, "Words of doubts and lies, fear, built upon your flesh." Some use of the electronic drums, but the song is broken up twice with an unexpected rocker style jam.

2) "Sentinels" begins sludgy, vocals nearly drone, then blasts into the inhuman howl, drums are machine gun fire fast, guitars are dooms day sounding. "…Life is not for the killing, feel the pain that you’re giving them, don’t turn your back to these bloodstains on my hands, take a look at your annihilation... Hey, I'm not selling hatred...(vocals drone here) to touch, to lie, to feel, unknown, to run… futile, the time is now..."

3) "Faded" has a great head-banging quality, still maintaining that same dark feel, ‘til we hit the Jeff Loomis solo. His ultra fast fingering is unmistakable, never once out of place; blends smoothly between Eichhorn and Loomis.

4) "Shadows" starts out with widely spaced, nearly tribal drums, and some very light piano fingering. I get the feeling they really enjoyed starting each song so differently, luring you delicately in, and then slamming you with something malicious. This song is a prime example. Curran Murphy has his cameo solo on this one; it meshes easily with what Eichhorn has built up. "Forever in darkness, black, it calls to me, for ten thousands times in centuries. I am a shadow of everything..." Van continues his vocal assault, slowing it down to a whisper, widely spaced drums, and occasional chorus that’s merely a drone. The song ends with those carefully placed drums, light piano fingering. “Shadows” was a complete and total set-up for the next sheer evil song.

5) "Rot and Death" -- this song literally scared the fucking hell out of me, and I'm not ashamed to admit it either. Goosebumps and all. "ROT... and DEATH, I feel what you fear... rot and death..." This is the primo song on this disc -- guitar work nearly mirrors the vocals in tone and theme. Halfway through is a barely audible spoken part, that sounds not unlike the psychotic ramblings of a madman, accompanied by thrashy drums. Its repeated in a shorter version near the end of the song.

6) “The Kill in Me” starts very slow, light guitar work, whispering vocals, breaks into thrash, slows down again. This pattern is repeated throughout the whole song. On a side note, I wish I could give you more examples of the demented lyrics, but at this point I don’t have them figured out. Lyric content seems to deal more with the depraved nature of the human animal, reflecting the ugliness contained within everyone. I didn’t pick up on any satanic vibe in the least.

It’s fairly unusual today to find any metal that’s original. This has no predecessor, and not likely to have a successor any time soon either. And it would be a disservice to label this as one form of metal or another; it has many elements that are classifiable. I’m kinda tired of labels, and I do not want to be the Internet nerd that slaps a label on this, or pigeon holes it into some category that the music doesn’t reflect. Let’s just say…This is metal. Richly textured, heavy as hell and ominous. It’s only six complex songs, recorded over a seven day period. But I will enjoy this for many months, and after that, I’ll still be picking up something different on each spin. This is one vicious, brutal attack… I can say with conviction, this is the top underground release for 2002.


The song “Sentinels” is available for download at the above location, have a listen and decide for yourself.

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