Montreal, Quebec, Canada's E-Force formed back in 2001. However, other than vocalist/bassist Eric Forrest (Project: Failing Flesh, ex-Voivod), none of the founding members remain. This is due to Eric relocating to Toulouse, Midi-Pyrénées, France. The rest of the current line-up is composed of drummer Christophe "Krof" Beard (Aigro Mucifelam, Ibogaine) and guitarist Jérôme Point-Canovas (Angher, Massive Charge), both of which joined in 2004, left in 2005, only to rejoin once more in 2010. All of this also seems to have hindered the group's studio output a bit, having unleashed a demo in 2001, another in 2002, and their debut full-length Evil Forces through Season of Mist Records in 2003. After a quick label hop, E-Force have signed with Mausoleum Records, who issued their third album The Curse... in 2014, as well as this year's follow-up Demonikhol, which technically finds the band as a two-piece this time around. But does it stand as a well executed thrash metal assault, or is it something entirely unimpressive?

First of all, the line-up needs to be looked at, as it has actually changed a bit for this release. While the aforementioned trio listed is what you'll find roaming the internet as the current line-up, Demonikhol actually doesn't utilize all three members. This time around, Eric not only handles vocals and bass, but also rhythm guitar. Krof is still there as the band's drummer as well. The lead guitars, however, are handled by Vincent Agar (Yotangor, Lust, Tomáš Sko?epa (Exorcizphobia), Dan Baune (Monument), and Antonello Gilliberto.

On top of that, there's also the fact that Demonikhol is a conceptual album, "lyrically [...] illustrating the ravages and devastation alcohol is capable of causing." It's a theme that fits right into the largely aggressive style of the band's sound, akin to the likes of Exodus and even the largely overlooked Tearabyte, though Eric's past still shines through at times, especially in the science fiction nods that show influence from his time in Voivod such as the oppresively mechanical introduction "Apéro" with hints of industrial against the droning riff in the background, the similarly bleak conclusion of "Last Call", not to mention the alarms sounding in "Double Edged Sword".

As far as how Demonikhol sounds, it seems to vary, but that's an issue we'll get into later. As a whole, this recording comes through a little on the thin side, catering to distortions that are kind of sharp, but maintain what can be described as a sort of electrical buzzing to them that still suits the tone of the music, not yo mention the random science fiction touches, quite well. The bass guitar is fairly deep and often treads into twang territory, kind of matching the lower tuned rhythm guitars in a complimentary manner. The drums, however, do have some compression issues to the cymbals that create a washout effect. The rest of the kit sounds fine though, and given the distance everything seems to be at, including the echoed harsh and shouting vocals, it's a complication that can be overlooked, though not entirely forgiven.

"Invasion" has some infectious grooves at work, not to mention a nice play on vocal distortions that come off more like guttural gang chants. There's a nice hint of crossover felt in the riffs to this track as well, leaving a good deal of punk angst in its wake with a subtle so-cal touch. The performance sometimes doesn't quite seem to go anywhere, but, truthfully, it doesn't have to. Given how it plays up the atmosphere of being stuck in another dimension thanks to the alcohol, or at least it seems to be from the lyrics, having the pace seem as though its wheels were stuck spinning in the mud once in a while works wonders in getting the aforementioned point across.

"Ultimatum" has a hint of melody thrown into the familiar Exodus style aggression of the performances, though isn't shy of attaching some science fiction elements from time to time, such as the introduction and haunting leads that follow. It leads to an uncompromising assault of attitude and energy that rarely lets up until you reach the end, but only after briefly building itself up even higher with a neoclassical heavy metal guitar solo out of nowhere. It's a grandiose conclusion to "The Day After", acting as the necessary wake up call from the fallout that took place in "Debauchery", a rich sounding bass-driven slab as dark and gritty as the title makes you expect.

While Demonikhol sounds fairly thin for the most part, not all the songs share that somewhat raw, analog trait with compressed drums. "Insidious" is a prime example, hitting the listener with a louder, much more crisp performance that actually had me running to turn the volume down (yes, it's that drastic a difference). This is thanks to the cleaner lead riffs being much louder overall, and even the bass and vocals seem to be boosted just a bit more in the mix, though don't create the ear-piercing shrill sound as the former does at the start, something the opening sound effects of "Last Call" also share. But, as far as the song goes, it winds up a dark sounding performance overall, especially some of the eerie chords that show in spots, such as the segment just before the solid guitar solo approaching the three minute mark.

E-Force is one of those thrash metal groups that you may not know exists, but the moment you actually hear what they bring to the table, you'll feel as though you're in the company of an old friend. Demonikhol is no exception to this rule, and it's far from a bad thing. While obvious allusions to aggressive groups like Exodus exist, this former Voivod member reminds listeners as to why his presence within that group was so memorable, in a way carrying on the legacy of that time in this solo act that takes its moniker from his old nickname. It's unfortunate that it has taken so long for this project to just be getting out its fourth full-length, but the quality it brings with it more than makes up for the wait. Fans of the style definitely need to give this astounding effort a spin, not just for the concept felt within the lyrics that can often pack a good emotional punch, but just to get down and bang your head to solid, hostility soaked metal you'll have no problem revisiting many times over.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.