Released: 2016, Demonstealer Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Known, at least in underground circles, as the band leader of India's Demonic Resurrection and Reptilian Death, guitarist/frontman Sahil “Demonstealer” Makhija turns his attention once again to what has been the one-man project that bears his nickname. The second Demonstealer album arrives eight years after the first, but this time Makhija got some high-profile help on the effort with Demonic/Reptilian bandmate Ashwin Shriyan playing bass and Nile's human tornado George Kollias providing the drums.
This Burden Is Mine is a sprawling, multi-faceted album that goes well beyond the technical death metal one might rightly expect given the personnel involved and their histories. “How The Mighty Have Fallen” makes this apparent from the get-go, transforming midway through from the death metal inferno it begins as into an ethereal chill of keyboards and Ozzy-like clean vocals before switching back to finish off in a fury. It's a dramatic about-face, to be sure, and it proves to be no fluke.
“Mighty” is followed by “An Unforgiving Truth,” which flips the formula, this time opening with an almost Fates Warning-like prog gentility of restrained guitar shimmer and rich harmonies then blasting off on Kollias' strafing drums and Makhija's suddenly and suitably demonic roar. Things keep hopscotching back and forth like this to one degree or another over the rest of Burden's 50-some minutes.
“When The Hope Withers And Dies” and the dynamite finale “From Rubble To Ruin” are more trademark tech-death, yet still are punctuated by soaring clean passages and lithe jazzy/proggy leads. The title track and “Frail Fallible” circle back to “An Unforgiving Truth” and slowly build and devolve, taking something serene and morphing it into something more feral. “The Failures of Man” introduces an air of doom and dread to the mix before it, too, gets turned upside down.
Every track here is a mini-epic unto itself as Makhija seemingly empties his quiver of musical ambitions – that there's no orchestration here is somewhat astonishing, but there's really no room left for it. This Burden Is Mine is an ambitious, challenging work that gives “extremity” and extreme makeover. And while the near constant Jekyll-and-Hyde vocalizing – with a surprising amount of cleans - myriad time changes and sudden tangents can sometimes conspire to make things hard to follow or steal the momentum from a good groove, at least Makhija is willing to take some chances and assume the risk.