Demension 13 is unquestionably a metal band. A lot of bands that describe themselves as “metal” actually play hardcore. These distinctions are somewhat arbitrary and, in truth, have a lot more to do with the ignoble pursuit of music journalism than they do actual music, but here we go: Metal is a style of music, descended directly from the blues, characterized by heavy, distorted guitars that play short melodic phrases called riffs. Hardcore is a faster and heavier version of punk rock.
In practice, these two styles of music can sometimes sound very similar, but there are important differences. Hardcore music is usually very direct, with straightforward, unembellished lyrics that often promote political causes. The musicians rarely, if ever, take solos. It’s music that places more emphasis on cathartic expression than technical virtuosity.
Metal bands, on the other hand, work to craft atmosphere and more technically sophisticated musical grooves. The musicians, especially the guitarists, play solos and the lyrics are rarely, if ever, overtly political. (Metal lyricists often work with metaphors and Biblical imagery.)
Many of today’s loud-and-heavy bands play some hybrid of the two styles: metalcore, grindcore or thrash metal.
So, in a way, it’s refreshing to hear a band that’s distinctly in one camp. Demension 13 has a strong thrash metal influence—meaning they can play metal that’s fast and loud—but there’s no direct hardcore influence to their music. It’s pure, raise-your-index-and-pinky, heavy metal.
Guitarist Joe Sands plays galloping riffs that never sacrifice melody for heaviness—and he takes impressive, effects-laden guitar solos that border on the psychedelic. The rhythm section of bassist Tom Yoder and drummer Ty Hagar hold down tight, locked-in grooves. Hagar plays a big kit and rocks the double bass drum pedal.
And vocalist Steven Morris has what can modestly be described as “powerful pipes,” a full-throttle throat even when hitting the Rob Halford-style high notes. (Though they mostly perform original songs, Judas Priest is among the bands they cover.)
His lyrics touch on a wide range of subjects—from personal, day-to-day subjects to questions of war and peace.
“I don’t like to be direct, I prefer be somewhat vague,” he says of his lyrics. “Just because we’re a metal band doesn’t mean we have to sing about death and Satan.”
Demension 13 has a carefully crafted stage presence that fits with the thick atmosphere of their music.
“Most important thing about being in a band is to connect—not just lyrically but through your music and presence,” says Morris.
That artful approach to connecting with an audience is part of what distinguishes Demension 13 from other, less nuanced bands.
“It seems like the point of a lot of that music is just aggression, testosterone and how fast can you play,” says Morris. “Where’s the groove? Intoxicate me, make me feel something!”
That said, if you like some anger, flex and speed in your music, Demension 13 has a lot to offer. It’s just that they also offer up a lot of atmosphere, dramatic dynamics and musical showmanship, as well.
The band members themselves find it hard to pigeonhole the exact style of music they play:
“I’ve heard ‘Sabbath meets Pantera,’” says Yoder.
“I guess it approaches thrash metal,” says Sands.
“Fuck, I don’t know—come to the show!” says Morris with a laugh, suggesting that listeners should decide for themselves.
No matter what kind of music you like, you’ll dig Demension 13. As long as you like metal.