Though the lineup around lead singer “Spike” Li Yang has changed over the years, the gut-punch admix of thrash metal and street punk that is the signature sound of Beijing hardcore stalwarts Demerit has has never lost its edge. Nearly a decade since the release of their highly touted sophomore disk, Bastard of the Nation, Demerit is finally ready to unleash their latest dispatch to the world: Out of the Fog, a focused collection of 10 songs that present an older and wiser unit that’s nevertheless faster, fiercer, and leaner than ever. As Chinese society continues to grow fat and wealthy with the influx of capitalism and the never-ending spin of globalization, Demerit remains committed to its original mission, cutting to the quick and chasing away the fog with pointed, poignant missives spelling out the heart of their DIY punk ethos — an alien concept for the young hordes looking to get rich in New China.
Out of the Fog opens with a harbinger of what’s to come, “Do You Smell It/Sink or Swim,” a haunted, heaving D-beat call to arms laced with melodic callbacks to the band’s twin roots in metal and punk. Demerit clearly hasn’t lost a lick of speed or an ounce of anger. If their age shows anywhere, it’s in the album’s rare breaks in intensity, like the ska interlude on “Boys are Fighting Back” or the slower-paced rumbling of mid-album standout “New Generation Genocide,” whose gentle acoustic strums belie its piercing lyrical indictment of a Chinese youth culture led astray by mounting materialism.
Some of the songs on Out of the Fog are re-recorded tunes from earlier in the band’s career, such as track five, “Barefaced Lies and Bullshit Peace.” Like Demerit as a band, and the culturally rooted yet globally mobile genre of punk itself, the message sung here in backup gang vocals — “We’ll never be bought, never be sold, never submit to your force” — hasn’t passed from relevance. If anything, Demerit’s message has gained urgency with age.