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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Demon

The Unexpected Guest

Review by Mike Korn

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal that exploded in the late 70s and early 80s boasted a long list of bands that had the potential to be huge but never grabbed that elusive brass ring. Diamondhead and Angel Witch always come to mind, but there were many others, like Witchfynde, Paralex and Jaguar. Also included in that list should be Demon.

This band’s path was a very peculiar one. Their debut album Night of the Demon had a pretty gory cover that was shocking at the time, but the music within resembled AC/DC and Saxon, with only the title track really delving into full blown metal diabolism. They featured an exceptionally talented vocalist in Dave Hill and a killer lead guitarist in Les Hunt. That first record was promising, but with album number two, The Unexpected Guest, Demon really came into their own and delivered something that could stand toe to toe with any British band of the time, including Iron Maiden. It was much more unabashedly metallic, with stronger songwriting, and it also dived right into the world of the occult that had only been hinted at on Night of The Demon. It still stands as one of the best records from this period.

Oddly enough, the third Demon album The Plague veered drastically once more into an almost totally prog rock approach resembling Asia more than anything else. It was not without its charm, but fans of the first two albums were dismayed. Demon are still recording but they never recaptured the momentum of those first three albums.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro: An Observation

This brief opening soundscape really sets the scene with some creepy effects and tones. It almost sounds like it was lifted from a movie, with ominous footsteps, a woman in distress and weird child-like piano playing. It really fires up the imagination.

Don’t Break The Circle
Now the metal kicks in with a kind of bluesy grind and the great smoky tones of Hill singing the title. Things speed up with some great guitar playing, and then Hill tells us the story of a séance. The lyrics are great, a quality strongly evident throughout the album. You’ll have a hard time getting the chorus out of your head.
The Spell

This one is notably darker than the previous song and relates the tale of an evil ritual. “Take your place in the circle/Watch the mystery unwind/One cup of your lifeblood/Two cups of your mind." There’s some slinky synth winding in and out of the metal riffing here and some excellent use of ringing bells. This one reminds me of Ozzy's “Mr. Crowley” in some ways, but I might even like it a bit more.

Total Possession
This comes hammering with some fast and furious metal, but then the track changes gears and morphs into a song that sounds almost deliriously happy. The speed and heaviness is still there, but everything sounds strangely cheerful for a tune that’s about the horrors of demonic possession. This contrast helps to make this one of the most instantly memorable songs here.
Sign of a Madman
There’s a Saxon-like crunch underlying this tune, and keyboards add atmosphere to this dark story of a maniac getting ready for a shooting spree. Demon's ability to write a super catchy chorus is phenomenal, it’s amazing that at least one of their songs never broke through to the radio. The songs gets even heavier as an impassioned Hill sings “How does it feel/To be alone in there/Nothing is Real/Now You’re Alone in there.” Kudos also go out for the great Hunt solo.
Victim of Fortune
Hands down, this is my favorite Demon song and one of the best from the entire NWOBHM. It has such a majestic, uplifting vibe, and the thick Hammond organ reminiscent of Purple or Heep really boosts the whole song. It's hard to put into word how powerful the main riff is. Screaming guitar comes at you from every angle as Hill ponders the great philosophical questions of existence. This is such a classic song! “Victim of Fortune, Servant of Fate/Force that surrounds you, there’s no escape”.
Have We Been Here Before?
Another example of Demon's “happy metal," even more than “Total Possession," this song is upbeat and cheerful even while it cranks out crunchy riffs. The chorus is poppy and ridiculously catchy. Once again, you’d expect lyrics about girls and driving a muscle car, but the lyrics deal with reincarnation. “All the faces in the crowd/Seem so familiar to me now/And though I’ve never walked this street before/Somehow I feel I know it so well.”
Strange Institution
As peppy and chipper as the previous tune was, this semi-ballad is moody and sad. Lyrically it comes across a lot like Priest's “Beyond The Realms of Death” and is concerned about a man in a vegetative state kept alive by machines. This might be Hill’s best vocal performance in the history of Demon, full of sadness and emotion...this guy could really sing! There’s also another cool bluesy guitar solo.
The Grand Illusion
The closing stretch of the album really ups the metallic intensity. This one rips furiously with aggressive riffing and scorching leads blasting everywhere. The middle section with the cackling laughter and creepy keyboards giving way to a blazing lead is awesome. “It’s all the work of the Devil/And you will serve him well.”
Beyond The Gates
Starting off with some Saxon-like cranking, this soon turns to a mysterious stalking motif with accents of synth to it. Not as intense as the two songs bookending it, this is a good medium paced song with more cool lyrics about “a road few have traveled, a road few survive."
Deliver Us From Evil
Probably the heaviest and meanest song Demon ever did, this screams in like a supersonic jet complete with a killer opening assault of raging guitar! This is a heads down banger right from the jump and an awesome conclusion to a great album. If Demon had an equivalent to Priest’s “Riding On The Wind” or Maiden's “The Trooper,"this is it. There’s some great call and response vocals, as well.
 
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