THE NIGHT OF THE DEMON by Geoff Barton
The cover depicts a graveyard cross embedded in the ground framed by strands of unnaturally-tinted green grass. Out of the sick-coloured earth around it thrusts a pair of hands, veins standing out on their backs, fingers curled like vultures claws.
They’re tearing frantically at the body of the headstone which is revealed to be sinisterly organic and not composed of your usual marble at all. The menacing mitts have scraped away at its surface to disclose ugly intestines writhing within, at any moment likely to spill out on to the soil and start slithering like slimy, sinuous snakes.
The accompanying record is split into two distinct halves: Five songs of a “Devil Rides Out” design (side one), together with another five of a more straight down the line rock and roll nature (side two).
The opening cut is very much a statement of intent. It’s a spectacularly spooky spine-tingler name of “Full Moon” – cries of Beelzebub!” and chants of “Rise…..rise……rise..” reverberate above doomy, Phantom of the Opera droning.
This leads into the more traditional but equally terrifying title track (‘Better lock up your doors / And get off the streets / If you fear for the reaper of souls,’ run the lyrics) and the pace is set for 20 minutes or so of malodorous, Mephistophelian mayhem. Great entertainment, but only if you leave your living room light switch turned firmly on.
The flip, like I say, is completely without Hammer horror pretensions and provides a total contrast. Why, it’s almost as if an exorcism had been performed between sides..
ENTERING THE reception area of the Beeb’s Maida Vale recording emporium, I ask for directions to Studio Four and immediately start quaking in my Simmons stackheeIs. However, with a Bible in my pocket, a string of garlic around my suitcase and Holy Water replacing the usual tot of brandy in my hip flask, I reckon I’m prepared for any eventuality.
Demon are here to lay down a session for Radio One’s ‘Friday Night Rock Show’. I only hope Tony Wilson has taken similar precautions..
A commissionaire leads me through labyrinthine corridors to Demon’s dwelling place and I push back a soundproofed door with some trepidation, wishing I had a crucifix to thrust out in front of me. My eyes suddenly settle on the collective Demons and my heart skips a beat because they all look ordinary. Thoroughly ordinary.
Grouped around a cluster of mike stands and guitar cases, the five men reveal themselves to be in the Saxon/Quartz class of motley non-teenage Northerners. Either moustachio’d or bearded, mostly denim clad and all of indeterminate ages, if this band entered the World’s Most Beautiful Man steeplechase they wouldn’t even leave the starting stalls.
I’m greeted by lead singer Dave Hill (no relation to the Slade member of the same name) and it’s suggested that we both go into the control room for a quiet tête-à-tête. On the way, I mention that while I’m relieved that Demon don’t appear to be fearsome acolytes of the devil, by the same token they’re not exactly spring chickens either.
“No, that’s true,” chortles Hill. “We’ve all played in rock bands for a long time throughout the North, pretty obscure outfits you’ve probably never heard of. But yeah, we’ve all paid our dues if you like. Hardened pro’s of the game, y’know…
We settle into the impressive studio nerve centre and, continuing along the background tack, I ask Hill for the facts on Demon itself.
“Well, we’ve been together since late 1980,’’ he reports. “when we did our first single, ‘Liar’. We started to record our album in January of this year. It’s the end result of an idea Mal (Spooner, Demon guitarist) have had for ages. Shall I say that people have done your ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. done your ‘Godspell’. It’s always been our ambition to do something for the opposition, like.’
Hill reveals that Demon hail from Stoke and that, besides himself and the aforementioned Spooner, the band comprises Clive Cook (guitar), Paul Riley (bass) and John Wright (drums). They’re signed to local label Clay Records (along with punksters Discharge, would you believe). A licensing deal with Carrere is ensuring decent album distribution.
This is all news to me, as the cover to ‘Night Of The Demon’, stomach-churning though it may be, gives no information about the group whatsoever. Was this a conscious decision, to build up an air of mystique and obscurity?
“Yes,” says Hill, “we wanted to keep people very much in the dark about the band and its personnel, It’s only an initial thing though, a gimmick to set the ball rolling. We’re not going to bury our heads in the sand, it’s just from a promotion angle.”
How about the X-rated album sleeve? A lot of heavy metal bands flirt with horror imagery/lyrics, using them as attention-grabbing devices. One or two others have been known to take, shall we say, deeper interests. What’s Demon’s satanic standpoint?
“We’d like to get ourselves going as a concept sort of band,” says Hill, keeping an amazingly straight face.
“We’re not just using all this as a cheap, as you say, attention-grabber. We’d really like to develop what we’re doing in a classy way — but keep it simple, on the lines of good and evil, without talking about the cults and all that, We’ve always been interested in black magic and all that, but obviously we don’t go around practicising it or anything.’’
Despite this denial of involvement, I maintain that that first track on the LP, ‘Full Moon’, has the power to raise the dead.
‘I know what you mean,” agrees Hill, adding proudly, “none of the voices have been slowed down or anything. You’re hearing everything exactly as it was.’’
Indeed, during the recording of that particular cut, there were peculiar happenings aplenty in the Demon studio. A whole tape was mysteriously erased (“The engineer reckoned it was quite impossible”) and the band’s cars kept on suffering from punctures in the near offside wheels, for no apparent reason, Brrr!
“It’s a great beginning to an album though. isn’t it?’’ enthuses Hill. “That first side really sums up what we’re doing. We’re asking, what is darkness and what is light? Instead of getting into witches’ brooms and suchlike we’re saying. well, there’s darkness and there’s light and where do you draw the line? There’s a devil in everybody.”
‘Why is the platter divided into two radically different sections?
“Well, while we had confidence in all this ‘curse of the damned’ stuff, we thought there was a slim chance that people mightn’t take to it, that it mightn’t work, So to hedge our bets we recorded a side full of just your basic sort of sing-along, bangalong everyday rock. That was the reason, to kind of keep our options open. But in the future I’d like to become associated with the phrase ‘concept rock’ –
Arghh! That word again! I’m sorry, but for me ‘concept’ conjures up terrible visions of things like ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ .
Hill is unrepentant. “I thought ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ was a great album, as it happens. But I can see what you’re getting at. We’re not intellectuals though, so rest assured we don’t intend to get into our own trips. We won’t be getting too deep and going over the heads of our listeners.’’
THIS IS far into the future, however. Uppermost in the band’s mind at present is the prospect of taking to the road with a dynamic Demonic show.
Says Hill, “There’s always been three periods with this group. One was the album cover, the second was the record itself and the third will be actually putting across the material onstage. At the moment we’re adding the finishing touches to our live thing. We’re aiming to build our performance around the LP and we’re hoping to begin playing dates around the end of August or early September.”
You’re planning lots of special effects?
“Ahh, that would be telling,” teases a tight-lipped Hill. You’ll have to come along and see for yourself.’’
How about sacrificing a virgin onstage? I suggest deviously.
“Definitely not.” says Hill.
‘‘And in any case. there aren’t many of them left these days. Are there?’’
DEMON – ‘The Unexpected Guest’ (Carrere CAL 139)
DEMON DWELL on fear of the unknown, and like all the best horror-film makers, know how to create an atmosphere filled with doom and mystery. On their first album ‘Night Of The Demon’ many of the tracks were basic rockers, as they were still in the throes of creating the band’s theme. Now they have been given full rein to their imagination. Dave Hill (vocals) and Mal Spooner (guitar), are the writers, and with producer Peter Hinton, have successfully blended an uncompromising idea, with technical proficiency.
In the old days most rock bands who delved into the occult had more enthusiasm than expertise. Demon sing about reincarnation, magic and predestination, and seem to be subtly moving away from their more perilous path of demon raising. Very wise, in my opinion. They also play with flair and healthy enthusiasm, chanting the vocals on ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ with commendable zeal. Listen to the exciting lead guitar work by Lee Cook on the driving ‘Don’t Break The Circle’. The piece begins with low mutterings, ghostly piano, heavy breathing and lead footsteps. Those of a nervous disposition are advised to skip these moments. There is always the lusty, comforting voice of Dave Hell to instil confidence. His soul-drenched style, obviously honed on the Northern club circuit, brings a welcome touch of reality to their pursuit of unearthly powers.
All the songs are well constructed, and the rhythm section rolls efficiently along without offering any surprises. The band are really sparked into life by Cook’s guitar. Curiously enough, the need to switch from the spook to good old American rock’n’roIl, typified by ‘Sign Of The Madman’ and the rock festival stomping of ‘Victim Of Fortune’, means they could just as well be singing about trucking on the road, motel women and the need to keep on keepin’ on.
Demon say the songs have to be witnessed ‘live to appreciate their full impact. And they have an elaborate gothic horror show up their sleeves, ready to shock the civilised world. The band insist their songs are just ‘observations’ and they are not trying to convert anybody to black magic. I think they should stick to rocking. Just as hard as they do on ‘Have We Been Here Before”. But who is ‘The Unexpected Guest’? and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?’
Presumably because Evans is a stupid twit. You can only really solve the mystery by buying the album. The ‘guest, whose brooding presence permeates every track, should be treated with caution.
DEMON – Marquee, London
DEMONS APPROACH to Heavy Metal is simple and direct, much along the lines of AC/DC. Musically they’re extremely competent and have a no-nonsense style guaranteed to ease the assembled punters. Indeed, with songs like the rabble-rouser ‘One Helluva Night’ and their first single ‘Liar’ they show great potential for assuming the mantle of new HM Heroes, but…..
What strikes you first about this band are the visual theatrics, and to be perfectly honest, they’re risibly inept. Vocalist Dave Hill begins his act topped with a tinfoil goat’s head mask, then replaces that with a skull cap and a blood splattered face before donning a ‘Father Time’ mask for the song of the same name, which quite frankly looks plain ridiculous. I cannot conceive of the possibility that Demon take themselves at all seriously but I find their dabbling in the occult, their glorifying of the Black Arts and their usage of the symbols of the cross and blood more than a little disturbing. I suspect that if they really knew what they were making play at they would immediately reconsider their whole stance.
That aside Demon do produce good, powerful Heavy Metal. Reduced to a four-piece on this occasion they still played hard and loud, without frills or pretension. The songs are punchy and thankfully not the ‘epics’ that this particular genre seems to demand. Taken in its proper context of comic-book entertainment this is quite fun. I just wonder how many of the teenage fans the band attracted to the Marquee on a Monday night saw it that way.
Kerrang! Issue 45 – July 1983
DEMON: The Plague (Clay LP 6)
I USED to think that Demon were among the UK’s finest, not to mention most classy, up-and- coming hard rockers. Despite the sub-Wheatley connotations of that moniker, both their previous LPs (‘Night Of The Demon’ and ‘The Unexpected Guest’) displayed considerable melodic style.
But the illusion was rudely shattered when I saw them live at the tail-end of last year. They looked like a bunch of workingmen’s club wallies with little or no idea of stage presentation -tres embarrassing!
‘The Plague’ (a concept album!) does little to rekindle my waning interest. I can readily understand why their previous label, Carrere, turned it down, and forced em to issue it via Clay. Yes, there are occasional signs of life after deaf. The title track, ‘The Writings On The Wall’ and the semi-Iow ‘Fever In The City’ do spill over into quite tuneful territory, But for the most part, everything is so dull and drowned out by the nauseating sound of ‘TOO MUCH KEYBOARD’ that the final product is very much on the poor side of atrocious.
DEMON – HARD ROCK HELL, Prestatyn Dec. 2011 – pics by Dunsy