Demo Reviews - Volume VII

By Jason Savage, Pure Rock Patroller
Tuesday, November 11, 2003 @ 0:15 AM

Explore The Seventh Volume Of

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Greetings fellow metal heads! I have another good mix of demos from coast to coast to start off the New Year. Thanks again for supporting local talent by going to shows and buying their CDs. And thanks to the bands that have sent me your demos. Now on with the show…

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Self-titled demo
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Band: James Gabriel- vocals, Myke DiBattista- guitars, Martin Boynton- Keyboards, Tony Recania- guitars, Scott Eakes- bass, Gerry Sayong- drums
E-mail: mikd@earthlink.net

Formed in the winter of 1998 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Crooked, formerly known as NMSO4, have been filling clubs and pummeling audiences with their brand of what I like to call twisted carnival metal. It’s a style that few bands use but it has been made successful by the likes of Marilyn Manson, more specifically, his earlier albums like Portrait of an American Family and the bizarre collection known as Smells Like Children. Don’t get me wrong, Crooked sound nothing like Manson, it’s more of a vibe. Another band that invoked this feeling is the now defunct Two Hit Creeper. What I’m getting at is that creepy feeling you get when you hear pipe organs, accordions, calliopes or any other instrument associated with a carnival, circus or sideshow. These days however, most of these instruments can be mimicked by a synthesizer or computer.

Crooked also strives to look like circus freaks or demented clowns. They are covered in white kabuki face paint ala KISS with a twist. Instead, they are painted up like the horrific rag doll portrayed in Dean Koontz’ book “Tick Tock,” or the cover of Korn’s Issues CD. Add in black lipstick and eyeliner and varying hairstyles such as corn rows, braids, spikes and dreads and you’ve got one of those images that are sure to give you nightmares!

Image aside, Crooked’s music holds it own. Vocalist James Gabriel’s homicidal screams mesh well with his deep seeded insane asylum drone. I am reminded slightly of a younger Jonathan Davis only more brutal sans the rap. Behold the barker of brutality! This demo is peppered with haunting melodies that are sure to please anyone with an ear for evil.

Produced by Dino Cazares (ex-Fear Factory guitarist) and Roman Marisak (Professional Murder Music front man), Crooked’s eight tracks deliver a dark and dreary tale accompanied by crunching riffs, jugular twisting bass lines and creepy carnival noises that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Be sure to listen to this during the dead of night surrounded by candles and try not to be frightened by the strange noises. They are coming from your speakers, not your closet. Aren’t they?

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Location: Seattle, WA
Band: Jonathan Bare- guitars/vocals, Kevin Pownall- drums, Kurt Keating- guitars, Rain De Leon- bass
E-mail: jonathan@draghead.com

Draghead formed in the spring of 2001 in the cloudy rain drenched innards of Seattle. Their music reflects a painful picture as it drones along with its dark trance inducing vibe. I’m hard pressed to classify this, which I guess is a good thing. It combines stoner fuzz with goth ambience for a dreary ride into the abyss.

Jonathan Bare’s deep voice croons with painful heartfelt agony. I was especially moved by “Augustus” which encompasses the above elements with tribalistic drumming and guitars that are just plain creepy. Rain’s bass passages are Rush inspired and complement this track beautifully.

“Dead in You” is another standout track with its memorable hooks that are sure to carry over nicely to radio. Overall, Draghead’s brand of melodic metal grew on me in a hurry and will definitely get repeated spins in my CD player!

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Worn Down Dream
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Band: Steve Buschart- lead vocals/guitar, Randy Davis- lead guitar, Jue Secody- bass/vocals, Ricky Papa- drums
E-mail: motive1@worldnet.att.net

Motive has been tearing up the scene since June 1999 with their brand of hardcore thrash. They have shared the stage with national heavyweights such as Testament, Suicidal Tendencies, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Nile, Arch Enemy, Flotsam and Jetsam, Machine Head and others. Their most recent major accomplishment was a spot at the famed Milwaukee Metalfest.

Worn Down Dream is loaded with old school riffing that is sure to please the most fickle metalheads. I hear a lot of early Slayer style guitar solos and drumming, especially on “Worlds Away.” They also have a few Sabbathian moments mixed amid their chaotic ensemble. Check out “We Were Faded” to see where I’m coming from.

Motive delivers pure perfection and has resurrected what’s missing from today’s metal: the guitar solo! They successfully blend the best elements of thrash, speed, hardcore and death for one helluva metal salad!

Steve’s vocal stylings alternate between the “I smoke too many cigarettes” rasp to “I swallowed the cookie monster and he wants to get out” growls to the “I’ve yelled so much my throat hurts” scream. It’s all here and it’s done remarkably well.

I can’t find anything negative to say about this CD and have to wonder why these guys have yet to find a label. I guess when the consumers get off their asses and start buying real metal music again and the nu-metal boat finally sinks, Motive with be on the frontline for the old school revolution waving the banner proudly!

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Location: Delanco, NJ
Band: Ziggy- Guitar, Mark- Bass and Keys, Juliet- Vocals, Dan- Keys, John- Drums
E-mail: saysomething@mnqnn.com

MNQNN (pronounced "mannequin") was formed in the spring of 2001 by childhood friends that attended the same religious school. They are not some cheesy Christian band. In fact, their suppressed upbringing only added fuel to the fire and made them more apt to break the collar of church dogma. MNQNN assaults the senses with their brand of heavy electronic rock. This two-song demo does combine elements of rock, metal, industrial and even hints of prog for a very tasty concoction.

I especially liked Juliet’s vocal forays. On “Wheredidyougo?” she shines with a strong metal meets punk attitude that begs for crowd control. She switches gears on “Strongisweak” utilizing a deeper sexy coax before breaking into her punk wail. She reminds me of “Heartbreaker” era Pat Benatar before she gave into pop.

Musically, MNQNN meld together distorted guitars, rumbling bass industrial styled drumming and flowing keyboards that are interspersed strategically for a sound that I like to call rave metal. In other words, you can dance and mosh to it at the same time. This was an excellent demo and I look forward to seeing how far they go.

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Scorched Earth Tactics
Promo ‘02
Location: Finland
Band: Antti Viidanoja-drums, Hannu Lakervi-bass, Tero Rinne-guitar, Erkki Hatinen-vocals
E-mail: info@scorched.org

Formed in Finland in 1996, Scorched Earth Tactics (not to be confused with Oakland’s Scorched Earth Policy), unleashed what they deemed “some of the most catchy extreme metal known to man,” upon the masses.

There are only three tracks on this demo. The first track, “Skies Above,” reminds me of some very old school 80s hardcore punk. I’m no expert on that genre but I’d say MDC, the Crumbsuckers or Broken Bones, at least vocally like on “Choose Death.” Then the song suddenly comes to a halt and smoothes out into this trippy space synth solo. Huh? And then…. Die, sinner, die! Dayglow Abortions? WTF? Strange but effective nonetheless.

Track two: “Screamaniac,” has some really cool guitar grooves and it also is abruptly redirected into a stoner space rock interlude before going balls out again. Vocally, he makes use of what I like to call “coffee shop styled deep banter” with an accent that reminds me of Markus Jaan from Psycore. How’s that for obscure. He also adds in a few deep guttural death growls. I hate to say this but I’m really starting to like this shit. They take all these sounds that normally don’t belong together and throw them in a meat grinder for loads of ground hardcore/metal/stoner fun! Definitely not for vegans!

On “Anti-Hope,” the vocals remind me of Destruction and musically this song just smokes. There are some mellow guitar sounds that bring to mind some 60s TV theme song, “Mission Impossible?” But these are offset by the brutal onslaught of furious double bass drumming and another screeching guitar. I’m leery to call this brilliant, but these guys can fucking play!

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Product of You
Location: NYCbr> Band: Khaled Elsebai- guitar, Mike Savino- guitar, Rob Pedersen- drums & vocals, Leo Lavoro- vocals, Ron Taylor- bass
Band e-mail: productofyou@hotmail.com

Product of You are one of those unsigned diamonds in the rough that should be out on this year’s Ozzfest with their addictive brand of metal. I have a hard time calling this CD a demo because it is just too impressive of a package. The CD entitled Foundation includes seven new songs, five older tracks from their 2002 demo, an acoustic track, a video and an interview. The latter are very professionally done which begs the question: why aren’t these guys signed?

The lead off track, “Formal Casualty” (also on video), invokes immediate allegiance with its melodic flowing vibe and emotional cleans spattered with gut wrenching growls. Imagine if Jay Gordon from Orgy tried his hand at metalcore and you’ll have the general idea, but even this comparison is pushing it.

Product of You is the perfect blend of melody and brutality. Let’s dub it “MELODICORE!” The harmonies on “Surface to Air” are hauntingly beautiful while the screams on “Redefine” are blood curdling.

Musically, they blend low-end crunch with hardcore punch for a sound that is sure to capture the hearts and minds of today’s headbangers. There are several standout tracks including my favorite “Redefine,” “Formal Casualty” and “Vessels” to name a few. I also really liked the acoustic instrumental “Eman.”

Overall, I highly suggest picking this CD up, especially if this style is your thing.

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The Red One
Location: Huskvarna, Sweden
Band: Andy Alkman- vocals, Jocke Lundgren- guitars, Henke Lonn- bass, Kent Svensson- drums.

Hellfueled was formed in Huskvarna, Sweden in 1998. Jocke and Kent had known each other for many years and have jammed together since 1990. They recorded their first demo under the band name Below. A band in New York contacted the guys and told them they had to change their name. Andy, Jocke, Kent and Henke sat down and came up with the new band name Firebug. Then they moved on with the recording of their second demo called Firebug. Unfortunately, another band from the U.S. threatened with a lawsuit if they didn’t change their name, which is how they arrived at Hellfueled.

In 2002, Andy gave up bass to Henke to concentrate only on the vocals. He developed a more natural singing style under the influence of the godfather Ozzy Osbourne. His new found voice can be found on The Red One, Hellfueled’s seventh release. Vocally, Andy reminds me of Zakk Wylde meets Ozzy. Listen to Black Label Society’s “Stillborn,” and picture him singing both parts. He has a deeper voice that can hit the Ozzy high notes when needed and bodes well with the music.

Musically, Hellfueled embrace the old school metal style. Jocke’s guitar playing is very good and he sounds like a cross between Eddie Van Halen and Zakk Wylde. He combines the best of both styles for a sound that really gets your head bobbing. Check out the solo on “Break Free,” it smokes! They also do a commendable cover of Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave.”

Hellfueled isn’t breaking any new ground here but The Red One made me want to bang my head, which in the end is always a good thing and is well worth picking up for any fans of Ozzy, Van Halen or Black Label Society.

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Location: Bergen County, NJ
Band: Kraig Marshall- Lead vocals/programming, Steven Bishop- Bass/vocals, Ted Delgreco- Guitar/vocals, Chad Anthony- Drums/vocals.
E-Mail: kraig@mvmonline.net

MVM (I’m not sure what this stands for if anything) has members that have a decade of band experience, which by checking their birth dates meant that they were all between the ages of 9 and 14 when they started! Formed in Bergen County, NJ in April 2001 by former lead vocalist of N17, Kraig Marshall, they have shared the stage with national acts such as the Misfits, Type O Negative, Mindless Self Indulgence, Danzig, Kittie, Skinlab, S.O.D., Cradle of Filth, Earth Crisis and several others.

Evolver has twelve tracks that combine several elements including punk, industrial, rap, metal, pop and hardcore. Out of the gate “What Did We Do” pummels you with industrial tinged rage. Musically it reminds me of Ministry except for the well placed xylophone chiming that gives it that marching band feeling at the big game with lots of big guitars mixed amid the machine sounds. It’s a great blend of Ministry, Fear Factory and Rammstein.

Vocally, there is quite a variety going on simultaneously and it comes across very busy sounding. I’m not sure if this is just Kraig doing several overdubs or all of them sounding off in unison. There is lower harmonizing that reminds me of Flaw meets Depeche Mode mixed in with hardcore growls and another higher voice. The rap elements aren’t too overbearing and sound more like Machine Head. “Turning Gray” and “Last Days” are two of their pop soaked tracks and they manage to do their best Scottish accent and remind me of Big Country or the Proclaimers. The last few songs are slower and melodic. “Find My Way” is full of memorable sing along vocal hooks while “Lonely Road” is sure to get the lighters flaming.

Overall, I really liked MVM. They managed to inter-mingle several genres that are definitely strange bed partners but pulled it off beautifully. There are enough heavy tunes to please most metalheads and fathers of industry alike with a hint of new wave for fans that lived through the decade of decadence! Bring on the record labels!

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