Demo Reviews Vol. 2

By Jason Savage, Pure Rock Patroller
Tuesday, January 22, 2002 @ 1:34 PM

A Roundup Of Demos By Unsigned

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Core Device Demo

For some of you, old school metal is a long lost dinosaur, fossilized and buried deep underground beneath Metal Blade records. Believe it or not, some of us miss the powerful vocals, spewing forth messages of dungeons and dragons and darkness, accompanied by dramatic gutar solos and thick bass lines. If this style of metal still seeps out of your speakers and you refuse to let it go to pasture, than Core Device may just be the coming of a new messiah.

This dynamic quintet comes straight from the "metallands" of Middletown, NJ. Featuring Daniel Dunphy on vocals, guitarists Patrick Kehoe and Tony Nocera, bassist Marty Walsh and drummer Tim Protsman, Core Device resurrects a superior brand of metal. Formed by Kehoe and Protsman in September 1996, Core Device has been brutalizing the East Coast, opening for the likes of Iced Earth, Mercyful Fate, Morbid Angel, Nevermore and My Own Victim.

Gaining critical acclaim for their first demo entitled Raped, they have recently unleashed a new three song demo that is sure to land them a record deal. My initial impression came via the mail. When I saw their band picture as I opened the dark black folder, I was scared out my wits by frontman Dan's menacing mugshot. He had that vintage "I'm evil and I'm gonna kick your ass!" look that most metal bands of the 80s had. His long dark flowing mane and beard drew in all the attention as the other band members stood behind him against a fence. The black and white photo added to the evilness of the scene, set in the middle of Mirkwood. Ok, enough of that, let's get on with the music!

Track one entitled "Burning Away," started this epic triage with a slow crunching riff. When "Evil" Dan entered the story, I would've sworn I was listening to Warrell Dane of Sanctuary and Nevermore fame. He sounded similar, yet had his own distinct wail. Others joined in with chanting and even some King Diamond-type high notes. The vocal barrage kept changing pace between the highs and lows to include typical death growling, but not constant and overdone. Clocking in at 4 minutes and 40 seconds, it kept this listener interested.

"Unknown Tears" opened with more monk-like chants but quickly gave way to some heavy guitars. Warrell Dane invaded this song also, but being a huge Sanctuary fan, I really liked it. Core Device has captured the essence of this genre to a tee.

"Sixth Sense" continued along the same path, creating almost a concept feel to demo as a whole. This song spewed forth more growls to accompany Dan's classic voice. Later on, it adds a few speed/thrash riffs that bring it to a fitting close. I wish it were more than only three. Now I find myself in the mood for a larger dose so I guess I'll have to spin it again. Core Device is epic doom metal best described as Sanctuary meets Candlemass (Epicus Doomicus Metallicus-era) with a pinch of Peter Steele and King Diamond for some extra added seasoning. A must buy for any fans of this type of metal.

* * *

Blind Rage - Cycles of Endurance Demo

Blind Rage is one of those few bands that blew me away with the first track and kept my head banging until the CD ended. The ending seemed to come too quickly and I found myself spinning the disc again.

Formed in the wintry bowels of Chicago in 1996, they melted snow in the Midwest until 1998. Being too hot for the cold Midwestern brethren, they packed up and headed for the warmer desert sands of Arizona. This crucial move enabled them to open for national acts on the left coast such as fellow Arizonians Flotsam & Jetsam and Sacred Reich, as well as a host of others including Lizzy Borden, Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, Crowbar, 60 Watt Shaman and My Dying Bride, to name a few.

The first track, entitled "Keep Out," kicked this excellent CD into high gear with its Dave-Mustaine-meets-Blackie-Lawless vocal stylings, accented by some Cradle of Filth death metal screams. Sound intriguing? It is ... I can understand the words, but yet we have this whole death metal vibe going on in the background.

"Black Eye" hits me in the face as vocalist Tom Collins changes his direction again. Embracing classic gravel and glass lodged in your throat screams, this song tears down the walls with fast drumming and blistering chords.

"Disturbed" is another stand out track showing off Tom's ability to change his vocal barrage. This song also makes good use of guitars blending progressive solos and crunching thrash riffs. Thick doomy basslines litter the soundscape creating the sort of ambience I haven't heard since the 80s.

Blind Rage has found a way to combine 80's thrash with snippets of prog and death metal whilst embracing what today's scene has to offer via samples and technology ala "nu-metal." Overall, this CD completely kicked my ass like no other has done in quite awhile. Blind Rage is definitely a heavyweight contender worthy of a title fight.

On a side note: I went to http://www.blindrage.cc and discovered to my horror that Blind Rage has broken up! What a loss to the metal community! RIP guys ... If anyone sees them out in the desert, be sure to tell them they will be missed!

Blind Rage: Tom Collins - Vocals; Stephen Handley - percussion; Blaze Keene - guitars, vocals; Brian Condiff - guitars, vocals.

* * *

Eldon Max - The Plague Is In My Socks Demo (Happyshit Record Company)

I recently had the opportunity to spin a demo by Eldon Max. Formed in the bowels of Washington (the state ... not DC), this quartet featuring Eldon Slate on guitar and vocals, Max Cobert on bass, Bob Green, also on guitar and Tim Dillard on the drum kit, has garnered some excellent reviews. As you may or may not know, I am always searching for the eternal buzz and Eldon Max has made a solid contribution. So buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life!

"Rooster Girl" sets the pace for this industrial roller coaster. Right out of the gate, I find myself in the movie "The Crow." Eldon Max has that dark underground vibe going. Picture yourself in a smoky, dark and seedy club, buzzing on some illegal substance, strobes blinking, colored lights flashing, as you stare in a disenchanted trance. The vocals on this track are similar to My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult or Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nail's fame. Very heavy guitars and lots of distortion. Add in some pretty disturbing lyrics ("You think you've got scars, let me roll up my sleeve, this arm's the most mangled thing you'll ever see") and you've got one helluva poem.

"It's Snot, Because of You ..." offers heartfelt, yet creepy vocal whispers. Strangely comparable to the stylings of early Marilyn Manson off of "Portrait of an American Family," but set to an acoustic guitar. The song reflects the pain of Eldon and his struggles with addiction. The lyrics are very deep, powerful and honest as presented by this recovering junkie.

"Happy Dog" picks up where the first cut left off, back at the underground club. It also gets dissected by a feedback filled guitar solo that could break glass. The song never ends as it mixes into "Empty Brain," another steel tinged machine war filled with dueling guitars and cover fire provided by a salvo of pounding drum beats.

Eldon Max has captured the spirit of the industrial revolution. Still in search of a record contract, Eldon Max provides listeners with a definite escape plan for reality and all that may ail you. For any fans of NIN, Marilyn Manson, Ministry or the Crow Soundtrack, this CD is a must buy.

* * *

Lucubro - Demo (Self-produced)

Lucubro comes straight from the heart of New England, Worcester, MA. Formed in January 2001, the members of Lucubro found themselves back in a music scene that they had not been part of for quite some time.

Consisting of bassist Heath Thayer, guitarist Jeff Provost, drummer Steve Provost and vocalist Krista Van Guilder, Lucubro blends a solid hard rock landscape. Drawing influences from Black Sabbath and Alice in Chains, Lucubro, which is Latin for "I work at night," presents an interesting four-song EP.

"Held Within," relates a tale of a relationship gone bad, a recurring theme throughout this noble effort. Krista has been likened to everyone from Grace Slick, to Pat Benatar to Ann Wilson. The biggest difference is that these three classic singers didn't have this type of heavy guitar accompaniment behind them. The song flows well as she wails her pain away.

"Heaven Can't Wait" brings forth thick Alice in Chains-influenced references. I wish I could create a better visual image here but this is one of those CDs you have to hear to believe. Picturing a female singer for AIC is something most of you probably couldn't fathom, but it works in this case. The riffs in this track cross over into Black Sabbath territory as well, more comparable to "Letters From Earth," off of Sabbath's "Dehumanizer."

The final two tracks, "Afraid to Be Alone" and "Another World," carry us in a similar direction.

I look forward to hearing what they come up with in a full length format. Lucubro definitely has what it takes to succeed in this business. Combine their fresh perspectives on older chunky, guitar chords and throw in female vox for a pretty cool mix.

For more information, check out http://www.lucubro.com

* * *

Mahavatar - Demo

Mahavatar - or M-ind H-ypnotic V-ision T-owards R-evolution, if you will - has risen from the streets of New York city. The band, as a whole, is comprised of different international parts, each adding their own key ingredients to the melting pot.

Formed in the summer of 1999, Mahavatar consists of Israeli vocalist Lizza Hayson, Jamaican guitarist Karla Williams, Polish drummer Peter Lobodzinski and then bassist Benjamin Surf. Their bio had this to say: "Through their shared desire for freedom and mind exploration through music, these four souls set out to create the sonic atmospheres that would speak to a new generation of listeners hungry for a sound that tapped into emotions not yet experienced." Now that's the longest sentence that I have ever read.

Another interesting line states: "Mahavatar ... an energy that needs nothing but itself to survive ... physical as well as spiritual immortality ... deathlessness." More deep-seeded philosophies to ponder as I prepare to spin this demo.

After several months of rehearsing, Mahavatar entered Bomb Shelter recordings in NYC and produced their first work, entitled "Promo 2000." One hundred copies were printed and distributed amongst friends and industry types. The reviews were very promising. In October 2000, bassist Eddie Gasior joined the band. Their current demo entitled "Demo 2000," after just one listen, has captivated me with its memorable hooks. Read on and join my journey, already in progress...

Track one, "BH," begins the trek with a very different vocal barrage. Lizza shows off her range, which rides the extremes. One minute she fronts with a deep throaty dirge into growls that end up in a beautiful Middle Eastern wail. Karla's fretwork is also impressive as she opens with a Rush-sounding chord progression. She then blends elements of hardcore and thrash as Eddie and Peter contribute a solid rhythm.

"Open Your Minds" picks up the pace with heavier chords and more haunting voice projections. The song itself is trancelike and I find myself enveloped wholeheartedly by it. It has a gothic feel to it but the guitars keep it from falling totally into that genre.

"The Time Has Come" is the epic track here, winding its way through my mind for nearly seven minutes. Lizza's heritage shines through on this hypnotic trip. The Middle Eastern feel lulls me into a place I have never been and I am consumed by it. I simply cannot explain what I am hearing here but it is very original and addictive.

The final track, "The E Song," brings this excellent presentation of mind and body and spirit to a close. Its aggressiveness blasts me out of my daze and kicks me square in the balls. I find myself wishing there was more. Four songs really can't do this band justice. I will await their full masterpiece with grandiose anticipation.

In closing, Mahavatar really turns over a new leaf. They are original, they are honest and sincere and they are very talented. Maybe being from different cultures adds a new dimension that most bands don't share. I can't seem to categorize them which is a good thing. Another writer described them best ... he called them "Trance Metal." That ladies and gentleman, sums it up. Keep your eyes open for Mahavatar, they may be taking over a world near you soon.

For more information, check out http://www.mahavatar.net

* * *

Gut Demo

Gut was formed during the fall of 1999 in and around Boston, MA. After losing two original members to other interests, which caused a brief breakup in the spring of 2000, they solidified their lineup that summer with vocalist Brian Morse, lead guitarist Jeremy Youngberg, rhythm guitarist Geoff Morse, bassist Mark Pryor and drummer Bryan O'Neil. Their self-proclaimed influences run the gamut from blues to metal and classical to hardcore. Sounds pretty interesting so far...

"Better Dead" starts off the demo with a movie sample from the film version of Stephen King's Pet Semetary, delivered by Herman Munster himself, Fred Gwynn. It's hard for me to describe what I am hearing here musically. The guitars are pretty straight-forward with Sabbath-esque riffs. The vocals sound like Henry Rollins doing death metal, but are legible if that seems possible. Overall, it sounds like a bunch of stoners jamming in a garage. I will say it is infectious and definitely different.

"Blues Jam" takes the listener in a totally different direction. It has a bluesy feel, mixed in with a 70s style groove. The vocals remind me of Cheech Marin off "Earache my Eye" meets Mr. Rollins again. These cool guitar riffs are sporadically injected with crunching metal chords that create a very interesting effect. They flow together so well, it doesn't crumble the integrity of the song one bit. It's actually very catchy and happy sounding, like some 70's porn movie.

"Trapped Entwined" continues in the same direction but is a little heavier and reminiscent of hardcore. Gut offers up several influences and it seems as if they are adamant about including all of them in each song.

"Servitude" visits classic Tony Iommi riffs, providing a doom laden backdrop for Brian Morse's unique style. Closing the book on this innovative demo is "Promise Keeper." Yet another trip down "stoner lane." I am ready to pull out the bong and surround myself with lava lamps and colored lights. Just as I sink into my bean bag chair, the song rages into a sonic deathmarch scaring me into a coughing fit!

The final word is this: Gut provides a fresh new perspective melding several influences that cannot be crammed into one genre. Blending hardcore, thrash, and 70's groove, I find myself on the magic carpet ride from hell. These guys are definitely worth checking out and are an excellent change of pace.

Metal for the masses! (and stoners)

* * *

Orcus - The Forgotten Prayer Demo

Orcus was birthed in the Pennsylvania community of Edgemont. I didn't receive a bio but I did get a black and white 5x8. Judging by the photo and the pics on the CD, I can tell you this much: Rich Books is the bassist and vocalist and an all around evil looking dude. Greg Allison is on guitar and likes to wear white t-shirts and is a member of the "bomb squad." Lou Branco the drummer, likes Pantera and is a Philadelphia Flyers hockey fan. There is a fourth guy in the 5x8 that's not on the CD. He looks like "Doogie" Howser and he drinks Red Dog in a can. Who the hell is he? I don't know.

Let's take a look into the world of Orcus ... I wonder if they know that their name comes from the world of Dungeons & Dragons?

The first offering is "Brain Damage." It really harkens back to 80's thrash, sounding somewhat like Destruction meets Exodus meets Dark Angel meets most other thrash bands. Breakneck guitars, crunching riffs, and broken glass vocals, bring back the past. Rich has the cookie monster thing going but it's somewhat decipherable and not an irritation like most death metal heroes.

"The Forgotten Prayer" picks up the thrash party where it left off. The tune is faster and heavier and has me wind milling my head, wishing I still hadn't cut off my hair for that damn day job! Definitely air guitars galore here for me.

"Bloodlust" is a song about my favorite nighttime friends, vampires. The first line goes something like this: "I feel the loss, the loss of your soul as I suck it through your neck." More doom laden guitars are found littering this crunch-fest. Ok, time for me to get out the leather trench and go searching for the elusive barfly. They have the most interesting tasting blood.

"Orcus" is the final cut, regurgitating lyrical projectiles about Hades, the lord of the underworld and the home of the dead. Damn, I'm getting psyched for Halloween already. Thrash really brings out the beast in me. I truly miss this stuff, it has a lot more soul than most of today's rap-poisoned nu-metal. Metal is for headbangin' not dancin'!

* * *

Scorched Earth Policy Bootcamp 2000 Demo

Today's demo review comes from Oakland, CA. The band is called Scorched-Earth Policy and they bring to the table what they call the "Bootcamp Demo." From the depths of San Francisco Bay, rose this hard-corps quartet back in 1997. With two EPs already under their belt; 1998's "Insurrection," and 1999's "Tones of Ambivalence XCIX," produced by Grammy award winning producer Neil Kernon (Judas Priest, Queensryche, Nevermore), Scorched-Earth Policy has ignited the flame and has gained the attention of several college/independent radio stations in the US and Europe, as well as many of my fellow reviewers.

In March of 2000, Scorched-Earth Policy entered Trident Studios with veteran engineer Thilo Fehlinger (Skinlab, 40 Grit) to lay down the four blistering tracks that comprise "Bootcamp 2000." In fact, Neil Kernon was so impressed that he offered to mix a few of the new tracks. The band was started by guitarist Mark Lamb and drummer Lance Lea. Rounding out the entourage are vocalist John Miller, who once was in Wardance, an offspring project of Exodus members Gary Holt and Tom Hunting, ex-Bonecrusher guitarist Carlos Santiago and bassist George Astin. With the pertinent bio info out of the way, let's spin the disc.

Leading this brutal metal massacre is "Come Clean." A surefire pit igniter, the listener is bombarded by Miller's hardcore rant and a two pronged guitar attack. SEP blends both old and new styles of metal. The vocals definitely sound new as does one guitar whilst the other sounds more like Exodus and other Bay area thrash kings. Even though they are loud and noisy, I hear some good fretwork going on with the second guitar as well.

Up next is a dual vocal foray called "Politics." Initially we hear two vocalists singing the same words in different voices. One higher and the other much deeper and menacing. Heavy guitars aren't scarce here as SEP cranks out some righteous string breakers.

"F.I.N.E.," continues along the road well trodden drawing influences from the likes of Sevendust, Machine Head and even "Soul Searching Sun" era Life of Agony. This offering is more melodic even in its heaviness.

Lastly is "Reclusion," starting with some ditty of a blues sample or something, it picks up tremendously, reverting back to Miller's Lajon Witherspoon meets Layne Staley rasp. The guitars even invade the territory of prog metal for awhile, adding a whole new dimension to this onslaught.

As a whole I really liked this demo. Miller's vocal ability did extreme justice to this guitar driven invasion as SEP showed us how draining "bootcamp" can really be.

For more information, check out http://www.scorched-earthpolicy.com

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