NWoBHM legends Demon have had a turbulent career. Shedding their early occult metal skin for a more AOR-leaning sound – and leaving the scary lyrics behind too in favour of a more socially-conscious subject matter – meant that not only were Demon guilty of alienating their early fanbase, they also failed to garner anything like it in size with their second musical incarnation.
The double tragedy here is that the band mastered both genres with ease; Guitarist Mal Spooner and vocalist Dave Hill made a dynamite partnership, capable of everything from catchy devil metal (Don’t Break the Circle, The Unexpected Guest) right through to glorious, stately and very British pomp rock (Blackheath), but the breaks never came and the band ground to a halt before the untimely death of Spooner in 1984, after the release of The Plague had staked out the band’s intentions to break new musical ground.
The band soldiered on until 1992, and then reanimated in 2001 with the Spaced-Out Monkey album. In 2016 three members present on Spaced-Out Monkey remain; vocalist Hill, bassist Ray Walmesley and guitarist Dave Cotterill, and the band have fashioned a solid, at times excellent album very much in line with the band’s late eighties pomp/prog leanings.
Thin Disguise is British pomp rock of the highest order, a graceful blues framework garnished with semi-lavish Queen overtones and a whistful, spine-tingling vocal from Hill. Keyboardist Karl Waye adds some nice accompaniment, the whole being a fine, lighter waving extravaganza of quasi epic proportions.
Turn on the Magic features some cutting lead guitar – Cotterill and six string buddy Paul Hume are consistently impressive – whilst the album’s longest track, Queen of Hollywood is a nice stab at slow-burning storytelling. Title track Cemetary Junction is a neat slab of riffy pomp sprinkled with a real power pop/new wave vibe, Hill’s excellent Graham Bonnet-style vocal proving there’s not really anything he can’t handle – indeed on Drive he does a passable take on Molly Hatchet‘s Danny Joe Brown, which came as a surprise to this reviewer if I’m honest. But in a good way. As if to balance out that shard of southern-tinged spikiness, the moving Miracle couldn’t be more British, more pastoral, more abstractly Floydian. In places at least.
Pretty good then, even if at times the production sounds a bit more basic than the more ambitious songs deserve; Demon aren’t really breaking any new ground with CT, nor sadly will they gain too many new fans, but what they do do is afford the listener a very pleasurable listening experience, ideal for anyone who values high quality, professional songwriting and musicianship over shock and awe theatrics.