Demon - Better The Devil You Know
The decades have gone by, bands have been born and disappeared again, but Demon has been in the game for almost 25 years, even though only Dave Hill remains among the original members. But hardly any band can be said to have such a rollercoaster situation regarding the quality of released material. Many albums in the past have been very good, not to say totally fantastic, but every now and then a much more mediocre release has been doled out. Taking the World by Storm is of course the immense flagship in the catalogue but therein also lays the danger of having released such an album: every coming release afterwards will be compared to it. So when expectations can't be fully met, the judgements of other such issues can be quite hard, and I have to say also a bit unjustified. Nevertheless, Demon have truly recovered and with their latest studio album, Better the Devil you Know, show that they sure as hell mean to stick around for more pieces of prime time action for many years yet. After a couple of standard releases with a more progressive sounding edge and a bit below what they're capable of, this new album sees Demon return to their 80's origins. This new material namely reminds very much of the bits and pieces and sound from their earliest albums Night of the Demon and Unexpected Guest. Giving more musical references for inexperienced Demon listeners is a bit hard since this band has a very unique sound. Traces of Saxon displaying their hard rock orientation might be a somewhat painting comparison and a fairly accurate starting point while the heavier edge to the guitar riffing has some likenesses with Black Sabbath but in much smaller doses. None of those is quite true though since Demon is simply Demon, neither more nor less.
The true fans, myself one of them, have for a long time however yearned and wished for the band to return to their basis and therefore the orientation of Better the Devil you Know is a very welcome one. The title track sets the album into motion with the kind of weird intro so common in the beginning of their career. A very rhythmic and quite heavy guitar main riff then transports the song into the verse section where Dave Hill's majestic voice is waiting. The chorus of this melodic heavy hard rocker is very memorable, reminds a bit about The Grand Illusion from Unexpected Guest and the number is just unmistakably a Demon track. The idea of having the choruses presented already in the opening riff-section is a notion of old that the band once again brings to life. Dead of the Night is one of the many prior beneficiaries of that idea on this album and this one really sticks. The verse melody reminds quite strongly of Blackheath from The Plague album both in melody and pace and the main guitar riff supporting the chorus is awesome. According to me this is also the best song on the release along with the following Standing on the Edge that also starts off with the sung refrain. This song is best portrayed as another shade of Don't Break the Circle that it has much in common with, both in the chorus and verse sections. Once again a great main riff backs up the refrain and runs like a red thread throughout the song. In quite similar ways Taking on the World also proceeds but here the pace is a little faster in the verse segment than in the great chorus where things slow down to be more rhythmic while still remaining powerful. A great instrumental interlude part sets this one off as another album highlight.
Temptation is more of a glam rock piece, especially in the refrain, and there's Demon in a nutshell. Outstanding in so many ways and every now and then they really break the winning streak with a much more moderate number. The verse is very acceptable though but in comparison to the initial tracks this one is quite far away. Luckily Temptation stands as good as alone on that list this time since Warrior immediately sets things into the right place again with heavy rhythmic guitars and catchy chorus. Live Again is another great track right along Demon's higher standards and this cut also features a very good stick that really lifts the song. Obsession is also built on a strong opening chorus and heavy pulsing guitar work and also brings forward another great stick conceptualising Demon doing the job as good as flawlessly. The closing Change is a quite beautiful ballad but along with Temptation it doesn't really push the grade in a further great direction.
The production is a very good one and fits the band very well. The album is concentrated around meaty memorable riffs, rich melodies, Hills' unique vocals and strong appealing choruses. Even though the guitars quite clearly dominate the sound frame they are kept moderate enough not to overpower and drown everything else and there's certainly enough room for the bass, keyboard and drums to be clearly heard. Dave Hill is still a very good vocalist with a very distinct and characteristic voice even though he's done better performances than this. The album clocks in at 40 minutes which might seem a little short, but Demon has squeezed in very much great stuff in that period of time and it actually doesn't come out as a negative aspect.
For sure, the immense Taking the World by Storm has not been set on autopilot and made the band reach such a masterpiece destination this time either, but without releasing an album that pushes the bands' limits and reaching classic status, Better the Devil you Know still takes the band back to areas much closer to their high point than in many years. When Demon are good they are very good and here Dave Hill and his bunch of devils are the weavers of great melodic metal music and I find myself very susceptible to their yarn. There's nothing at all fancy going on though. Don't expect any huge choirs, any bombastic orchestrations or pompous arrangements but instead solid straight in your face melodic heavy metal/heavy rock. On this release Demon just follow the straight and basic formula with two guitars and great vocals at the heart with good throbbing bass lines, distinctive drumming and some keyboard work at the fringes. Simplicity is in most cases supreme and ever so often less is more. Or even better put in a three word review: easy does it!