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Demo Reviews Vol. 1

By Jason Savage, Pure Rock Patroller
Friday, January 4, 2002 @ 11:20 AM


A Roundup Of Demos By Unsigned

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Drill 187 Self-Titled
Hailing from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, this quartet has already received a tremendous amount of positive press and is poised to ink a record deal. Presenting an impressive press kit, and selling over 2000 copies of their first demo, these "right coast" heavy hitters are ready for the challenge.

Featuring Jason & Jason (gotta love that name), that's Lilley on vocals and Ussery on guitar, and a solid rhythm section consisting of timekeeper Greg Evans and bassist Josh St. Dennis, Drill 187 offers up a huge plate of metal spaghetti with some mongo "metalballs" to boot.

I devoured my plate heartily, treated to five tracks on the first course and 4 newer ones for dessert. My feast started off strong with a song called "Divine." Very heavy on the guitar, somewhat reminiscent of Pantera. Driving vocals and gang shouted choruses added some spice that I haven't tasted in awhile. Track 2 entitled "187" led me down a similar path. This song is meant for their live show as a shout-along metal anthem. Next up was "Mankind," my favorite track on the CD. Blending Slayer-like riffs at breakneck speed, this tune grabbed me by the balls and shook me like Korn's rag doll. It switches from speed metal to slow, crunching doom metal. Definitely a pit starter! "Downtime" picks up where we left off as the last cut "Nine," brings a filling end to this metal smorgasbord as Jason Lilley and company deliver some serious Layne Staley ala Alice in Chains style vocals. I also heard something I thought to be extinct, a guitar solo that really smoked!

Do I have room for dessert? Hell yeah!! Demo #2 offered up four blistering tracks. First came "Despise." This demo was recorded a year after their initial offering and you can tell. The riffs and vocals are tighter and more refined. I can see how much they have matured after getting more playing time together. "Snakebite" was next, re-scorching my already burning ears. By now I realized there was no turning back. Drill 187 had captured my soul and was dragging it down to the abyss, but I wasn't kicking and screaming, I was banging my head! "Syphon" pushed me further over the edge, as I was barraged by more killer riffs and a Lajon Witherspoon type vocal wail. The last track "Run" had me feeling angry and defiant, yet another excellent shout-along anthem.

I was very impressed with both of these CDs. Drill 187 blend many diverse influences into their own unique sound. Jason Lilley's vocal recipe: Take 2 cups of himself, add 1 cup of Rob Zombie,1 cup Lajon Witherspoon and a dash of Layne Staley. Then mix in a blender filled with gravel. Jason Ussery's fretwork was fast and furious, complemented well by Greg and Josh's steady, crunching rhythms. These guys are extremely tight and both demos sound very professional, like they were produced by GGGarth or Ross Robinson maybe. Easily a Roadrunner Records style band. The A&R guys definitely have a winner here. So which label is ready to come up to the plate? Game on...

Grey Cell Green Train of Thought
I recently received a two-song demo from Manchester, CT based Grey Cell Green. I was so impressed with it, I immediately inquired about receiving more material. They were currently in the final mixing stages at Broccolli Rabe Studios in Fairfield, NJ, with knob-twister Phil Mann producing. I must say it was definitely worth the wait.

Track one entitled "Glance," completely blew me away with its Iron Maiden-esque opening riff. Vocalist Curtis Cassarino's unique and powerful, fast paced stylings, bring a breath of fresh air to the current stagnant metal scene. A scene that finds many bands imitating each other. Eerie wails echoed throughout this tune. "Far From You," the 2nd offering changes the pace a bit. More echoing vocals that slightly reminded me of Depeche Mode but with way heavier guitars. My friend Whitey, a.k.a. "Dr. JR Whiteluv" said the song sounded like a Bad Religion tune.

"Forgotten" presents yet another different vocal offering. The guitar chords were dark and menacing and complemented the vocals quite nicely. "Evildye," thrust me back to the ‘80s. I found myself blasted by thrashy guitars, courtesy of virtuoso and music degree earner, Steve Matthews. His solo forced me to take cover behind my desk! Bassist Rob Waldron and Drummer Matt Glasser provided the glue that held this metal boat afloat.

By this point I was very much into this CD. I hear so many different things, I find myself at a loss for words. No two songs sounded the same, a welcome change from the current standard. Grey Cell Green have truly set themselves apart from today's trendy melting pot of rappers, cookie monsters and monotone crooners. "Shrug," attacked me with a nu-metal groove and before I could blink, it warped me into a spacey sixties psychedelic trip. Then came the tribal beat mixed in with a doomy background riff. It may sound confusing but it flows very well.

Other songs on this ever-changing groovefest are:"Pollyanna," "Treadmill," "Another," and "Another Glance." This final track's intro provides a beautiful string arrangement that gives way to a very short (1:45) acoustic version of the opening track, "Glance." I was thoroughly impressed with this over the top opus. This is Grey Cell Green's 2nd release. They sent me their 1st release also, which I am excited to hear as well. It's very difficult to categorize these guys. I'd like to say progressive melodic metal meets Stoner Rock meets........damn, I can't do it. Whitey said it's alternative meets death metal, but I didn't think it reached that extreme. Definitely a must buy, even if your only intention is to smoke a jay and sit in a room full of candles and incense. I can't wait to see Grey Cell Green live. Yet another band that deserves a record deal.

Clokseed So That All May Witness
Bred in the underground in Connecticut, Clokseed belches forth aggressive and intense hardcore sludge. I didn't receive a band bio, so I cannot give credit where credit is due. I did manage to find out that there are four band members named Spencer, Don, Eric and Ed. This is their second demo, the first one entitled "Kill Them While They're Afraid," was released in June 2000. They have opened for national acts such as Morbid Angel, Anthrax, Fu Manchu, Chavelle, Yngwie Malmsteen, Exciter, Earth Crisis, Pissing Razors, Drown, and Flotsam and Jetsam. With a four-song demo in tow entitled "So That All May Witness," I set about my task of breaking down what I heard.

Track one, "Restricted," opens with a very deep bass lick and trippy noises before I'm bombarded by some maniac vocalist. Fresh out of the Arkham Asylum, I can just see the veins on his neck bulging as his gravel tinged screech is blended with a second voice. The latter being deeper and more haunting as it fills in the background. Amidst this chaos is a very heavy Sabbath sounding riff and bassline. Does every band have guitars that sound like Sabbath these days? The song changes pace several times during it's 5 minute and 40 second run.

"I Become Everything," starts off slow before crunching into gear. More deep seeded chords followed by the vocalists changing leads. The haunting voice sings the lead in his deep Peter Steele drone. The gravel god yells in the background, making this song interesting indeed. Pure Evil comes to mind, although we're not talking Satanic or anything, just metal in a shroud of darkness.

"Broken Chrome," arrives with a buzz, dueling between both speakers for a killer effect. The vocal barrage is spit forth once again by two separate entities, but the end result makes for a more unique experience.

"This is Right," crashes the party and is in your face from the get go. Pummeling guitars, bass and drums, over-shadowed by dueling crooners. Just when I think the demo is over, I am faced with a fifth song. It actually sounds like a string of samples from a movie. Spencer told me it was taken from a black and white Johnny Depp movie called Dead Man. The sample is very bizarre, twisted and sick. I guess I'll have to rent the flick!

Overall, Clokseed does a commendable job. I haven't really heard any groundbreaking stuff musically, but do Sabbath-esque riffs ever get old? The dueling vocals make for a cool diversion. Definitely something to pick up!

Medicine Mann Self-Titled
Today's review is from Nashville's own Medicine Mann. These seven-year metal veterans bring to the table a fresh and exciting sound full of cool grooves and powerful hooks. They are not your average metal clones that pollute our airwaves more with each passing day. Instead I've discovered a hidden treasure deep within the heart of the country music capital.

Their bio reads: "Medicine Mann fit in the artist category. Starting with a solid rock foundation of ‘70s Hendrix, Sabbath and Thin Lizzy, they've blended in a mixture of ‘80s Ozzy, Judas Priest and King's X. To top it off, they've added in the final ingredient: ‘90s Pantera, Helmet and Tool. This is exactly what the music industry needs, a band that can use creativity to breed originality."

Sounds pretty appealing I must say. Have they got our attention yet? Let's find out, shall we?

Track one called "FTW," starts out with a very short bluesy riff before Rick Brave Lion's guitar kicks the tune into overdrive. Jason Roberts chimes in with his alternative sounding vocal chords. Imagine Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots blended well with a cool megaphone wail. Dee Adman provides some very deep and doomy bass backdrops while drummer Peroy Petty pounds the skins like a pro. Next up is "Superstar," mixing in some strange, yet refreshing drumbeats and other odd noises. I must say Mr. Brave Lion's guitar licks smoke. I am starting to hear some of the influences proclaimed in their bio. "Damaged" starts out with a bizarre car alarm digital voice bellowing: "I was tampered with," before a hint of rap-tinged rant enters the picture and more megaphone mania. The thick bass lines and Hendrix sounding guitar keep the song interesting. Don't get me wrong, there will NEVER be another Jimi, but Rick Brave Lion plays like his apprentice!

"Somber" starts out as a heartfelt ballad. Jason shows off his vocal prowess, convincing this listener of his pain. The song adds a unique Native American flute solo before picking up the pace. Great tune! "Fallin'" is yet another noteworthy track and more trippy guitar solos that are missing in today's talentless, digitalized, over-sampled metal scene. So far Medicine Mann has offered up a very commendable effort. Each song brings new surprises and has captivated me.

I really hate to call this a demo because they have laid down 12 blazing tracks. This was a blast from the past for me. Back to the day when an album was good all the way through, not just one or two hits and an over abundance of fillers. With most of today's music I tend to program in all the cool tunes on my CD player because most groups can't accommodate the listener with a solid effort. Medicine Mann however, have pulled it off. The songs are addictive and you won't be able to stop until you get the complete fix.

Other excellent tracks include "Gifted," "Believe," and "Shoulder," which has more killer guitar riffs that sound like Zakk Wylde era Ozzy stirred amidst very heavy drum pounding. I also heard a pretty cool piano piece called "8.24." I can hear you now saying, "piano, why the hell is that on there?" Believe me when I say Medicine Mann pulls it off beautifully. There is even a hidden joke track where Rick tries his hand at rapping. I think it's called "Who Farted?" In Rick's letter to me he says: "I don't consider myself a rapper, but I figured if all these guys can do it, so can I!" It's hilarious for those of you that prefer the lighter side.

My final thought is this: When Medicine Mann get a well deserved record deal, this CD is a must buy for those of you that like your metal melodic with an abundance of guitar solos, thick, doomy bass lines, machinegun drums and decipherable vocals. This is classic metal at it's best with some cutting edge modern technology to keep it fresh! Excellent job guys.

Visit them at http://www.medicinemann.com

More demo reviews to come…



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