The history of British heavy metallers Demon goes all the way back to the late ‘70s. A part of the blossoming NWOBHM scene, their first two records are still highly regarded today. Their subsequent output was more of a mixed bag, not helped by the untimely passing of expert axeman Mal Spooner, a key element of their sound. A five year exile from the early-mid ‘90s has been followed by a smattering of new material, the latest of which is Cemetery Junction, the 13th under the Demon moniker.
The album arrives four years after Unbroken, and continues in the same vein as its predecessor. The majority of songs offer mid-tempo heavy metal, infused with some 80s hard rock influences. It all feels a little too lethargic, partly due to the weak guitar tone. The guitars feel too passive and are rarely a focal point, instead being relegated to background matter for vocalist Ian Hill to sing over. There are some decent riffs here and there (“Drive”, “Turn on the Magic”), but again they lack power due to the anaemic production. Guitarists Paul Hume and Dave Cotterill aren’t totally wasted however, with some commendable lead work on the likes of “Miracle” and closer “Someone’s Watching You”. The sound is buffed up somewhat by some relatively subtle keyboard work, adding a bit of texture and depth to the music. The rhythm section rounds things off with a solid but unremarkable performance.
Vocalist Dave Hill is the last man standing from the band’s original line up. He had quite a wail in his younger years and a range to match. Now in his 60s, his best days are sadly long gone, and at this point it is a case of making the best of what’s left. He wisely sticks to a range which he is comfortable with, focusing more on being a powerful, commanding presence. His diminished skills are exposed slightly on the softer material (“Thin Disguise”, “Someone’s Watching You”), and sometimes you get the impression he’s dying to reach a note he’s not capable of, but he ultimately resists that temptation (save for some awkward notes in “Out of Control”). The album has its share of memorable vocal lines, and at times you can tell that Hill cut his teeth in the ‘80s. The chorus of “The Best Is Yet to Come” and the hook from “Queen of Hollywood” sound like they could’ve been lifted from that decade, whilst the title track kicks off with a catchy refrain that doesn’t let you go for its duration. Hill gets some good momentum going in “Out of Control”, but the generic, repetitive chorus drags the whole thing down.
At 55 minutes, Cemetery Junction is far from the longest album you’ll hear, but it does feel a tad too long. There is not enough variety overall, with many of the songs following a familiar, straightforward template. There are a few tracks that stand out however. The slow, patient march of “Life in Berlin” benefits from a shuffling beat courtesy of Neil Ogden, with a chorus rich in grandeur and a nifty dual guitar/key passage. “Turn on the Magic” has a hard rockin’ swagger and some ‘80s glitz, whilst the title track is elevated due to the aforementioned vocal melodies.
It’s clear that Dave Hill still has his heart in Demon, and his passion shines through on Cemetery Junction. It’s just unfortunate that the album is a largely forgettable affair, with a handful of highlights to be picked out. It’s certainly not an album to avoid, but your time would be better spent giving one of those early ‘80s classics another spin.
Rating: 6/10 – decent, but the Demon has had its day.
Highlights: “Life in Berlin”, “Cemetery Junction”