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This demo is sheer magick, undeniably borne upon the soul. The band effortlessly taps into the same stream of "arcane metal art" that has allowed albums like Crystal Logic and Into Battle to stir our imaginations and enthrall our spirits for years on end. Brilliant in nearly every way, and scarily enough only a taste of what the band may be capable of at their zenith.
Burning Mistress wastes no time pulling you down into the hazy world of Borrowed Time. The opening riff and slow-burn solo might as well be a beckoning hand through a shrouded doorway. You won't be resisting. The verses are carried on a very simple, very effective mid-paced riff that milks the fiery guitar tone for all it's worth. J. Priest and his masterful vocals are actually a bit restrained through the verses, taking on a mystical, bardic quality. A stout gallop marks the intro of the chorus and J. Priest cuts loose for the first time on record. You will be singing. The first four songs (which make up the demo proper) are cloaked in a completely flat but somehow still vibrant sound that gives everything a semi-live feeling. This is the perfect anti-production for an epic heavy metal demo.
As powerful as the opening salvo was, the centerpiece of the demo is definitely Sailor on the Seas of Fate. A moody intro sets the tone with an eerie vocal sample followed by a very majestic acoustic guitar piece. This intro is short and sweet, with a huge range of emotional depth and just a twinge of exoticness. Once again Borrowed Time kick things off with a gripping lead and a "fake out" sort of riff, soon replaced by the driving and speedy verse. Everything comes together perfectly, with each aspect of the song working in sweet harmony to make you feel that special unnameable something. The chorus is a real treat, with J. Priest pushing his voice and really projecting a sense of urgency and passion. The whole song has a swirling, wistful feel to it with powerful driving riffs and effortlessly fluid, catchy leads intertwined throughout. It is mind-boggling that a band so young is writing at this advanced level.
The demo is rounded out with another short acoustic track acting as lead-in for a highly spirited cover of Necropolis. The band is obviously a huge fan of Manilla Road and they have more than earned the right to bed down with this classic. It actually sounds like they may be playing it just a bit faster than the original. Either way it's a testament to the band that this well-loved classic fits in so snugly with the rest of the songs on the demo.
If you're lucky enough to have the recently issued CD version of the demo then you've also got the Fog in the Valley 7" tracks tacked onto the end. It couldn't be more obvious that these tracks are from a wholly different release. The sound is worlds apart, both in production and composition. Another testament to the writing prowess of this band; they carry off both styles with poise and character. These two tracks are quite a bit more upbeat and look more toward NWOBHM legends of the past as opposed to our obscure little USPM heroes. These two songs rock harder, are produced more dynamically, and are impossibly catchy. The bass also plays a larger, more upfront role. The chorus on Fog in the Valley might be my favorite moment on the entire album. I couldn't even hazard a guess at what the lyrics are about but they're sung with incredible fervor and sound quite meaningful to the man who wrote them.
Borrowed Time flex a lot of different muscles on this release. They show an incredible pool of talent, a knowledge of what's come before, and the unflinching willingness to grasp the torch and ride with it into the cold night. I haven't obsessed over a demo this much in a long time and I'm eagerly awaiting a proper full-length from these young stalwarts. The music drips atmosphere and passion in turns. There is nothing self-conscious or ironic here. Every riff, every note has been baptized in the purifying arcane magick of epic heavy metal.