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Minor Vitus - 80%

Sweetie, November 28th, 2018

I’ve always thought it was pretty neat whenever a demo from years ago gets brought back into the studio and re-released on a full-length type format. Recently, Shadow Kingdom Records brought us something from a doom metal band called Asylum, titled 3-3-88. It gives us a nice mixed bag of old-school sounds shuffled together, all packaged into a neat collection that’s a little more listener friendly regarding the production.

Something that jumped out at me immediately and was quite surprising was the evident punk influence on some of the riffs and tones. “Mystified” is a great example of this, as there’s a fast and fuzzy level of angst to the writing. The guitar tones also sound like they’re right out of a Black Flag album. This isn’t the basis for every track, because diving a little deeper in you’ll find more mellow tracks such as “Forgotten Image,” which resemble calmer Sabbath tunes like “Hand Of Doom.” And there is a lot of funky fun as well, especially with the large string of instrumental tracks that are piled up near the end.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of inconsistency with 3-3-88, which wasn’t really hard to predict, seeing what it’s made up of. I don’t find this to be a flaw bad enough to drag it under, but it’s certainly noticeable. Some tracks were better produced than others, and the large amount of different musical influences aren’t weaved together that well. Getting past this though, it’s loaded with some great riffs, and the vocals are pretty charming in the coldest of ways.

At the end of the day, I still recommend this album for those seeking something different, especially if the idea of “doom punk” seems appealing to you. If you’re looking for a solid front to back release, this isn’t where you’re going to find it. If you’re looking for some fun blends of old-school influences slapped together and called an album, this is just the ticket. Asylum would eventually go through a couple name changes, but since this incarnation of the band never made it past the demo stage, this is the closest to a full length you’ll get.

Originally written for Indy Metal Vault:

Open hands have closed. - 75%

GrizzlyButts, October 31st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Shadow Kingdom Records (Limited edition)

Although doom metal had its unsung and malformed heroes in between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland in the late 70’s with Warhorse (pre-The Obsessed) and Pentagram few escape notice more often at the start of the 80’s than Asylum. Having put out ‘full-length worthy’ demos throughout the 80’s until becoming Obstination and then Unorthodox in the early 90’s, Asylum‘s demo work has now seen doubly admirable resuscitation thanks to Shadow Kingdom Records; The first came with ‘The Earth Is the Insane Asylum of the Universe‘ (1985) which was undoubtedly more progressive that one might expect whilst traversing mid-80’s doom and this would continue to be compositional mark of guitarist/vocalist Dale Flood. You’d almost have to hear bits of Trouble and The Obsessed in that first demo but also a sort of Rush influenced stomp alongside the late 70’s heavy rock riffs.

Looking back upon the bulk of Maryland and D.C. doom history it seems this all came from Asylum as originals a few years before the formation of lost (Death Mask, Reactor), obscured (Internal Void, Iron Man) and fondly remembered (Revelation) doom metal groups in the vicinity. Only Revelation seemed to take interest in the funk dipping style of the predominantly Christian-themed doom/psych rock that Asylum were playing around 1988 when this studio demo was recorded; You can certainly draw a few small parallels between ‘3-3-88’ and Revelation‘s ‘The Illusion of Progress’ from a year later. While the band’s fusion of funk-boppin’ psychedelic hard rock and doom metal would flop after they changed their name to Obstination, much of that failure to launch was made up for with a well received debut on Hellhound Records, titled ‘Asylum’ (1992), under a third new name: Unorthodox.

This limited CD run of Asylum‘s studio demo from March 3rd, 1988 captures and preserves the curious progression from a fringe prog-doom metal hybrid towards the more accessible almost alternative rock sound of early Unorthodox. If you’re somehow already well familiar with Unorthodox‘ debut and you want a direct look back at that step from demo to album (without hoping to ever find a copy of Obstination‘s stuff) this will help you draw the line more clearly from that 1985 demo towards ‘Asylum’ with some of the funk and a bit of the thrash, too. In fact the track “Unorthodox” (and perhaps “World in Trouble” will feel like some kind of alien doom/thrash metal take on what R.A.V.A.G.E. or even Watchtower would touch upon a few years previous, despite the rest of the demo resembling The Obsessed and early Revelation primarily.

As a collector’s item for fans of United States doom metal history a release of Asylum‘s studio demo couldn’t be more exciting. The music itself is perhaps only impressive in context of the bubble where it existed, though. I love the Rush influenced swagger of tracks like “Time Bomb” and “Road to Ruin” but at the same time I can see why this might’ve not translated into a bigger record deal in 1988 as alt-rock was boiling beyond the funk and little talent for melody shines through. There are some really hard riffs here and there with “Forgotten Image” probably being the most satisfying groove next to the aforementioned “Unorthodox” and that sort of wandering, groove-spilling late 80’s rock feeling is at the very least entertaining as a proof of concept. A worthy listen and a very important archive all the same.