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Vicious Demo - 1990 - 100%

kgerych1995, November 2nd, 2011


This is the famous demo tape by Detroit metal band Halloween. Let me give you a little background on the situation at this point. Gone are drummer Bill Whyte and founding guitarist Rick Craig. Enter future Invain (later known as Fair Game) guitarist Billy Gray and future Lillian Axe, Fuel, and Godsmack drummer Tommy Stewart, although at the time he was known as Tommy Scott. This incarnation of Halloween did not last long. Shortly after the tape was released in early 1990, Tommy Scott left and was replaced by Billy Adams (A.K.A BA!). Gray stuck around for a short time afterwards until he left to play full time in Fair Game, although he returned in 1991 to do the solo for the track “Kings” on the No One Gets Out record, which I have also reviewed. This demo is the missing link between the delayed Victims of the Night record, done in 1986-1987 and NOGO. It documented a somewhat different version of Halloween. Gone were the cheesy lyrics of their debut record. Here was a much darker, heavier version of Halloween. Even at the end of Craig and Whyte’s tenure in the band, the music was evolving into a much darker, heavier sound.

The songs:

"I Confess" busts out of the starting gate with a massive riff and barbaric drums. The lyrics deal with betrayal in a relationship. It was a real shame that it never made it onto a record. On an unrelated note, the track was covered by Canadian traditional metal band Cauldron on their 2011 lp Burning Fortune. This track hooks you in and does not let you go. The solo is bluesier than I am used to in Halloween, but it was a really welcome change. Not the best track, but overall a good one. "Vicious Lies" is a repetitive track that is assembled around a constant riff that will stick in your head weeks later. The drumming is again pounding. The falsetto vocals of their debut are not really present anywhere on this tape, just lower, darker sounding vocals with the occasional scream here and there to be found here. All around, it is a good track, though a major departure from the Halloween of their debut.

"Evil Nation" is a shorter track, clocking in at just over 2:30, but does it really need to be any longer? This author would have to say NO. The track is built around a constant speedy riff that sort of harks back to the Don’t Metal With Evil days. The lyrics are a vicious political and social commentary of the time. The solo is short, sweet, and to the point. Halloween was never about technical mumbo jumbo. They just wanted to bust out with some smoking hot metal, and that is exactly what the track does. This song has to be my second favorite on the tape. "Agony" is perhaps my least favorite track. The guitar work is great. The only complaint I have is the lyrics. It is essentially the next chapter in the “She’s A Teazer” saga. Personally, I must say that this is probably the best one in the saga when put up to the aforementioned and the next chapter, 1994’s 1-900 from the 1997 demo compilation. This track features a speedy riff and great drumming courtesy of Mr. Tommy Scott. It is not really a bad track, but I just hit the skip button on my cd player when it comes on.

Bar none, "Black Skies" is my favorite track on the tape. It gathers speed in the intro before hitting “top speed” for the track. I really dig the drum fills that Tommy does here. His real talent breaks through on this song. The same goes for Billy Gray. This has to be my favorite Halloween song he played on. He had a sound that was WAY ahead of the times. He had that perfect mix of both channels that just gave him a bluesy, yet biting metal crunch. The song was redone in 2002 as a part of the Tricks, Treats and Other Tales From The Crypt compilation, but I must say that I was not happy with the end result. It really was not Black Skies without Tommy and Billy in their places.
"Take Me", a bonus track on the 1st pressing, is a short acoustical piece that was recorded in 1988 when Rick Craig was still in the band. It is a depressingly sad piece about giving up in the world after so many things shit on your head. Despite many peoples' thoughts, it is not about suicide. It is a relaxed piece that only features Brian Thomas and Rick Craig on the acoustic guitar. There are only a handful of live versions of this track. I only have one from the Token Lounge in 1988. The live version differs vastly from the studio version. Gone are the acoustics and enter the electric guitars. The live version is more of a power ballad than its superior studio predecessor. Overall, if you have it, you will most likely take interest in the rare gem of a track.

This is perhaps the best demo I have heard in terms of sound quality as well as musicianship. I think that it is all there. If you can score a copy of this rare gem, pay any price for it. It really is worth the price. K.G