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Stunt Cat sleeps on the dashboard - 75%

The_Evil_Hat, May 19th, 2009

My first taste of hell came with their self titled demo. While I didn’t know what to make of it at first, it soon became a favorite of mine. Later, I began to try and track down other material by the band. This proved quite difficult. One of things that I did find was this demo, consisting of two songs.

The mainstay of Hell’s music is the same. The guitars are still purveyors of oddly constructed leads, while the bass and drums partake in an off-kilter groove in the background. The vocals are still as stunningly energetic and perfectly over-the-top as they were last time. One of the few differences is the production. It’s far cleaner on the whole than on the past demo. This has some obvious benefits, not the least of which is the fact that I’m unsure of how well the beginning of the second track would’ve worked with the old high-oriented production. At the same time, the buzzing, almost painfully high guitars that would frequently fade out and were always madly swinging about in volume formed a surprisingly bit part of the first demo’s maniacal enjoyment, which this is now lacking. The drumming is also far more up-front than it previously was, but while this would normally be a good thing, it again seems to take away part of the charm of the band.

The first track on the demo is the title track, Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us. It’s generally a good song, but there’re several flaws. In my past review I mentioned that almost all of the album’s flaws came from the dazzlingly overzealous feel that drove the music. This track, and the demo on the whole, feels quite a bit more calculated, and I don’t think that it works quite as well. The song is quite good for the majority of its runtime, but despite an awesome beginning, there are some odd hiccups. The line, “I’m so sick and tired, of people telling me what to do!” would work very well, except for an over-exaggerated pause between ‘tired’ and ‘of’ that it looses all momentum and sounds rather silly. It’s like Halliday was doing his standard passionate singing with abandon, and while off, was exhilarating to listen to. Unfortunately, halfway through the measure he seems to realize this and cuts back, trying to find the beat, and neutering the mesmerizing power of the performance, with the sonic equivalent of trying to find what page you’re supposed to be on. The chorus is another point of contention. It’s far too long, and goes through several different phases, several of which don’t seem needed. The first is a rather epic, melodic rendition of the song’s title which works quite well. After this the line is repeated to more reckless music (which feels like an unimportant bridge to what comes next), until it finally culminates in a vocal break, followed by a twisted lead guitar burst while the singer belts out the lyrics with abandon. Unfortunately, while this moment is great, it’s not something that should be repeated back-to-back, and looses much of its impact as it’s shown three or so times in a row.

The second track, Death Squad, lacks any specific failings in composition (save one, which will be addressed later), but fails to attain true perfection. It features a rather long buildup of fairly heavy riffing, with epicly cheesy melodies above it, and then the leads come into fruition by gracing us with a very odd portion right before the track gets going. The more prominent drumming is utilized quite often on this track, as rolls are occasionally used to segue between riffs. The first few passages alternate amongst themselves for a while, which is probably a bit longer than would be ideal, but it’s hard to care as it enters a synth-ladden passage, backed with steady drumming that’s reminiscent of the fabulous cheese on The Devil’s Deadly Weapon from the self titled demo. The song continues in this fashion, alternating lead-driven passages with several more laid back bits, for some time. The problem with this track is the lack of vocals. Now I don’t really have a problem with instrumentals, but when it sounds like a track where vocals would’ve boosted it up quite a bit, I can’t help but wonder why they weren’t included. After all, they’re clearly one of the biggest strengths of Hell. While I could see many singers struggling with the shifting nature of the passages, Halliday has definitely sung over just as odd music before with the band, and I’m at a loss as to why he didn’t here.

This is a fairly solid demo. It’s slightly more conventional than their first, but that’s like saying that it’s not quite as unique as a cat driving a race car off a frigate to go hurtling into the air, and land on a newly emerged island from the south pacific, on which a drunken, dreaded elder god, named Applesauce, happens to reside. I suppose it’s true, but it’s not like everything can consist of stunt-felines, now can it? Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us is not quite up to the level of the self titled, and features several missteps that drag down the score, but it’s still an enjoyable and fiercely original listen. Recommended, but get the ‘Hell’ demo first.