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This one is among the best demos I have ever heard - 95%

Harachte, June 26th, 2005

It's kind of difficult to rate a demo tape containing tracks which were later re-recorded by (what I think) a different band alltogether musically speaking. The scarce information one can find about this recording is always related to the official Agent Steel bio, which is not as clear about the matter as it could be.

Sceptre was a band that recorded a three-track demo tape in 1983, of which one song was later featured on Metal Massacre IV. The one name that connects Sceptre with Agent Steel was the alleged John (or Joao) Campos, guitarist in Sceptre, who wrote tracks like 'Taken by Force" and "144,000 Gone", two tracks that later re-appeared on the Agent Steel debut "Skeptics Apocalypse".
Legend has it that this Campos fellow was in fact John Cyriis (actual birth name still a matter of much debate), the eccentric vocalist of Agent Steel, a kick-ass Speed and Thrash metalband that was formed by Juan Garcia at approximately the same period, which, of course, explains the re-appearance of said tracks on Agent Steel's debut.

The demo tape opens with "Taken by Force". People who know this track from the Agent Steel debut will be surprised to find that this earlier version is even better. The crunchy guitar sound (reminding me of Slayer's "Show No Mercy") is audible despite the (lack of) production (but I really don't care about that), the notes played seem somewhat higher than the version as featured on the "Skeptics Apocalypse" LP. The titletrack of the tape is a power-laden combination between early Thrash metal and NWOBHM-style music, an up-tempo track with some frenzied guitarlicks and shredding. "144,000 Gone" is of course well known among Agent Steel fans everywhere, this version being much more eerie however, with an additional intro, whispered vocals at the beginning and the overall tempo higher than the later versions and a drive that is -again- better than later versions.

The biggest mystery about this tape however is the identity of the vocalist, whose very high pitched vocals are just brilliant. It's easy to link these vocals to assuming it was Cyriis himself who did them. But, as it was said elsewhere, Cyriis definetely sounds different later on.
So who was this vocalist, who did an excellent job with his sometimes clenched teenth pronounciation and his high pitched screams, which sometimes reminded me of Jon Oliva during Savatages' "Hall of the Mountain King" LP?
Also remarkable is the fact that the recording seems a bit too 'fast'. Fast as in a tape that is being copied slightly too fast. So I tried to tone that down a bit by means of a computer but to no avail... it still sounded like being played in an erratic taperecorder.

Sceptre is an enigma, with no further info is available at this point. I think that the pre-Agent Steel tracks "Taken by Force" and "144,000 Gone" are actually better than later versions with the titletrack coming in third, but still way better than almost anything that was offcially released at that time.

This tape is among the best demos I have ever heard. It just reeks of raw potential and I for myself are in dire need of knowing who the goddamn vocalist really is, even when more than 20 years have passed since the release. Excellent!