Demo Reviews

by Geoff Wilbur

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Freak (464 67th St., Suite 1RR, Brooklyn, NY 11220) delivers a powerful, disturbing, raucous blend of funk and rock that would reach an audience similar to Shootyz Groove's. An assault on the senses, these five tracks would certainly play well live.

Mindslam (235 Alma St., Palo Alto, CA 94301) opens with frantic, punkish "Jennifer," capable of instant alternative success and possible crossover mainstream dominance. The CD continues at the same blistering pace, including potential breakout tracks "Matter" and "Distortion," though neither quite matches the hook of "Jennifer."

Berklee graduate Steve Booke (29 Olive Place, Lynbrook, NY 11563) has submitted a four track demo showcasing his axework. Catchy, progressive rock tape opener "Black Mirror" is his band Gateway's current single. The other three tracks, all instrumentals, are as hot, slick, well-written and performed, and entertaining as Marc Bonilla's EE TICKET.

The Magic Dragon (P.O. Box 43805, Detroit, MI 48243) is difficult to describe. Funky rhythms, fat guitars, and harmonious keyboards frame a deep, powerful, dramatic vocal style. The combination is unique and clearly capable of producing a "feel" in addition to the "sound" in a club setting.

ROCK HARD ROCKER by David LaDuke (SB Productions, Box 58368, Louisville, KY 40268) utilizes impressive guitar wizardry to produce a sound worthy of sharing the stage with early '80s Triumph. Straight-up hard rock throughout, I particularly liked the catchy, full throttle guitar instrumental tracks.

Master Steven (Dan Dube' Mgmt., 2484 Spruce Needle Dr., Mississauga, Ont., Canada L5L 1M6) delivers melodic hard rock with mid-tempo harmonies and vocals that soar just this side of progressive on DISTANT FACES.

Give country singer/songwriter Michael M (21175 Creekside Dr., Strongsville, OH 44136) a listen, and you'll swear you've heard these six songs before. Very down home. Very all-American. They're old school songs with contemporary appeal. 1996's first nostalgic country hit could be on this tape.

Kramies (1590 Winslow Dr., Hudson, OH 44236) shows his all-around talent (writing/vocals/guitar/bass/keys) on this demo, a well-scripted, engaging, original trip through a mood-bending, progressive rock landscape.

Process (7641 NW 29 St., Margate, FL 33063) breaks new ground while maintaining a soft prog sound with broad appeal. Process' music equals emotion, and on IMPRESSIONS, a major league CD, the emotion flows in waves.

You know Keith Minaya (#1107 Little River Inn, 401 Hwy. 17, Little River, SC 29566) as the lead guitarist of flamboyant ex-local country favorites The Gary Brinin Band. On this tape, though, the ace Berklee-trained axeman delivers a sort of Beatles-meets-swing thing, an acid rock track, and a funky rocker.



6700 Lingane, Chelsea, MI 48118

This project has experienced several delays, but the wait was well worth it. EXCESSIVE FORCE is an excellent collection of riff-heavy metal, along the lines of Overkill and Metal Church. Clean vocals, kickin' rhythms, crisp fretwork, and production quality superior to most major label material. The songs are well-written and delivered with confidence. Battalion deserves a record deal, and this demo should do for them just that. ESSENTIAL LISTENING.

- Shane Copher

The Bridges

Grand Rapids, MI

It's not the complexity of a song that makes it stick in your head, it's the chemistry of the music. This college quintet mixes classic acoustic work with an addicting rhythm section and solidifies it with singer Vicki Howell's folky melodies. The lyrics are aesthetically conjuring, yet at times a tad sappy. The studio work gets sugary, but not enough to corrupt the chemistry of these six tracks. My personal favorite is by far "Half Cried Tears." With its "Bang and Blame" type rhythm and Neil Young guitar feel, it bounces around one's head for hours despite any attempts to concentrate on anything else. The Bridges are one of the few Grand Rapids bands actually BEING SOUGHT by local club owners.

- Steve DeVries

Absolute Zero


34 Rhydwen Ave., Scarborough, ON M1N 2E1

Covering both the rap and metal bases, this self-dubbed "thoughtcore" release from Toronto's Absolute Zero will please fans of each. There's a definite hint of anger in the lyrical content. Whether aimed at corrupt cops, as in "Bade of Dishonor," or neo-Nazi resurgence ("Fascism Rides Again"), you get the idea that Absolute Zero are not very happy campers.

The drums and bass whack you right in the chest and pin you to the wall, allowing the slick guitar runs to slice you up one side and down the other. The vocals are the most noticeable difference in this band, as they utilize twin vocalists -- one rapper, one growler -- and the two combine for a very interesting sound that defies categorization.

- Shane Copher



31008 Barrington, Westland, MI 48185

There's some pretty intense rockin' going on on here! All four songs on this demo make me want to take my meat cleaver out for a stroll, so Wirehead had better supply me with a full length package PRETTY SOON or else... A+! Let's see these guys LIVE!

- The Wild Card

Hot Tin Roof


Barbed Wire Rec., POB 747, Cleveland, OH 44107

This five piece from Cleveland plays '80s-style dance rock with an edge to it. Songs such as "Strip" and "Stay Away," with programmed keyboards and drums, evoke images of groups such as Big Audio Dynamite. The band gets more down-to-earth on "One Horse Town," which pounds out the same dancy beats but lets the guitars do the dirty work. They still seem to be searching for their sound, but I think they could be on to something here.

- Chas Edwards

Troubled Loners


3343 Schoenbeck Rd., Wheeling, IL 60090

Listening to this disc made me wonder if these guys have done weddings or bar mitzvahs. Troubled Loners seems to be three spoiled brats from the burbs with a keyboard and a lot of free time on their hands. That having been said, if you like mock-rock such as Ween or Weird Al (who, not surprisingly, these guys list as an influence), then you might try finding a copy of this disc. Picture They Might Be Giants without the guitars.

- Chas Edwards

Circle of Force

P.O. Box 46068, Seattle, WA 98146

Three heavy tracks, containing solid rhythms, just the right tempo changes, and blistering fretwork from end to end. You've got to love it, right? Well, not exactly.

While musically this sampling is on the right track, the production level is a little below standards, even for a demo. The mix is a bit muddled, and the songs suffer. Too often here, the drums and bass get fused, leaving the guitars too dominant, even for a metal release. You can't fault the band too much, as the shortcomings here are production related, but this may not be the showcase they were shooting for.

- Shane Copher

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