:: The Unexpected Guest ::    

Origin unknown, 1982
by Phil Bell


Our tales of 'The Unexpected' start with a ponder-worthy sleeve. In swimmable blue tones, the front cover is seemingly the distorted face - lips in Jagger-mouthed sprawl, tongue behung Simmons-style, nostrils flared - of say a baboon, or a dog... or a daemon.

But before you quakers stretch for your Bibles, scrutinise the picture closely. It's a rippling torso, straight out of a Batman comic's Bullworker ad. Unexpected. Weird.

Within the gatefold is worse. Photographs of two ogreish manifestations adorn it, one white-bearded, wrinkled and not unresemblant to Ian Anderson, the other wombish, bald and like his brother, Angry (Are you sure? - Ed.).

The first is actually the mysterious Father Of Time referred to on these Stoke hell-stokers' first sacrifice 'Night Of The Demon' last year. The second pertains to a song, 'Sign Of A Madman', on this new, improved offering. And the remainder is filled by lyrics.

I say 'new, improved' because this album has dispensed with the schizophrenic insecurity of 'NOTD' - where if you remember, Demon dabbled unsurely between the diabolical Dark Arts on one side and a straight-down-the-line rattle overflip.

Here we undividedly confront the supernatural, the fourth dimension, the psychic, and the evil with all the brash boldness of the USS Enterprise. Side one sets the atmosphere immediately with the nightmarish horror-movie 'Intro: An Observation', picturing the high-strung suspense of the Unexpected Guest's Hitchcock-like slow footsie approach to a helplessly panting girl.

Then, with a gutbucket surge, we sear into 'Don't Break The CircIe', the first standout track with a greedy amount of wheezy, red-hot riffs just to make sure, and ominous chants of the title thrown in to transport you to the mystic scenario of seances.

Instantly it's established that Demon's forte is liveIy, luscious HM, not, as you might expect, anything more doom-laden and Sabs-like. Pete Hinton's zingy production is responsible for many-a-fold an enhancement, bringing some insipidly ordinary songs to life.

'The Spell' bubbles like witches brew in a cauldron with the powerhouse pounding of John Wright, buzzing synth and bluntly bruising guitar.

'Total Possession', a titillating tale with overtones of The Exorcist, puts myriad riffing into a format viz UFO around 'Obssession' time, an influence also entertainingly evident on ,Beyond The Gates' and technically certain due to Les Hunt's wah-wahed lead seeps.

The aforementioned 'Sign Of A Madman' paean to Lennon's slayer, the raunchy Rabin-esque 'Have We Been Here Before?' and 'Victim Of Fortune' all ooze class of a distinctly American supposition, but retain sufficiently Brit rogueish heaviness. Almost throughout, a constantly roof-thumpin' energy threshold is maintained, but basking in melody, Demon might have discovered their supreme success formula.

Only in 'Strange Institution', my personal fave, are the brakes applied in spicey, slow-burning epical style, for what seems to be a lament for a vegetablised man on life support systems (?!). But 'The Grand Illusion' soon resurrects the level, courtesy the slicing swifthand rhythm guitar of Mal Spooner, and here vocalist Dave Hill delivers his most gravel-scrapen growl in reciting the alcoholic blues (which are, of course 'The work of the devil').

Elsewhere his voice could be Meat Loaf's or possibly Phil Mogg's or Graham Bonnet's rotating at about 20 rpm.

The so-so 'Deliver Us From Evil' closes the record, a foreboding warning of the predicament of sinners when their number's up, in which I think you'll see that The Unexpected Guest is, in fact, death... and as the needle spirals out, the Guest spookily leaves, leaden-footed, no sound of the panting girl to be heard...

I guess you could call Demon the thinking man's Venom.

–  ' The Unexpected Guest ' updated 2006-02-14  –