It’s been about fifteen years since I’ve purposely gone to the radio for music. During high school, I loved our local hard rock station, Funky Monkey, and it was integral in the development of my
bad musical taste. The best feature was the tough guy voice that gave you the name of the band and the song title after each track had played, allowing me to quickly categorize which bands I did and didn’t like. But when I got my first iPod, all of that changed. Sure, I had a giant book of CDs that I had kept hidden in my car for when the radio wasn’t cutting it, but being able to load a tiny device with tons of songs was a game changer. Before long, I’d left most mainstream rock and metal behind and was listening to all things cheesy and trve.
As I sit here listening to Demons, the fifth album from UK band Savage Messiah, I’m finding myself transported back to the days when Funky Monkey was throwing out a few metal tunes alongside its usual mainstream radio rock. If Pyramaze decided to join with Mystic Prophecy and write a hard rock album, it might sound a lot like Demons. The base sound is super heavy, Jens Borgen mixed, thrash-infused heavy metal with big choruses. Check out “Under No Illusions” for the template used on much of Demons: thrashy intro, driving rock verse, soaring chorus, and great solo. Contrast this with the modern heavy rock cover of Chris Stapleton‘s “Parachute,” and you’ve got a decent picture of the range of sounds that the album has on offer.
The styles used on Demons are legion. “The Bitter Truth” brings some power/thrash, “Rise then Fall” and “Heretic in the Modern World” are groove metal, and “Down and Out” and “The Lights are Going Out” are basically what I would imagine good Nickelback songs might sound like.12 The latter is a southern rocker with oodles of groove, a melodramatic chorus, and soulful solo, and one of my favorite tracks here. “Until the Shadows Fall” is a ballad and “What Dreams May Come” starts off like one before launching into a metal solo over double-kick drum and finishing in hard rock glory. The only song that I really don’t care for is closer “Steal the Faith in Me,” a generic rocker with a vocal performance that reminds me of Stabbing Westward — a name drop I never thought I would have to use for this site.
I was initially caught off guard by Demons‘ sporadic use of styles, but the songwriting and performances eventually won me over. Singer David Silver uses a mid-range power metal voice with a lot of grit that reminds me of RD Liapakis, and it works really well to smooth the somewhat sharp edges where metal meets rock. The guitar work also sets Savage Messiah apart from many of the other bands that dabble with accessible metal music. Silver and fellow guitarist David Hruska know their way around a thrash riff and a metal solo and often add these elements into the more rock-oriented tracks to keep things interesting and it makes the overall sound more cohesive. As far as drawbacks go, some cheesy lyrics hold back the impact of Silver’s very heartfelt delivery, and there’s a bit of a pacing problem. Having a semi-ballad appear as the second track kills the momentum built by the heavy opener, and it would have been better served later on, and while not overly long at 45 minutes, cutting the aforementioned “Steal the Faith in Me” would only have strengthened Demons‘ impact.
Metal-adjacent radio rock gets a bad rap, and often for good reason. Savage Messiah state in the promo blurb that they want to create “songs that will feel as much at home on the airwaves and playlists as reverberating around sweaty mosh-pits,” and for the most part they’ve succeeded. If high school Holdeneye had heard some of these tunes while blasting Funky Monkey in his Jeep Cherokee, he and his full head of hair would have taken notice for sure.