Leek’s finest, Demon, rolled into Bilston as part of the current tour bringing with them Portsmouth based metal outfit Dendera for the ride. Dendera put on a formidable show that doesn’t stray too far from their classic 80’s/90’s metal influences; twin lead guitars, a thunderous rhythm section and a frontman more than capable of delivering the goods with the kind of scream that would make other bands jealous are all present. It wasn’t for the lack of trying on the part of frontman Ashley Edison to get the punters more involved in the show, but they did receive a good reception from the Robin crowd, especially on stand out tracks like ‘Blood Red Skies’.
Last year saw Demon release a superb album in Cemetery Junction which was received very favourably by both fans and press alike. However, other than the odd festival, there wasn’t a great deal of touring or promotion given to the album in the UK. A year later and tonight’s show at the Robin is part of their first proper UK tour in some years, and it’s a special one to boot. The tour is being billed as the Unexpected Guest Tour; six dates celebrating the album of the same name. Not only does the prospect of hearing the album in full appeal, the fact that it comes as a full theatrical show is more than enough to tempt in the punters. So as the rest of the band take to the stage to the backing track of ‘Full Moon’, Dave Hill appears resplendent in purple, red and gold robes and demon mask as the first chords of ‘Night Of The Demon’ kick in.
‘Total Possession’ signifies the start of the Unexpected Guest material and in doing so makes it apparent that it’s not simply going to be a run through of the tracks in the order of the album. Instead the songs are mixed up and spread throughout the set along with other early Demon classics. It’s a smart move as it allows the gig to flow on the strength of all of the songs rather than splitting the set.
‘The Sign Of The Madman’ and ‘Strange Institution’ sound glorious. Dave Hill is in fine voice and he has assembled a select group of quality musicians for Demon 2018. Drummer Neil Ogden has been with the band for 15 years, and Paul Hume (guitar), Ray Walmsley (bass) and Karl Waye (keys) have all been part of the line up since the release of Unbroken. Meanwhile Tim Read is currently standing in for guitarist Dave Cotterill.
There’s a costume change for ‘The Plague’ in which Dave Hill wears the suit and bowler hat mimicking the character from the cover of that album; a visual representation of the themes of politics, corruption and consumerism that were contained within. 35 years after it’s release, it seems more relevant than ever.
Life on The Wire is the only track played tonight that doesn’t feature on the first three albums, and it’s one of the many highlights of the set; an epic song with sublime solo from Tim Read. Following this it’s back to the Unexpected Guest for ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ and an exhilarating ‘Don’t Break The Circle’ – a true classic with great dynamics, the crowd loving every moment and headbanging throughout.
The set wraps up with an encore of ‘One Helluva Night’ with the crowd singing along to what has been one of the best performances I’ve seen the band and certainly a highlight gig of the year. As the festival line ups for 2019 are starting to be announced, it would be great to see this theatrical set on a bigger stage. Stonedeaf, Bloodstock or Steelhouse would all be perfect to bring the Unexpected Guest back to the masses to appreciate.