By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
HOUSE OF LORDS – DEMONS DOWN (1992)
Recorded and released in 1992 just as the grunge era was beginning and effectively killing off the 80’s metal movement, the third studio album from House of Lords was pretty much ignored by both the music world at large and by myself as well.
I had pretty much moved on from the band at this particular point in time. And I’ve never heard the Demons Down album until listening to it for this article. As it turns out, I really missed out on a solidly entertaining album.
Singer James Christian and keyboardist Gregg Giuffria recorded the album with a reconstituted lineup that featured Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Black Oak Arkansas) on drums, Sean McNabb (Quiet Riot) on bass and Dennis Chick on guitar (for reasons passing understanding, the guitarist was billed solely as “Chick” on the album’s liner notes).
The Demons Down album opened with a couple of songs that featured overtly religious sounding lyrics. However, there was a contrast between the two songs that made one enjoyable and the other one not so much. On the opening track “O Father”, while the overall feel of the song was done well enough, the lyrics/vocal performance came off as overly preachy. For someone like me that has as little to do with religion as possible, it was a little too much for me to fully enjoy the song.
But then came the title track as a follow up. And while that one still featured an in your face sense of the religious in the song’s lyrical content, they came off more as a storytelling device rather than a protracted screed. When they combined it with a bluesy musical score that eventually blew out to a more rocking style, there was just something to the song that made it a special bit of music.
I have to hand it to the band, they even managed to craft a solidly entertaining power ballad with “What’s Forever For”. Musically, the song is kind of what you would expect from the time of its release. But lyrically, the viewpoint of the song is coming from the end of a relationship rather than the start of one or the besotted state of romantic feelings in the midst of one. I don’t know, maybe the song just caught me right, but it was a very good track.
The song “Talk About Love” was musically invigorating particularly towards the end of the song, but I found “Spirit Of Love”, the closing song to the first side of the album to be little more than a pedestrian run through and would likely skip the song whenever I next listen to the album.
The first song on the album’s second side is “Down, Down, Down” and while the song title might not be anything special, the little guitar solo that opens it was pretty interesting. There’s a heavier musical sound to the track with a gritty set of almost vicious sounding lyrics. I really liked this song except to point out that the backing vocals tended to get a little drowned out with all that was going on musically.
There’s little nice to be said about the song “Inside You”. It was a complete chore to get through this song as it was a morass of pomposity that I’d think would be way too much for even the most die hard House of Lords fan to take more than once. It was just flat out BAD!
However, the band did itself proud with two fast paced straight forward rockers on this side of the album. “Johnny’s Got A Mind Of His Own” is a shot of pure rocking energy and the car driving down the open highway nature of “Metallic Blue” featured a tempo that matched perfectly with the song’s lyrical bent. These two tracks were wildly entertaining to my ears.
The album closer, “Can’t Fight Love”, is another uptempo song that ends up bringing Demons Down to a rousing finish, letting the album finish with a flourish not a whimper.
I wrote about the band’s Sahara album back in October 2018 and said that I thought it was one of my favorite albums that I’d written about doing this series. As much as it surprises me to say this, I think I’d have to include Demons Down (despite those two songs I didn’t like) in that category as well. Because when the band is on fire, their songs just reach out and grab you. In retrospect, I’m finding that I’d likely have enjoyed House of Lords a lot if I’d only stayed with them throughout the entirety of their career.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Dennis Chick would go on to join Ex-White Lion singer Mike Tramp’s group Freak of Nature and play on both of that band’s studio releases.
Backing vocalists on Demons Down included Fiona, David Glen Eisley and Kiss singer Paul Stanley. Stanley was featured on the song “Can’t Fight Love”.