As the Riffmaster General in UK doom pioneers Cathedral for 23 years and Death Penalty since 2013 (plus a heinously rare one-man-band demo under the name Morbid Doom circa 1989), tape-trader-from-way-back Gaz Jennings clearly knows his doom onions. So with the recent Rise Above reissue of Cathedral’s 1990 demo In Memoriam – a shudderingly raw and murky slab of extreme metal history – we got Gaz to pin down his own twelve favourite doom metal demo tapes of all time (in practice between 1981 and 1991).
**Nigro Mantia – Poetry Of Subculture (1984) **Cathedral’s 1991 Forest Of Equilibrium thanks list contained some bands that proved impossible to discover anything about, e.g. Bomb Culture, Loch Ness and cheeky in-joke Mike Smail’s Rollercoaster (not a real band, alas). In that cryptic league is this Danish quartet, whose sole release retains an eccentric, enigmatic grandeur. “A cross between Mercyful Fate, Evil and the vocals remind me of Black Hole,” says Gaz, plus: “Great riffs.”
**Count Raven – Demo ‘89 (1989) / Indignus Famulus (1990) **This Swedish trio lost a singer to Saint Vitus in the mid-90s and periodically split up and reformed a few times, but Gaz only has ears for the early stuff: “These guys had some very cool Sabbathy riffs and Chris’s take on Ozzy-style vocals made for two great demos. Much preferred these to their records to be honest.
“Great lyrics on In The Name Of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” adds Gaz of the opening anti-glam diatribe: “Now won’t you listen all you pretty boys, in magazines you look like plastic toys…”
**Winter – Winter (1989) **Cult pioneers of nasty bottom-end sludge with crust-punk influences, New York City three-piece Winter released two demos and the Into Darkness LP, but split up in 1992 before the world got its head around what they were doing. “Very Celtic Frost and an influence on early Cathedral,” Gaz affirms. “Servants Of The Warsmen is so heavy. Again I preferred the sound of the demo than on Into Darkness.”
Confessor – Collapse Into Despair (1990) “This demo is so technical even now I still can’t get my head around what they’re doing. Like Watchtower it’s hard to grasp at times but the beauty is you can never predict what’s coming next, even now after all these years. Such great riffs. An acquired taste mainly due to the vocals. You either love em or hate em. Me? I love ‘em. This demo was much better sounding than the album, which was really flat sounding.”
**Revelation – The Illusion Of Progress (1989) **True ‘80s Maryland doom from yet another underrated power trio, Revelation released four demos between 1987-89 before releasing a debut on Rise Above – the label’s first doom release. “Music from the heart and full of emotion, especially John Brenner’s vocals,” enthuses Gaz. “Some very cool riffs that influenced Cathedral. Very good band and one of the first underground bands to be playing doom metal.”
**Dream Death – Dream Death (1986) / More Graveyard Delving (1987) / Ode To Sorrow (1988) **“I love this band. It was such an honour to have Mike Smail play on the first Cathedral album, especially as Journey Into Mystery ranks among my all-time fave albums. Highly original, super-cool riffs, fantastic drumming, heavy as hell. What more do you want? I think these guys were labelled sludge metal and that was back in ‘86/‘87! I wish they would record Under A Blood Red Moon and Rhaizes Shadow in a proper studio. Two great tunes.”
Penance – Living Truth (1990) “Dream Death became Penance and released this superb demo. Very different in style to Dream Death but equally as heavy,” says Gaz, and from the opening chords of Contemplation this Pittsburgh quartet’s first demo has a more measured solemnity than the ragged fury of their previous incarnation. “Cool that both Revelation and Penance released both their debut albums on Rise Above,” ponders Gaz.
**Trouble – Official Live Tape (5/2/1983) **“If anybody wants to know what doom metal is, look no further than early Trouble,” declares Gaz, of perhaps the single biggest influence on his early guitar work for Cathedral. “This band should have been huge but alas it didn’t happen. Criminally underrated, even now, but any band that wants to play doom metal, this is, for me, the band you have to aspire to. Victim Of The Insane, Bastards Will Pay, Pray For The Dead, Wickedness Of Man …Incredible!!!”
**Ground Zero – Demo (1981) **“I first heard this band on the Friday Rock Show one night. I think they may have been from Norwich? Great song called Never Reach The Stars, kinda reminded me of Sabbath meets Hawkwind with a really cool female singer. I still have the Friday Rock Show cassette that I taped that evening with this track on. I eventually went and got the demo which is very cool.”