"Imagine, if you will, a long-lost UFO concept album about a seance gone awry": The Unexpected Guest by Demon - Album Of The Week Club review

The NWOBHM was a broad church, and Demon's second album The Unexpected Guest was more melodic than most

Demon - The Unexpected Guest cover art
(Image: © Carrere)

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Demon - The Unexpected Guest

Demon - The Unexpected Guest cover art

(Image credit: Carrere)

Intro: An Observation
Don't Break The Circle
The Spell
Total Posession
Sign Of A Madman
Victim Of Fortune
Have We Been Here Before?
Strange Institution
The Grand Illusion
Beyond The Gates
Deliver Us From Evil

With The Unexpected Guest, Demon made one of the more original and exuberant records of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal era, a collection of songs set apart by its sharp-witted take on the dark side. Their main inspirations seemed to be old school hard rock rather than heavy metal, but in truth they didn't sound much like anyone else. 

Released in 1982, standout tracks like Don't Break The Circle and The Grand Illusion took those 70s influences – UFO, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep – and spruced them up with a sound that was as melodic as it was atmospheric, happy to use keyboards at a time when many steered well clear. 

In common with many of the NWOBHM's lesser lights, the genre pigeonholing became a millstone once the scene gave up the ghost, and the the tag would haunt Demon as they battled on gamely through both glam and then grunge. “I hated it in the mid-80s,” frontman Dave Hill told us. “After the NWOBHM died, having that label was like having a huge boil on your arse. It was awful."

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Other albums released in July 1982

  • Mirage - Fleetwood Mac
  • Pictures at Eleven - Robert Plant
  • Imperial Bedroom - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  • The Envoy - Warren Zevon
  • Vacation - The Go-Go's
  • Emotions in Motion - Billy Squier
  • Billy Idol - Billy Idol
  • Screaming For Vengeance - Judas Priest
  • Coney Hatch - Coney Hatch
  • Highway Song Live - Blackfoot
  • Juggernaut - Frank Marino
  • Revelations - Killing Joke
  • Under the Big Black Sun - X


What they said...

"Demon were never ones to force unwarranted theatrics down the listener's throat on record (live, hell yes, but not on record!), choosing instead to pen exquisitely sculpted singles like Don't Break the Circle, The Spell and Beyond the Gates, which also just happened to be loosely connected to a common, central theme. On The Unexpected Guest, that theme appeared to be a séance gone horribly wrong." (AllMusic)

"The album is dominated by guitar and vocals; bass, drums and synths play a minor part. Guitar player Les Hunt is a thoroughbred blues adept and demonstrates his choice for a wailing, good old rocking style throughout the album. Singer Dave Hill is a very passionate vocalist. His raspy, hoarse and sometimes nasal voice matches the bluesy hard rock style of the album and sounds like a frantic version of Peter Criss. (Sputnik Music)

"Though the theme of the early Demon material is occult, there are a few songs that sound very upbeat and almost happy, Victim of Fortune and Have We Been Here Before? especially. However, there are some ominous-sounding songs as well, which make up the bulk of the album. I would have to say that the intro, An Observance, points to what the listener can expect. The pace throughout is mostly mid, however they speed it up a few times and nothing really approaches doom-pace." (Encyclopaedia Metallum)


What you said...

Gary Claydon: In a list of bands whose music belied their name and image, Demon would surely be somewhere near the top. Lyrically they were undoubtedly purveyors of doom and gloom much of the time but it was all done in a determinedly upbeat fashion. Happy horror, if you will. Still, if we're all destined to suffer the privations of demonic possession and eternal damnation there's no point being miserable about it. They carried the same air on stage, as well. Vocalist Dave Hill would emerge from a coffin at the start of a gig and wear a variety of demonic masks. All very silly but, at the same time, brilliant stuff! Make no mistake, though, beneath it all was a highly capable rock band.

Demon openly admitted that they hedged their bets on the very decent debut album Night Of The Demon, with side one being loosely conceptual and dealing with themes of good and evil, life and death. In contrast, side two dealt with more familiar hard rock territory just in case the satanic connotations didn't wash with the record buying public.

It's the themes of the debut's opening side that form the central thread of sophomore effort The Unexpected Guest, though, right from the evocative album cover featuring the strangely lit abdominal muscles of a body builder. Demon's influences are fairly clear with shades of Uriah Heep and Dio-era Rainbow. UFO-isms are to the fore (no bad thing) particularly in Dave Hill's delivery which is very Mogg-like in places. Indeed, at one time, I did think that, in the unlikely event the unidentified flying ones might need to find a new frontman, then they could do a lot worse than Hill. 

Following the atmospheric intro, Don't Break The Circle gets things moving in fine style, with some nicely layered guitars. There is little let-up up from there on in. While there may be nothing that truly hits the heights, neither are there any real duffers here. 'Strange Institution' stalls momentum a bit but the likes of the Maiden-esque Deliver Us From Evil, Have We Been Here Before - with a chorus reminiscent of Nazareth - Beyond The Gates of Hell and Victim of Fortune are all great tracks. Mal Spooner's guitar work is excellent throughout while the rhythm section of Chris Ellis and John Wright is solid. The keyboards, provided by Andy Richards, are never intrusive. The production is a step up from from the debut but that's not surprising given the presence of Pete Hinton on knob twiddling duty.

While Night Of The Demon remains my favourite Demon album, it's run very close both by The Unexpected Guest and third outing The Plague. It was during the making of the latter that Mal Spooner's health problems would worsen and lead to his sad death shortly after it's release. Those three albums serve as a fine tribute to the late guitarist.

The Unexpected Guest is an easy 7/10, maybe even an 8. Great stuff.

Alex Hayes: The third Club pick in a row that I was previously unfamiliar with, The Unexpected Guest by Demon turned out to be a pretty damn good album, if more than a little misleading. To borrow from an old TV advert somewhat, this definitely didn't do exactly what it says on the tin!

The name of the band, their logo, their association with the NWOBHM and the album's 1982 year of release, all of these had me in expectation of a listening experience more akin to Venom, Mercyful Fate or Angel Witch. I'd have included the album cover in there too, but I still haven't decided if it depicts some sort of eerie demon, summoned from the fiery pits of hell, or just a very ripped male torso. Answers on a postcard please.

That foreboding is only heightened during the ominous album intro, An Observation. Ooh, creepy. Then, we launch into Don't Break The Circle, and the album's musical axis turns on it's head completely. Like an early 80s version of Ghost, Demon turn out to actually specialize in an energetic, uptempo, and almost AOR-oriented brand of heavy rock here. Imagine, if you will, a long-lost UFO concept album about a seance gone awry, and you can get a pretty good impression of The Unexpected Guest. Vocalist Dave Hill's similarity to Phil Mogg goes a long way towards reinforcing that comparison.

When the keyboards kick in on songs like The Spell and Victim Of Fortune, things veer so far into middle-of-the-road territory that it's quite difficult to reconcile this album with many of the commonly held perceptions of the NWOBHM. I can see some of the purists from that era turning their noses up at this. It's not a bad listen though. The album's biggest flaw is that it ends up becoming a little too repetitive during it's second half. That's not really a criticism that I can level at the follow-up, 1983's The Plague, however.

Yeah, I've also given that album a couple of spins this week. If certain listeners found The Unexpected Guest a tad jarring at the time, then God knows what they made of The Plague. Here, Demon wade unapologetically into more atmospheric, synth dominated waters, with more socially charged lyrics. It's an album that is artistically miles away from The Unexpected Guest, let alone from something like the legendary Wheels Of Steel. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Demon were plainly an outfit that had a different artistic endgame in sight than most NWOBHM bands.

Despite it ultimately turning out to be a bit of a one-trick pony, The Unexpected Guest is still a fine album (7/10). Gotta say, I actually preferred The Plague though (8/10). It had more variety. I'm curious to hear more of Demon's discography. A very good, if misrepresented, band.

John Davidson: I have no memory of hearing this album before but if you'd asked me to describe Demon's music I'd have assumed it was in the same vein as Venom and the other black metal types that spun off from NWOBNM on the early 80s.

Imagine my surprise when I listened to this for the first time this week only to hear a 1980s version of Ghost, singing songs about the devil to melodic, chorus infused rock songs that (with different lyrics) wouldn't have seemed out of place on a UFO album.

The first half of the album is very listenable - it doesn't break new ground, but its delivered with energy and the musicianship is very good. After Sign Of A Madman however, I started to crave a bit more variety and by the time they were singing Deliver Us From Evil I was starting to get Bad News/Spinal Tap vibes.

I hear elements of mid/late 70s UFO, Scorpions, early Judas priest and even Nazareth in the mix, but all of those bands had moved on by 1982 and this album would have sounded out of place compared to the rest of the metal scene by then (while four years too late seems trivial now - back then it was a death sentence).

Someone needs to convince Ghost to do a cover of The Spell or Total Possession and give these guys a decent paycheck in their old age. Enjoyable but not outstanding 6/10

Andrew Bramah:  I really like The Unexpected Guest even after over 40 years. Gritty production and a collection of class songs. Like a lot of bands from this era, inconsistency didn't help.

Robert Nuttall: Absolutely great album. The first album was good but this and The Plague are awesome. The Unexpected Guest is the best of the lot.

Chris Elliott: Somethings you appreciate more as you get older. However as a general principle if you thought a NWOBHM band was awful in 1979 you can safely assume it'll be even worse to your ears today.

Adam McCann: A good album that sees Demon stretching out from their debut. Although I prefer the debut, this is a top album and it's a shame Demon don't get the praise they deserve in NWOBHM, although that applies to a lot bands from that era.

Mark Herrington: This was a trip down Memory Lane. Fast back to Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show (began 1978) when I was introduced to the likes of Quartz , Diamond Head, Witchfynde and Demon amongst many, many others. That was the last time I heard Demon, on Tommy’s brilliant radio show some time in the early 80’s.

On balance, not a bad album, fairly average. Quite a tinny production, though, and I kept wishing for a bit more bass and a deeper, richer sound. Overall, an average score , with maybe an extra mark for the late, great ‘TV on the Radio’ , who introduced me to so much great music.

Mark Timms: Demon always were a confusing band. Their first album was an exercise in bet hedging, one half demonic, raise the devil songs, the other half standard rock fare. They doubled down on the demonic stuff for this release. I love both records, but I love the first more, precisely because it was more varied. On neither release do they sound like their name or album covers would have you believe, more like a devilish ACDC than Venom etc. 

After this album they dropped the "devil rides out" stuff for more intelligent, thoughtful lyrics and prog-like music. The Plague and British Standard Approved are better albums for it. But for a singalong drive and good, melodic rock music, you can't beat The Unexpected Guest. Unless you listen to Night Of The Demon, of course.

Peter Thomas Webb: I remember Demon as one of the bands that inevitably turned up on the mixtapes the kids from the smoking area passed back and forth in high school. Listening back today, the music strikes me as a competent but unremarkable installment in the NWOBHM. The guitars twiddle and crunch appropriately and vocalist Dave Hill has the requisite grit and range to deliver the material. One distinguishing factor is the tight harmony vocals giving choruses an anthemic edge that must work well in a live context.

However, much of The Unexpected Guest comes across more as Slade-style glam or Magnum-sized pomp than metal in the true sense. The album title, cover, and eerie instrumental opener all promise something a lot harder and blacker than the album delivers. Total Possession and Have We Been Here Before are catchy riff rockers, but the impact is more Twisted Sister/Quiet Riot than Venom/Grim Reaper.

For fans of the era and genre, there's nothing particular to dislike about The Unexpected Guest. It's just that, when I need a dose of early-eighties British metal, there's no reason I wouldn't tap, say, Iron Maiden's debut or Diamond Head's Lightning to the Nations rather than Demon's second-tier achievement. My rating: 5/10.

Greg Schwepe: After listening to this week’s album The Unexpected Guest by Demon, I was somehow (not sure how!) reminded of a toy I got as a kid from a vending machine at a turnpike rest area. It was a pair of small plastic Scottish Terrier dogs (one black, one white) about an inch high and inch long. There were magnets affixed to the plastic base the dogs were mounted on. Because of the magnets, depending on how you held the dogs they either got pulled together by attraction or repelled each other and one would get pushed away. I’m sure there’s a good scientific explanation on how all this works. Also, first time I've ever heard of this band. Something I'm sure you could've found in a record store here in the U.S. if you knew where to look or heard about the band from a magazine or fanzine.

So, what’s a childhood toy got to do with this album? Normally as I listen to something I like, there’s a pull to the next song. You like the opener and then you can’t wait to get to the next track…and the next. An attraction, you might say. “Man, I liked that one, what’s next?!” I remember listening to an album one time, got to the last note on the last track and was truly bummed. “That’s it? Awww, I want more!” 

An Observation leads into Don’t Break the Circle. Ready to hear The Spell? Hmmm…not really. Total Possession is next. Anything? Nope. There was literally nothing to pull me along to the next song. But funny thing was I really liked the vocals, the guitar tone, the overall song structure. But no pull, no attraction. A few times I heard something that reminded me of other bands. “Oh, that sounds like…” But it didn’t even trigger enough to make me come up with the other bands.

Now, on the flip side, there was nothing that repelled me away either. No song that bad that I couldn’t finish the album. I listened to the entire album. And at the end, I couldn’t remember one thing I heard. Usually, like it or not, there’s a riff, chorus…something that you can remember and sticks with you. With The Unexpected Guest it was literally in one ear and out the other. Can’t recall anything I heard.

Doesn’t really grab me, but doesn’t really push me away either. Middle of the road rock with a decent 80’s sound. I did get a kick out of their profile on Spotify; “known for their elaborate occult-themed performances.” What, these guys are known for this? Nothing about their sound would’ve ever lead me to guess that. Nothing remotely demonic. Rating will be pretty average for this one. 6 out of 10 for me.

Tony Bickerdike: One of the first concerts I attended with my girlfriend now wife of 40yrs. Newcastle under Lyme near Stoke with support band Fireclown. A great stage show and performance. The tour was supporting this album. Raw but tuneful vocals, playful lyrics and powerful songs.

Derrick Sheldon: Demon may have emerged during the early era of NWOBHM but their sound / style is no more NMOBHM than Susan Boyle or Tom Jones.

Mike Canoe: This week's club selection had me baffled. It was as if some occult hand had transported me to an alternate dimension where it was hard rockers UFO and not metal merchants Mercyful Fate that had recorded the sinister séance classic, Don't Break the Oath.

Instead of the falsetto shrieks and guttural howls of King Diamond, there's the great rock voice of Dave Hill, who reminds me of both Phil Mogg of UFO and Magnum's Bob Catley. But Dave Hill's not singing about lights out in London or two hearts, one breaking. Instead the lyrics are a mishmash of Mephistophelean mumbo jumbo, more suited to Denmark's major metal export. Music-wise, instead of Mercyful Fate's Priest-informed Gothic gloom, Demon cranks out rock anthems more suitable for driving down the freeway on a sunny day with the windows down.

Does this bizarro world switcheroo mean the album is bad? Not at all. It's actually very enjoyable. Don't Break The Circle, Have We Been Before, Beyond the Gates of Hell, and Deliver Us From Evil all had me belting out the choruses and playing one-handed air guitar on subsequent listens. One-handed because I kept listening to it in the car, yes, on the freeway with the windows rolled down.

Still, if record buyers thought a band named Angel couldn't rock hard enough, I sure they expected a band named Demon to rock a hell of a lot harder. Pun fully intended.


Final score: 7.38 (59 votes cast, total score 436)

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