The Unexpected Guest

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Demon are often the subject of hot debate whenever the New Wave of British Heavy Metal is discussed: are they or aren't they supposed to be cited alongside the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard, as a rejuvenating force in the evolution of heavy metal? After all, their debut album, Night of the Demon, had shown that the Staffordshire quintet were far more indebted to Britain's heavyweights of melodic hard rock, like UFO and Thin Lizzy, than full-fledged heavy metal titans Black Sabbath or Judas Priest. But, then again, so were Def Leppard! And, in any case, this debate would not find easy answers in Demon's second long player, 1982's The Unexpected Guest. The eerie sound effects of "Intro" and "An Observation" seem to promise an all out rock opera in the making; but 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, and even though it's easy to imagine King Diamond taking lyric notes for Mercyful Fate's future classic, "A Dangerous Meeting," he wouldn't have found too many gothic parlor tricks or minor-key dramatics worth poaching in brazenly upbeat songs like "Total Possession," "Deliver Us from Evil," and the organ-sweetened "Have We Been Here Before?" Instead, Demon's aforementioned UFO influences were once again proudly displayed by "Victim of Fortune" and the classy, perfectly balanced, not-too-sappy ballad, "Strange Institution"; while, on "The Grand Illusion," the group seemed to be channeling Meat Loaf's larger-than-life presentation -- and succeeded! In the end, The Unexpected Guest delivered professional, polished, but still unquestionably tough heavy rock, on an arguably even more consistent scale than its similarly impressive predecessor. As mentioned earlier, these qualities may not answer the were-they-weren't-they N.W.O.B.H.M. issue, but who really cares when the songs are this good? [The CD reissue of The Unexpected Guest contained four bonus tracks, including alternate versions of three cuts, and a 1988 remix of "Don't Break the Circle."]

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