Saturday, January 3, 2009

Review: Demented Are Go - Hellbilly Storm (2005)

Demented Are Go [ Website | MySpace ]
Hellbilly Storm

Demented Are Go is a band that, along with The Cramps, defined a subgenre of Punk Rock that has come to be known as Psychobilly. Formed in Cardiff, Wales, in 1982 by Mark Phillips (aka Sparky), the band combined lyrical themes based on slasher movies with fairly straightforward rock 'n roll and out-of-control live performances to carve out their niche. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Demented Are Go released several albums and toured extensively but never rose above cult status due to the members' outrageous off-stage antics - Sparky's in particular. His streak of arrests continued into the new millennium, ultimately resulting in the cancellation of their 2006 North American tour due to "immigration issues". Seemingly held together by strings, the band remains active in Europe.

Hellbilly Storm is Demented Are Go's eighth studio album and my first exposure to the band. The album is surprisingly likable, offering many opportunities for comparison to bands like Motörhead and AC/DC. Sparky has a gruff voice and an in-your-face style that is remarkably similar to Lemmy's, while the band's overall sound is basically the same stripped down rock 'n roll that both Motörhead and AC/DC have pumped out for decades. This simplicity makes Hellbilly Storm a very approachable album, even in spite of the shock-value the band is going for. The majority of the songs contain tongue-in-cheek lyrics inspired by the B movies of the '70s and '80s, most notably so on tracks like "Jogging Machine" and "Out Of Control".

While the straightforward rock style makes Hellbilly Storm an album that is easy to get into, it also harms the long-term listenability of the disc. Just like any Motörhead album, all of the tracks pretty much sound the same and begin to bleed into one another as the album progresses. There are a few surprises tucked in here and there to hold your interest, however. Just when the album seems to have fallen into a rut, "Doin' Me In" ignites interest with kick-ass riffs accompanied by bluesy harmonica leads. This song is by far the best of the album and will easily have you rockin' along, perhaps even exercising your air guitar antics during some of the raucous solos. "Someone's Out To Get Me" is equally as entertaining, though not as rollicking, and contains plenty of acoustic riffs. Sparky delivers his best performance on this track, singing rather than shouting and imbuing the lyrics with more convincing energy. Hellbilly Storm closes out with "When Death Rides A Horse", the track I found to be the most enjoyable. It harnesses a classic Country & Western sound, sort of like something out of those '70s western comedy films, and features "chain gang" choruses as well as Sparky in a duet with an uncredited female singer (who if you ask me sounds a bit like the late Wendy O. Williams).

If you're a fan of Motörhead and don't have a problem with the silliness of Demented Are Go's lyrics and look, then Hellbilly Storm is an album you'll enjoy and is also a good way to get introduced to this influential band. It's unlikely that the band will make a North American appearance anytime soon, but hopefully Sparky and crew can keep it together long enough to infect the Punk world with another studio album.

Track Listing
1 Pedigree Scum 2:10
2 The Noose (That Snapped) 3:08
3 Hellbilly Storm 3:23
4 Skating In The Rain 2:30
5 Out Of Control 4:08
6 Block Up 3:46
7 Hotrod Vampires 3:14
8 Destruction Boy 3:09
9 Doin' Me In 2:34
10 Demon Seed 3:07
11 Jogging Machine 2:29
12 Someone's Out To Get Me 3:32
13 When Death Rides A Horse 3:03
Total Runtime 40:13

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