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Tuesday, 2 October 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Demon & Dendera (Live Review By Paul H)

Demon & Dendera, Fuel Rock Club

This was a strange evening. Billed as a co-headline gig, it was clear upon arriving in the dark and sweaty venue that 95% of the audience had no idea who Portsmouth’s Dendera were. And for the majority, despite a warm reception, their honest British heavy metal was not going to make any real impact. That didn’t stop Dendera (7) pushing the button and accelerating rapidly to warp speed. With the twin guitars of David Stanton and Stephen Main giving the band a real authentic British twist, the band played a selection of tracks from their two albums and last EP. The focal point of Dendera is vocalist Ashley Edison, and he led the band with his usual panache and honesty. His repetitive banter between songs was a little wearing, how many times do you need to ask the crowd if they are having a good time, but his soaring vocals, when they cut through the opening usual muddy mix, impressed.

Of course, the band draw heavily on the classic British metal bands, with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest the immediate comparisons. The band threw in a good number from Pillars Of Creation, including In High Tide and The Chosen One whilst The Killing Floor was largely overlooked. Age Of Agony and the title track from EP Blood Red Sky both hit the spot but by the time penultimate song Disillusioned was introduced, the crowd had thinned with many retreating to the main bar. By then Edison looked less enthused, spending much of the set with his back turned to the crowd and despite a rousing finish and decent round of applause, it all felt a bit flat. Dendera have the chops, as I know from previous encounters but there are a few rough areas that still need improving to really engage a crowd whose real interest lay elsewhere.

The main reason I had bought my ticket was to see Staffordshire theatrical NWOBHM outfit Demon (8). The band had only ever played Cardiff once before, some 35 years ago. Formed back in 1979, the band disbanded in 1992 before reforming with vocalist Dave Hill the only original member. Today’s Demon is a stable line-up, with Hill accompanied by drummer Neil Ogden, Ray Walmsley (bass), guitarists David Cotterill and Paul Hume and keyboard player Karl Waye (neatly tucked almost in the dressing room). Demon had scored significant early success with their first two albums, Night Of The Demon and The Unexpected Guest, with the latter reaching the heady heights of 47 in the album chart in 1982.

The band were playing the whole of The Unexpected Guest but opened with Night Of The Demon, with Hill resplendent in a flowing robe and the characteristic Demon Goat Headpiece in place. Hill still has astounding energy and enthusiasm for his art, and you could forgive him for a few idiosyncrasies given he’s now aged 71. With Into The Nightmare from their debut album following, there was already a grin on my face as the old school tunes flowed. Demon were never particularly Satanic, and the band always played down that element. What was pleasing about the next hour was how well The Unexpected Guest holds up 36 years after its release. Heavier in the live arena than on record, thanks to Cotterill and Hume’s driving guitars, the band eased into The Spell and Total Possession before Sign Of A Madman saw Hill gurning like a fool, his on stage persona a strange combination of Alice Cooper and Ken Dodd.

Beyond The Gates had some solid audience participation with The Grand Illusion amongst other highlights before the usual stupid Fuel policy of opening the doors halfway through the headline act once again meant a steady stream of punters with no interest in the band but with bursting bladders channelled back and forth thoroughly disturbing those that had paid and also blocking sight lines in an already crowded room. This always boils my piss and inevitably detracts from the closing part of the set. Ignoring this, Hill completed a quick costume change, reappearing in suit jacket and bowler hat to relive the cover of my favourite Demon album, The Plague. The band played a flawless title track and squeezed in a superb Nowhere To Run before closing with the anthem Don’t Break The Circle, the standout track on The Unexpected Guest. A band who I’d never seen finally ticked off the list, and with plenty of life in them yet, don’t rule out seeing the Staffordshire outfit again.

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