First and foremost, please know that there are two versions of this album. Motorpsycho set out to record a double album, but record company, Voices of Wonder weren’t quite agreeing with them, so when it was released, the LP version was the double album the band wanted, but as a compromise, the CD was a single album. In 2015, they finally re-released the CD – this time in a box set, which let the Demon Box they intended be available on CD as well. Does it make a difference? Heck yes, it does. The song Mountain is worth the price of the box set alone!
When I first heard Demon Box in 1993, it was like nothing else I had heard before. There was metal, hard rock, folk, and psychedelia in a glorious mix. The first disk opens with Waiting for the One, a happy, folky tune with flutes or recorders sounding like the recorders of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. The feeling of sitting around a campfire for a singalong ends abruptly with a drum beat that rival’s said Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks (the Led Zeppelin comparisons are not as farfetched as some might think, as they were another band not content to be just one thing, but experimented in many directions). While Gebhardts drums have a lighter touch than Bonzo’s, the bass and guitar coming in (and it sounds like a little bit of Moog Taurus is there as well) bring the hammer down and create a heavy feel. However, when the verse starts, it’s all light again – and this contrast suits the song well. The song is Nothing to Say, and it was my first love when it comes to Motorpsycho – the song that changed everything for me. Feedtime is more of a metal song, with a heavy bass riff doubled by the guitar and growling/screaming vocals. Gutwrench was not on the single cd version, and I am thinking it is one of the weaker songs on the album, but it’s a song that nods towards doom metal more than anything. Sunchild is a great pop-song, very much in Husker Du territory (the American band, not the Norwegian tv show for the aging population in the 70s and 80s). Then there is Mountain. Rarely has a song been more accurately titled. For me, listening to this song is a mental excursion that always leaves me both exhausted and wanting more. It has everything, from an epically heavy riff to a loose and improvised mid-section quoting the Pink Panther theme, augmented by noise artist Deathprod, who creates and eerie and spooky atmosphere. This atmosphere is continued in the album’s first psychedelic song, Tuesday Morning, which takes it all down to a quiet and acoustic mode again – but with noises in the background creating a feeling of danger lurking around every corner. The first disk is concluded with a cover of All Is Loneliness, which was written by Moondog Jr, but made famous by Janis Joplin.
Disk 2 starts in the same territory disk 1 ended, which a lo-fi recording of a pretty sounding folky ballad, Come On In, but then the sounds get ominous. Step Inside Again is a sinister sounding version of Step Inside from 8 Soothing Songs From Ruth – and it sounds like a really scary version of Alice Cooper ca. Welcome to My Nightmare. It is the perfect build up to the title track – and when it is played, it is like you take the lid off a box filled with demons – especially during a midsection filled with electronic and static noise courtesy of Deathprod. The riff is simple, but brutal, the vocals growled and screamed, and the sound is heavy. “I need you like I need gangrene.” Message received. Powerpop follows in Babylon, then a strange interlude with Mr. Who, the third and final song omitted from the single CD release, before they return to powerpop again with Junior. What sounds like a radio recording sets the stage for the voice of Matt Burt reading his own poetry on top of dreamy guitars before the song is filled with distorted bass guitar, tasteful drums, and a soaring guitar creating a very different wall of sound than Phil Spector ever envisioned. This is Plan #1, a fan favorite – and with good reason. The lyrics are unsettling, and the music really explores tension. This is one of the songs where Motorpsycho really stared working dynamics, and the catharsis I experience when this song really takes off is well worth the price of admission. A straight forward metallish song follows in Sheer Profoundity before the album ends as it began, with the song The One Who Went Away, which is a much heavier version of Waiting For The One.
As far as I am concerned, this is pretty darn close to the perfect album. Bookended by the same song in two different versions, the journey in between still leaves me completely spent at the end still today, 23 years after its release. I fell in love with Motorpsycho with this album, and I am still a fan. I think this is an album every single record collection should have. And – buy the box set. It also contains both the Mountain EP and Another Ugly EP on disk 3, outtakes and rarities on disk 4, and a fifth disk with a dark, single-camera video from a concert at Vera, Groningen, the Netherlands from September 19, 1993.
And to give you a taste of the album - besides the many samples from last year, hear is one of my favorite tracks: Plan #1.