Wolfbane's Bethany's Sin demo has acquired quite a cult following, mainly due to the similarities in the music to Pagan Altar, it would seem.
That doesn't stop the first song, Elric Of Melniböne dragging and feeling a real dirge. The liquid guitar solo is reduced to a blur that you hardly notice on first listen - even though it is spectacularly well crafted for the time. I guess it's all about the Tolkein-esque lyrics, if you can actually make them out.
The Howling seems like an extension of the first song - now, this could be because of an underlying "Progressive" approach that would befit the high brow conceptualisations being delivered, but, if it wasn't for the fact that, somehow, an extra burst of energy found its way into this song, you might simply think that there were very few ideas being developed here.
But somehow, The Howling completely rocks, in a kind of wallpapery way - as background, this has a pleasing, head-nodding pulse - nay, throb to the early Priest flavoured persistent main riff, and you kind of want it to go on forever.
The demo finishes off with the high-energy, blatantly Diamond Head/Maiden/Sabbath inspired Midnight Lady. Given the time of release, this is a refreshing shot in the arm, with twin lead-guitar duelling and harmonies atop a relentless chugging riff, rooted in Sabbath's "Children of The Grave".
I find the nasal quality of the vocals somewhat off-putting, but that might just be me - the music just increases in quality as you listen, especially those wonderful guitar solos - which makes a nice change from those bands who put all the decent material first then pad their albums out with the dross.
All in all, a demo slightly ahead of its time, and a treat for Pagan Altar fans who wish that the band had more output.
Shadow Kingdom records re-issued this together with Wolfbane's debut demo a year or so ago - so it is available to check out - and well worth a punt if you want to explore the non-blues-based side of the NWoBHM.