DEATHWISH, Demon Preacher (1988, GWR)
I’m pretty sure this guy is a distant overseas relation of the skull on all those Nuclear Assault albums. The resemblance is uncanny. Also, for a skull that’s all chained up, to a logo no less, he sure looks pleased with himself. Maybe he’s into bondage, in which case we’re probably looking at a very turned-on skull right now. Which is just how he likes it. I’ll concede that he might be a demon, but all he’s preachin’ is the joy to be found in embracing your kinks.
Most British thrash tends toward Metallica worship, and most of it is pretty mediocre. There were good UK thrash bands (Xentrix first and foremost) but the birthplace of heavy metal has a pretty poor record when it comes to this particular flavor of the stuff. When Slammer and D.A.M. are numbered among your better thrash acts, you know you’re working with a poor scene. And if Deathwish had stopped after one album (the decent but unimpressive At the Edge of Damnation), they would be held in the same low esteem as Cerebral Fix and Anihilated. But, they pressed on and managed to release the rather excellent Demon Preacher before hitting the skids. Demon Preacher, as thrash goes, is a precise, controlled affair, but it’s still fast and bursting with energy, and frontman Jon Van Doorn, with a voice that splits the difference between JD Kimball and Blackie Lawless, brings the hooks in these well written (and skillfully played) tunes. That said, there’s not actually a lot of music here. Excluding a church-bell and powerchord intro and a seemingly eternal outro that puts to use all those classical guitar lessons David Brunt’s mom made him take when he was a kid, AND leaving off the fine-but-needless cover of Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe,” you’re left with just over 25 minutes of thrash. That’s scant even by 80s LP standards. But, I’d rather 6 good songs than 9 shitty ones, and these six songs are indeed quite cool. Are Deathwish one of the foremost thrash bands of the 80s? Not by a long shot. But, they were pretty damned good, and Demon Preacher is well worth owning if you have any fondness for thrash at the more melodic end of the spectrum.
— Friar Johnsen