ASTAROTH, Astaroth (1984, demo)
A skull in a legionaire’s helmet. Simple. Brilliant. It looks quite metal, and has an unexpected relevance to the band — back in the 80s, Astaroth used to actually dress as Roman soldiers on stage, several years before Beefcake the Mighty popularized the galea among heavy metal fashionistas. Clearly, Astaroth were ahead of their time.
An early Italian metal band, Astaroth in 1984 sounded like a better-than-average NWOBHM band, with maybe a little Riot thrown in for good measure. This demo has that same working-class, everyman vibe as a lot of NWOBHM, where no one in particular sounds like a special talent (particularly the singer), but the enthusiasm of the band carries the day in the end. Still, this is a bad sounding demo that’s never gotten any sort of reissue, so probably only hardcore old metal nerds should even consider looking for mp3s or whatever. Somewhat surprisingly, the band is back together, and their 2012 album, which is actually their first full length release, is reasonably good. It’s more polished than their 80s stuff, of course, but it also lacks the youthful charm that animates their demos. I’m sure the master tapes to their old demos are long since lost, and that’s too bad, because I think people would eat this stuff up now if it was available.
— Friar Johnsen