Asylum: Exiled in Unorthodoxy

Notice how from left to right they get progressively more shirted.Part of Shadow Kingdom Records‘ “Let’s See How Much Awesome Crap We Can Reissue” Project (I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s called), this unearthing of Asylum‘s The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe demo couldn’t have arrived at a better time. It seems these days that more and more American retro doom bands (see The Gates of Slumber, Apostle of Solitude, etc.) are trying with varying degrees of success to sound just like these Maryland gents did back in 1985. It’s refreshing every now and then to hear the real deal.

That’s what’s on offer with this demo (doomo?); true Sabbathian doom, impeccably played and with a flair for speedier Mot?rhead-style antics shown on “Moment of Truth” and the following, newly-included “Moment of Truth II.” The band that would later become Unorthodox, just at their beginnings here, skillfully meld a “Heaven and Hell” bass line with an epic Led Zeppelin guitar riff on “Bell Witch (Red Skull),” while Dale Flood‘s vocals slur their way out with an early-metallic fuck-all that I’m quite sure made some high school principal very angry on the days Flood chose to show up. Certainly his boys room smoking couldn’t have been as out of hand as the soloing on that song.

Opener “Asylum” offers youthful lyrical disillusionment coupled with equally righteous guitar work, not to mention the remastered rumble of Earl Schreyer‘s bass, which is treated to a presence in the mix rarely afforded in that decade of metal. By way of a lead-in for the “Moment of Truth” coupling, “Motherless” proffers sped up Iommi riffing played with confidence unhinged. The more I hear this record, the more powerful it sounds.

“Burn” and “Dying Breed/Distant Friend,” as a finale duo, offer a clear schematic for any and all ’80s doom acolytes, with drummer Ronnie Kalimon (also now in Unorthodox with Flood) losing it on a crash cymbal toward the five minute mark of the latter, making the song, and honestly, if this is the lineage, it’s little surprise to see that the Maryland scene went on to become world-renowned for its incredible, world-class doom acts. Certainly Unorthodox falls into that category, and with The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe, we hear that it’s not just with age these guys were able to have an impact.

If I was at a club in 1985 and some dude in a denim jacket handed me this demo and I went home and played it, I would seriously go find his house and pull a Say Anything with Black Sabbath‘s Vol. 4 until he agreed to hang out. It may not be the most landmark piece of ’80s doom you’ve ever heard, but it’s a great historical record of the nation’s best doom scene, and for anyone who’s been thinking of starting up a retro project, essential reading.

Unorthodox on MySpace

Shadow Kingdom Records

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