Saviour Machine – “20th Anniversary / 1990 Demo” (2011)

Back in 2011, the long-expected Legend Part III:II was finally released. That is, it wasn’t. Or was it? No. Yes. It wasn’t.

A CD with the title Legend Part III:II was released through Massacre Records, but not with the band’s blessing. Or rather, with the band’s cursings. Because what was being marketed as their new album were really re-mixed demo versions from 2005, never meant to be released. The whole scandal can be researched and read about in all sorts of forums and music pages online, and I will not enter into it here. At least Discogs does SM the favor of not listing Legend III:II (now labelled “Bumblebee edition”) among the releases.

But one thing that (it seems to me) got overlooked a bit is that the band did release a CD (through Retroactive Records) that year. In fact, almost simultaneously to the III:II scandal. The said CD contained no new material, but the completely re-done demo originally recorded in 1990 (re-mixed from the master tapes in 2010, hence the “20th anniversary” edition).

This is what it looks like.

This is what it looks like.

And the new mixes are glorious. One thing that bothered me about the old version was that it sounded like session drummer Chris Fee was constantly hitting the same cymbal every second. There is much more aural diversity in the new mixes! Plus: It turns out that in the original recordings there were guitar tracks that were never used for the 1990 mixes (apparently the 1990 version was put together in haste). Here the ‘extra’ guitars and keyboards add just the finishing touches that the songs needed, sometimes ading a whole new dimension to the songs. Check out both versions of the first few seconds of “The Wall of Life” to see what I mean. And even more significantly, Eric Clayton, master of the manifold voices, has dared to leave things out that were in the 1990 versions, particularly some of the vocal overdubs. The results are brilliant. By (at times) reducing the two voices you are used to hearing to only one, the songs themselves gain strength and become more “songy” somehow.

For those who haven’t heard the demo at all – this is the version you should get. The songs themselves are as weird and progressive and extreme as Saviour Machine I was to the scene at the time, and perhaps even more so. It is also interesting to see the progressions and self-quotes going on – “Carnival of Souls” and “When the Cat Came Home” were re-recorded for SM I, and other parts of various songs were re-used in other places on subsequent albums. Eric Clayton’s melodies take a bit to get used to, though – in 1990 he seems to have liked ending every vocal line on the same note. Suffice it to say that the music here is comparable to SM I, but harsher, rougher, with an edgy, “post punk” feel to it. And you just cannot get around “The Revelation”, which is a 20+ minute mini rock opera on the day of judgement – almost a proto-version of Legend, but told from a much more subjective and confused/confusing perspective – it’s as if the speaker is caught up in the apocalyptic events and overflowing with emotion.

Another difference to the earlier version are the bonus tracks – early versions of “A World Alone” and “Ludicrous Smiles” from a different (1991) recording session (especially the latter song is interesting), as well as the infamous “lost” track “Church of the Vatican Slaves” – albeit WITHOUT its controversial anti-Catholic lyrics because the vocal tape got eaten during the 2010 mixing sessions – what sounds like a lame excuse has actually been documented: There was a video from the session on Facebook depicting the tape disintegrating and some band members joking, “Never write songs about the Catholic church!”. So what we do get is an impressive instrumental of this early song that seems to have been the musical basis from which “Force of the Entity” was later constructed.

There was also a vinyl release, but that is probably completely sold out by now. On Youtube someone provides a glimpse:

In one sentence: Meanwhile in California, far away from the bumble bees, Saviour Machine delve deep into their past to polish up the glories of days gone by.

relaxed         _ _ _ X _ aggressive

introspective _ _ _ _ X  outspoken

rough       _ _ X _ _ polished

juvenile  _ _ X _ _ mature

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