Dynamic Demos: Skelator – Give Me Metal or Give Me Death.

(TheBRHM.com) While discussing demos and how Sodom’s Victims of Death got me to appreciate demo releases, Skelator and their Give Me Metal or Give Me Death came up as the other release that really helped. We’ll get around to Victims of Death as it’s a great demo but Give Me Metal or Give Me Death blew me away on first listen.

It might seem like an unlikely pick for a great demo and there’s not that many who got their hands on it when it dropped. Most demos didn’t find their way to many listeners, anyway.

Dynamic Demos: Skelator - Give Me Metal or Give Me Death.

Who is Skelator?

Skelator is a Seattle-based band that started in San Diego in 1998. Playing what I’d describe as speed metal and harder-edged power metal—epic heavy metal—the band is fronted by singer Jason Conde-Houston who delivers a varied range of vocals from growls to his usual high shrieks and wails. Definitely one of my favorite metal singers from the 2000s wave of metal.

His usual company includes Robbie Houston on guitar since 2000 and Patrick Seick who initially took drumming duties in 1999 but has left the band for brief periods twice. These three are the members who appear on each of the full-length albums alongside another guitarist and a bass player—who make the most of the band’s alumni.

The band’s sound is influenced heavily by old school heavy metal and speed metal. I’d say it’s like if Judas Priest played metal where the sci-fi element was dropped in favor of fantasy. You could say that sounds like Blind Guardian but Skelator was closer to Jag Panzer or Omen in that while speed is their game, they can deliver on some epic, mid-tempo stuff.

That isn’t to say that BG wasn’t capable of that, but demo era Blind Guardian came in with the speed and kept the speed into their debut as Lucifer’s Heritage. Lyrically, Skelator’s music focuses on fantasy, metal, and nostalgia but their recent album delves a bit into sci-fantasy.

Give Me Metal or Give Me Death

So, what’s so special about this demo? It was just a great demo from start to finish for eight tracks. When I got my hands on the demo and listened to it, you could tell this wasn’t the best studio recording but the songs themselves were tight and the track placement was great.

This is one of those releases where there’s nothing I’d drop and there’s no tracks that need to be moved around. It’s a rarity because normally I’d try to see if anything could’ve been moved or if it would sound better with a different track listing. It tends to come from having listened to the album in full and taking notes.

With Give Me Metal and Give Me Death, I just listened from start to finish, sang along to “She-Ra” and just enjoyed the album. This dropped in 2003 and I got around to listening to this in 2007—some months before the band’s debut. Most of the album leaned speed metal and could remind you of Agent Steel and Jag Panzer at times. However, there’s moments where they sound closer to Omen.

The problem with the demo is that it proved to be hard to measure Skelator’s progress between this and the debut album for one glaring reason we’ll get into next. The biggest jump in ability showed with the Swords EP which featured new songs that were more complex than the ones on GMMGMD.

Great Demo or Greatest Demo Ever?

I can’t give this the title of greatest demo ever. For one thing, I haven’t heard every demo or even a ton of demos. Of the ones I’ve listened to, it is definitely in my top three. It’s a demo that while the production wasn’t studio polished, I would’ve bought this collection of tracks as a debut album. That’s my main qualifier: was the demo good enough to be a full-length release.

In the case of Give Me Metal or Give Me Death, it could’ve been the band’s debut. This isn’t the band’s best collection of tunes but for this period and this particular track list, it’s a great demo that would’ve made a decent or good album.

Skelator would get better in the time between GMMGMD and their debut—which is the demo only polished up. The demo turned out to be so good they made it their debut! You could say there’s some laziness there but Skelator had put in three demos, an EP, and a split before dropping the debut. Hell, there’s a five-year period between the two GMMGMD releases.

If anything, the band just said “F**k a new album, Give Me Metal or Give Me Death is it.”

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.