After the relative disappointment of Heart Of Our Time Demon took their time over the next release, and it wasn't until June 1987 that Breakout was unleashed on a less than interested public.
The first thing that you notice about this record is the superb cover art by Keith Scaife. A guitar-carrying figure sits head bowed on top of a wrecked car in a scrap yard whilst all around is littered the detritus of technology. (CD copies of the album do not do the cover justice and it best viewed in the old fashioned LP format). Following the low budget covers of the previous two releases it came as a pleasant surprise and hinted of a return to the glories of their groundbreaking The Plague opus.
However a good cover does not a good album make, (some of King Crimson’s efforts bear witness to that), but in this case the excellence of the LP sleeve is just a snifter of the goodies that await within.
With almost the same line up as the last two albums (the only change is the drafting in of bassist Andy Dale as replacement for the departed Gavin Sutherland) Demon had in fact offered up one of the strongest prog metal albums of all time. From the very start of “Life On The Wire” with its tale of drugs and destitution right through to the epic closer “Through These Eyes” this album just rocks.
There is not a week track on offer here. The music is slick, powerful emotive and extremely well played. It is in fact it is safe to say that Breakout is the point where Demon worked out exactly the sort of band they wanted to be. Here the blend of neo-prog and good old-fashioned heavy metal is mixed to perfection. We get anthemic foot-stompers, slow and thought provoking moments, breakneck headbangers and enough prog-u-like keyboard washes to satisfy even the most hard to please proghead.
Lyrically this album is also very strong. Dave Hill had by this album abandoned the concept album approach and instead tackles the then current issues on a song-by-song basis. He addresses issues such as rioting on Britain’s streets (“Hurricane”), the thaw in east west relations (“Living In The Shadows”), the international arms trade (“Through These Eyes”) and once again he saves his biggest lambast in the direction of the class structure in British society. (“England Glory”):
"All the Hooray Henrys go to Oxford and Cambridge
While the working class build the motorways
The Royals choose their brides while they're out
Playing Polo but no-one gives a damn cause we like it that way"
What is more spooky is that, looking back 20 years after the event, two of the songs on offer here seem to be almost prophetic. We have “Hollywood”, a vicious sideswipe at the commercial music world that sounds uncannily like it was written about the recent X-factor, American Idol style of pop television; and “Big Chance” which almost foretells of he rise of reality TV like Big Brother.
It is hard to select standout tracks from Breakout, the over all standard here is so high. But my favourite moments include Steve Watts’ catchy synth hook on the title track, Dave Hills machine gun vocal delivery on “Englands Glory” and John Waterhouse’s down and dirty solo on “Hollywood”.
In conclusion, Breakout easily ranks alongside The Plague as one of prog metal’s finest ever moments. It has been firmly in my all time favourites list since the day it came out, and if you give it a good listen the chances are it will make yours as well.