Incubus (Demo ’87, US)

Incubus_GodDiedOnHisKneesNo, not that one. And certainly not these shirtless shitebags. We’re talking about the original – and most insane – band to go by that name. If there’s a school disco in Hell, this is the house band. It’s the sound of an attention-deficient demon drowning in a vat of Red Bull, while drums and cymbals rain from the sky and crash down onto fields of electric guitars that some idiot left plugged in. In fact, it’s even better than that. But who are these people? The drummer and guitarist went on to play in another band or two, but the excellently named Sterling Von Scarborough – the driving force behind this abomination – sadly died in 2006. It’s doubly tragic because these three songs are the entire recorded output of his band. There’s very little information out there about Sterling, but the story of the recording of this demo is here, in an amazing interview with Mike Browning, along with plenty of other great stories. It’s a great read if, like me, these guys and people like them were your rock stars when you were young. In my mind, they were on an equal footing with Ozzy and Lemmy and what have you, but little did I know, they didn’t travel everywhere by private jet and live in vast gothic castles. They worked in photocopying shops and played instruments that barely worked.

Not that that has any negative effect on the actual music, quite the opposite. I originally heard this band and many others like them through tape trading, which was essentially an analogue version of the internet back when people used post boxes for something more than midnight vomit receptacles. The low sound quality of those fifth-generation tapes only added to the mystery. Production values were nonexistent and probably would have only got in the way. But enough of my yakking. Let’s rock.


Holy shit. See what I mean? That is literally the sound of insanity. I love the fact that the first time the vocalist heard his voice was when he recorded this. He only played bass during the short rehearsal time they had. I can only imagine the first moment he stepped up to the microphone and spat out some of the most unique vocals in metal. I can understand that some people may be put off by his speaking-in-tongues style. Or by the dated satanic references. But luckily none of those people are here. Press play.

Mental mental chicken oriental. It’s impossible to know what any of these songs are about beyond their titles, but that’s unimportant. There’s a deep sense of unease and instability and excitement that soaks through this demo that makes it timeless, and says more about the people that recorded it, and we who listened to it, than any words could. On to the epic last song of Incubus’ career – their ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Although it’s more of a ‘Waterslide To Hell’.

Hearing these songs, it’s sad but not altogether shocking to find that Sterling Von Scarborough took his own life at the age of 41. Not knowing much about the man, it seems to me that he was haunted by something or other. The fact that he was able to wrestle his problems into the music he produced and capture such a perfect moment on tape is a testament to him. The fact that I – and some of my friends – still listen to and love these songs after 26 years speaks even louder of his unfulfilled potential. True talent will always find a way to speak to like minded people. Even if it sounds like a possessed auctioneer at a cattle sale in Hades.

Alan Power is a scoundrel, jackaloon and writer who lives in the internet.


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