I understand that this album is almost twenty years old and is also a demo, but one should make sure that they look at this disc before putting it on. I know that I was expecting something a little more formal and professional. However, after listening to the disc a few times, the demo is something that is absolutely essential for individuals to begin to get an idea of the evolution of Maximum Penalty in the late eighties and early nineties. This demo feels as if it was taken off a second or third generation tape, as the instruments kick in at out for brief moments in time. There seems to be an urgency amongst the tracks on the demo that just is not fully reproduced during the five-song EP “East Side Story”. When the EP starts off with “American Dream”, the recording may be more solid but the band seems to fit into a middle ground between Suicidal Tendencies and Queensryche.
What Maximum Penalty did when they were still an act was to really beef up the sound of acts like Every Mother’s Nightmare and Cinderella while still continuing the seventies style of rock that would be followed by acts like Guns N Roses and Motley Crue. This album is perfect in that it brings back to light what was a forgotten and rare bit of New York hardcore history, but to throw the hardcore label on Maximum Penalty so willy-nilly seems to sell the band short.
The band was influenced by many of the same acts that influenced the hardcore acts of the time, but Maximum Penalty takes up the causes of sludge, seventies-metal, and even a little bit of hair metal in their foundation of a sound that is all theirs. One can only wonder how much more effectual Maximum Penalty would have been if they were able to make it into the studio that they cut “East Side Story” in for the original demo. The five tracks that end the disc are so effectual, so hard hitting and memorable; if the entire disc was like this, one may lose a little of the evolutionary sound of the band but they could go off into Nirvana for thirty-six minutes. Pick up this album for historical reasons, pick it up because the last five tracks are amazing, and support your local scene – the next Maximum Penalty may just be around the corner.
Top Tracks: East Side Story, American Dream
Maximum Penalty – Demo 89 & East Side Story / 2006 I Scream / 14 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/maximumpenalty / http://www.iscreamrecords.com / Reviewed 30 June 2006