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God Bless - Semut Hitam CD (album) cover

SEMUT HITAM

God Bless

 

Prog Related

3.96 | 5 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is NOT prog, but it rocks! And it's excellent! Yeeeeaah ..!

Two years after the release of true progressive rock album "Cermin", the band's keyboard player (Abadi Soesman) left the band which caused them in vacuum period. But in 1988 God Bless was back with another commercially successful album "Semut Hitam" (Black Ant) which could surpass rock music industry standard with 400,000 copies sold, nation-wide. It's been the highest achievement any band can achieve this commercial success in terms of rock music. No other rock band in Indonesia that could surpass the figure "Semut Hitam" has achieved to-date. Anyway, what the number means for prog heads like all of us? We just never care about the commercial success, don't we? What we care most is how great the music is composed and how long it can sustain over time, i.e. we won't get bored in the future whenever we listen to the music 10 years or even 30 years from now. Take great composition like "Gates of Delirium" by Yes for example: I listened to it the first time in 1974, I have never and won't ever get bored even many years from now!

With this third album, God Bless music concept had changed from its previous two "proggy" albums towards more hard rock and heavy metal based. The third album's line-up is the same with debut album because Jockie Soeryoprayogo was back right here with "Semut Hitam". He had even successfully crafted excellent pop rock hit with a bout of symphonic touch through "Kehidupan". This song became major hit nation-wide. In addition to this, Ian Antono co-wrote "Rumah Kita" with Indonesian's famous music observer Theodore KS. This album also features one of the best rock songs God Bless has ever created: "Trauma" (9th track).

Kehidupan (Life) opens the album with upbeat rock music through great opening part which combines guitar riffs, dynamic drums, keyboard and bass until it reaches ambient mode to turn into quiet passage (for a while) followed with musical beats for Albar to sing. The beat is really catchy and I am so sure that anyone who listens to this beat will get along with it, really well. It's so simple but it's backed wonderfully with tight basslines delivered by Donny Fattah. Wow! I do enjoy the bass guitar, really. I think Donny is the "best" bass player in rock scene for Indonesian music. This song has uplifting lyrics about the struggle for achievement in life which mankind pursue to move ahead with life threatening challenges. As a corporate workshop facilitator / leader, I always use this song in my professional work to accompany experiential learning required to make my workshop alive and dynamic. The lyrics invite the listeners to be highly motivated in whatever they do and to strive for excellence. Musically, the melody is very catchy and the rhythms section has successfully combined "groove" and rock music elements. The interlude part which features short guitar solo by Ian Antono followed by catchy keyboard solo by Jockie. It's awesome!

Rumah Kita (Our Home) is a ballad in nature and "slow rock" in style. Again, this song has a catchy melody and very smooth music flows. No wonder, this song has been accepted by people and as a result, it became a major hit at the time of release, after "Kehidupan". The composition is actually quite simple and the lyric represents simplicity in life where people should stay in their homeland no matter how progressing outside world is. It's an inspiring lyrics, even though the words chosen are quite straight forward.

Semut Hitam is a straight forward rocker in the vein of Van Hallen or David Lee Roth's solo album. Ian Antono's guitar riffs are quite dominant in the composition, combined with Teddy Sujaya's dazzling drumwork. This song has become tha band's regular setlist altogether with "Kehidupan" because booth of them can energize the crowd to rock. Even though I personally do not put this song as my favorite, but I think that this song has been excellently composed Donny Fattah and Jockie Soeryoprayogo.

Damai Yang Hilang (Peace That Has Gone) is a very nice ballad with powerful message delivered through its inspiring lyrics that comment about world politics. The music is mellow and it flows in a very catchy melody that makes listeners get acquainted very fast with the music; especially with the melody. Free translation on some verses include: "Every time I read, I have seen red (of blood) which serves no purpose. War has become trade commodity. There has been no such news on welfare and happiness ." (the melody which accompanies this verse is so catchy, and I love it very much!).

Orang Dalam Kaca (Man in a Mirror) explores God Bless capability in delivering acapella. Remember "Tuan Tanah" of "Cermin" album? Yeah, both songs share the same style in how the choirs are arranged. Of course they are different in melody but the acapella style connect them. One of key success factors of any God Bless music is the power of choirs from Ahmad Albar (lead) backed with Ian Antono (backing) and Donny Fattah (backing).

Ogut Suping represented how God Bless was sensitive in the progress of youngsters (teenagers) communication language which had many "slank" or "jargon" created among themselves. "Ogut Suping" is an example of jargons typically used by teens or youngsters that were typically called "prokem". God Bless explores the languages further so that this song's lyrics became very popular to many young men in Indonesia at that time.

Suara Kita (Our Voice) is a great track with an opening Church organ work which reminds me to the work of Rick Wakeman followed wonderfully with a blast of rock music combining bass guitar, powerful drums, guitar and keyboard. The song then moves in fast tempo with excellent melody and great vocal delivery. Well, this is another track of favorite for me personally. It's so rocking and very uplifting. The interlude part which demonstrates guitar solo followed with vocal choirs, augmented by keyboard work.

Badut Badut Jakarta (Jakarta's Clowns) starts off with Teddy Sujaya's simple drumming followed with keyboard maneuver by Jockie S and continued with Ian's guitar work. Again, it's another track with excellent melody and combined keyboard and guitar work. God Bless has successfully blended groove into its rock composition so that anyone listening to this song would tend to like it. The combined guitar riffs and keyboard solo / fills are also excellent and you can have it throughout the whole track. This song brings forward morale and social message which touches people who serve without their hearts in any profession they do. Basically, they do it for life.

Trauma is a masterpiece hard rock / heavy metal song with great combination of guitar riffs, keyboard rhythm which accompany powerful voice of Ahmad Albar. In addition to the above, this song brings another social message about a person who mistakenly killed a man / woman, get jailed, and many regrets. The key strengths of this song are: excellent melody and choruses, great composition, fast tempo and powerful combination of guitar riffs and keyboard work. For most of Indonesian, the key verse of the overall lyrics is basically when Ahmad Albar screams: "Sepinya hidup dalam penjara .." (How lonely life in prison is!) followed wonderfully with backing vocals by Donny and Ian which both of them scream "Tak juga hilangkan .." (I can not get away from it.). All elements and segments were composed neatly and it's performed flawlessly by the band. I salute God Bless for this great track that has become one of my God Bless favorite tracks! Imagine Deep Purple "Burn" (the track) and you would have, say 70%, picture of how this song sounds like. Of course the two songs are totally different.

Bla.Bla.Bla concludes the album with another excellent message on humanity issue. It deals with the struggle for power whereby people revenge one another to get the power and there is no peace being praised at all. It's another uplifting message and .. it's just not only the lyrics which makes this song powerful, the music is also excellent! As usual in most of God Bless compositions, this one has excellent melody and rhythm section with keyboard-based nuance. It flows naturally from one segment to another and to nice chorus until the music is finished excellently. It remarks the end of the album. I then typically re-spin the CD starting from "Suara Kita" or sometimes from "Trauma" (because it's a GREAT track, I tell you!).

Conclusion

This third album by God Bless has shifted the band's music direction towards hard rock music and dropped the "prog" elements from the music. Never mind, re-orientation of music style is common and many bands have done it. Even though the shift is quite significant, but God Bless can still maintain its characteristics through three dominant members: Ahmad Albar (lead vocal), Ian Antono (guitar) and Donny Fattah (bass), supported by genius keyboard work by Jockie. This album was originally issued in cassette format but lately (2006) the label has printed the CD version, remastered at Studio 301 - Sydney, Australia. It's an excellent hard rock album. Keep on rockin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 4/5 |

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