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Blue Öyster Cult - Tyranny And Mutation CD (album) cover


Blue Öyster Cult


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3.46 | 162 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars Darker and harder-edged than its masterful follow-up, "Secret Treaties", BOC's second release (whose title allegedly comes from producer Sandy Pearlman's amazed exclamation on first hearing the album) is in many ways its equal. Right from the stylish, elaborately futuristic black-and-white cover, it is quite evident this record is not an exercise in mindless bludgeoning, but rather strikes the right balance between aggression and sophistication. Even if most of the songs included are memorable enough to be called classics, they avoid the somewhat simplistic radio-friendliness that plagues many of the band's later efforts.

As the album was originally split into a "Black" and a "Red" side, the opening track bears the title "The Red and the Black" - a brisk, galloping slice of finely-crafted hard rock that has since become one of the band's concert staples. The slower-paced "OD on Life Itself" (whose live version is featured among the bonus tracks) acts as a breather before the frantic, guitar-driven boogie-rock of "Hot Rails to Hell" (another concert classic). The "Black" side is closed by what is probably the band's absolute masterpiece, and the composition in which their relation to prog shines most clearly - the intricate, sinister "7 Screaming Dizbusters". I won't go into the X-rated theories about the origins of the cryptic title. However, the song is a monumental achievement bristling with time signature changes, spiky guitar lines and slinky keyboards, complete with impenetrable, occult-tinged lyrics praising "Lucifer, the light", and a towering vocal performance by the sadly underrated Eric Bloom.

The Red Side comes across as more melodic and thoughtful. "Baby Ice Dog", the band's first collaboration with punk muse Patti Smith, is a clear departure from the fast-paced rockers of the Black Side, as is the solemn, somewhat mournful "Wings Wetted Down", whose lyrics are based on a poem by Pablo Neruda. Things perk up a bit with the intriguing "Teen Archer", which leads the way for what is to my mind another of the album's highlights, "Mistress of the Salmon Salt" (also known as "Quicklime Girl"). A positively blood-curdling story of a girl who kills men and buries them in her garden (hence the quicklime), it showcases both Bloom's vocal chops and Donald Buck Dharma Roeser's inimitable skills as a guitarist. The song climaxes with a guitar solo that is textbook perfect - short but tasteful, and oozing emotion.

The bonus tracks included in the remastered edition of the album are all live recordings, and complement the studio tracks perfectly. The 14-minute live version of "7 Screaming Dizbusters" features a humorous rap relating about a pact with the Devil, while the fast-paced instrumental "Buck's Boogie" is a wonderful alternative to the hackneyed format of the 'guitar solo', which in most cases ends up boring the living daylights out of the audience.

Though "Tyranny and Mutation" is obviously NOT a masterpiece of progressive music, it is nevertheless an album that will appeal to most prog lovers because of its intelligence and high standard of musicianship. Get it and "Secret Treaties" together, and treat yourselves to some great, prog-influenced hard rock - not to mention some of the most intriguing lyrics around.

Raff | 5/5 |


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