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King Crimson - Starless And Bible Black CD (album) cover

STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.88 | 1172 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: A-

King Crimson are perhaps the quintessential art rock band. Unlike Yes and Genesis, they didn't limit themselves to one sound, but shuffled between sounds and styles on every album, each time reinventing exactly what it meant to the be art rock. From the symphonic prog of In the Court to the metallic Red to the new wave Discipline, King Crimson were always at the cutting edge of rock music, and Starless and Bible Black is no exception. Easily among their elite studio releases (though also probably the most difficult), it is a blast of perfectly constructed rock music mingled with experimental improvisation.

And what better way to open an album that's "a blast of perfectly constructed rock music" than with the sonic blast that is "The Great Deceiver". Like a punch to the face, this song hits the ground running and never stops, building around a wild rock theme. Then there's the builder, "Lament", which, despite starting slowly, ends just as insane as "The Great Deceiver" began. The next four songs continue in a similar vein, mixing improvisation into rock music, combining a wild experimentalism with the musical assaults. A surprise highlight is the beautiful "The Night Watch", which recalls the atmospheres of their debut but with better music. The only real complaint I have is with "The Mincer". While it is an excellent song from start to finish, it feels like it should've built up to a fabulous climax, but instead it ends unresolved.

I can forgive this one slight error, though, because of the way the album resolves. For every album after their debut, King Crimson's music far outweighed their lyrics and vocals (on In the Court of the Crimson King, the two were roughly equal factors), and so it's no surprise that the best songs on this album are the two long, closing instrumentals. There's "Starless and Bible Black", of course, from whence the album derives its name, which spends nine minutes tantalizing and teasing the listener in preparation for what's to come. And what's to come is the most mind-blowing piece of music (with the possible exception of "Starless" from Red) King Crimson ever created. Similar to "Larks' Tongues in Aspic pt. 1" but oh-so-much better (no mean feat, that), Fracture combines all the awesome power of the landmark opener to Larks' Tongues in Aspic (the album) without the slight noodling that characterized the latter half of that song. In short, Fracture is built around themes that are just as good, but structured better. It combines slow, suspenseful buildups with raging climactic riffs that never cease to amaze me.

So many fans of the band would say that this is a lesser effort sandwiched between two masterpieces, but, in reality, this, along with Red, its follow-up, this *IS* King Crimson's masterpiece. As the second album of King Crimson's defining trilogy (Larks', Starless, and Red), this will almost certainly continue to receive the "overlooked middle child" treatment, but that is entirely unwarranted. This is a remarkably consistent, complete, and stunning album that belongs in every music collection. Absolutely essential.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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