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Blue Öyster Cult - Blue Öyster Cult CD (album) cover

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT

Blue Öyster Cult

 

Prog Related

3.29 | 118 ratings

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3 stars Darkness Descends

Heavy guitars and keyboard layers put me in mind of many of the hard rock groups of the early 1970s, including Uriah Heep, and the essential rock and roll root of the music lets you know exactly where this striking debut from Blue Oyster Cult is coming from - but there's something fresh in the guitar work, and an excitement in the interplay between band members that's almost tangible. This is early heavy metal with an edge - it's not directly from the street, but it's not aiming for the upper echelons of progdom either. That is not the point of BOC.

And so the power of the angular, meandering, tritonic riffs of Transmaniacon MC combined with those organ sweeps creates a dark, swirly atmosphere peculiar to this group alone. As the piece progresses, the well-engineered soundscape reveals sinister tinkly piano lines, as precision pentatonics and octave riff reinforcements swirl from Buck Dharma's fretboard, never interfering with the gasped, gravelline vocals, and it builds and swells into something monumental. Possibly one of the best album openers to date.

The next track, I'm On The Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep was a bit of a nightmare in the days of vinyl - how many times did the jumping beats make fans wonder if the record was scratched - especially towards the end. And you could bet that if the record acquired a scratch, it would be during one of these moments. This is not your standard rock track - although you could say that about almost anything BOC ever recorded - however, it travels in the guise of a simple rockin' tune. The last minute or so is a real head-bobbing, foot-tapping moment, combing the dark riffs and jumping beats with a jazz-like feel.

Dharma unleashes some beautiful lead to begin the dark ballad Then Came The Last Days Of May, which features a sumptuous melody and vocal harmony line, and some neat changes that twist the chord progression from a simple revisit of All Along the Watchtower into something new and uniquely BOC in flavour, and provides just the right mellow level from which to kick off the monstrous Stairway To The Stars.

Pure heavy rock and roll in flavour, and one of the roughest songs on the album in terms of execution, the verse tells you nothing of what is coming - and then that chorus comes at you - gently at first, but each time it returns, it etches itself deeper on your psyche - the final iteration, following and including more of Dharma's incendiary solo leading to a burn-out that leaves you wanting to hear it over again.

Next up is the bluesy-starting Before The Kiss, A Redcap begins. I've always found this song monotonous, and reviewing it now, that opinion has not changed - but that wicked change to almost trad jazz styled rock around 1:40 makes it well worth hanging in there. The listener is also rewarded with some unexpected and tasty guitar licks too - the twin soloing in the burn-out rivalling Wishbone Ash.

The tempo is brought right down for Screams, one of my favourite tracks on the album. The richly dark atmosphere set by this song is second to nothing in the rock canon thanks, in no small way to the keyboard effects, but also to the phased vocals and deeply reverbed and occasionally feedback- drenched guitar. Reverb, indeed, seems to be the order of the day here, as even the drums are drenched in it.

This segues (almost!) to She's As Beautiful As A Foot (seems like BOC were firing on all cylinders when it came to dreaming up original and inventive track titles - and not just on this album), which is kinda more of the same as Screams - but with a really catchy guitar line couterpointing the vocal melody.

Time for another rocker? BOC thought so too, and so we get this Sabbath-alike opening for Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll. My ears will melt and then my eyes. Oh yes! This is hard rock the way it was meant. Dharma again lights up the skies with his axe-wielding skills, and the piece closes with a nod and a wink towards Deep Purple.

Workshop Of The Telescopes reminds me of She's As Beautiful As A Foot to start, but quickly changes direction - and while a competant enough song, there's nothing that really stands out as comment-worthy. A little Jefferson Airplane flavoured in places, particularly the instrumental, but all-in- all, nothing you haven't heard already on this album, except, maybe, the electronic mayhem that occupies the final 30 seconds or so.

The album closes with Redeemed, a somewhat disappointing Country-flavoured number with, again, a lot of the interesting stuff happening in the last minute or so.

All in all, a very interesting hard rock album with a difference - something you could reasonably say about all BOC's offerings. For fans of that genre, an absolute must - for 1972, this is a real gem, and, as a debut album, it's a complete stunner.

For fans of Prog, though, not a lot to get excited about - but a bit more interesting than your standard rock fayre.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |

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