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Arzachel - Arzachel CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.66 | 237 ratings

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4 stars Wow, what an incredible trip! Next to Piper at the Gates, this is the best psychedelic sound out there! I heard a ludicrous rumor somewhere that this album was recorded in an obscure cave in the Ukraine. Could it be true? The commies would never let these guys past the border. But you know what . . . the music actually sounds like it fits the setting, very damp, raw and earthy. Arzachel is composed of a couple standard psych tunes, two blues workouts and one mammoth jam all dominated by the organ of Dave Stewart. Not to do any injustice to the talent of Steve Hillage, but the guitar is relegated to the role of useful appendage on this album. It is the organ that takes the reins and masterfully weaves the trippy atmosphere from track to track. The rhythm section doesnt disappoint either but you wont get any extended drum sections here, their job is to lay down a grove that the organ and guitar can work over. If it sounds like Im slamming a one-man band nothing could be further from the truth. Im simply amazed that this band has been able to construct the fantastic sound that it has relying on one major instrument.

Side One begins with the call to prayer that is Garden Of Earthly Delights. Both organ and guitar create a glorious opening riff that quickly starts chugging along once the bass and drums kick in. The lyrics are definately catchy as Hillage and bassist Mort Campbell compare a woman's features to the Garden of Eden. Then suddenly the pop melody drops off and Steve breaks loose on a minute long guitar solo that sounds so lonely and forlorn. It never fails to move me each time i hear it and is certainly one of the memorable moments of the album. 5 stars to this terrific opening song!

The next track is a hymn to 'Azathoth the mighty, center of confusion', a deity out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel. The song opens with the churchy organ and slowly plods along very drudgingly creating a sombre, morose effect. The guitar joins in a bit in the middle when the song gets a bit trippier with some disembodied wailing before we come back to the main theme. Queen St. Gang which follows, is a nice, laid back, mellow organ tune with the rhythm section laying down a solid beat behind the scenes.The closest to compare to it would be 'Any Color You Like' off of DSOTM. When I hear this song, I never fail to imagine myself cruising down the highway. Now we get to the more bluesy songs with Leg. The song opens with a quiet, bouncy organ riff that goes on for about a minute, lulling the listener into a false sense of security, then a very bluesy guitar comes in for a bit and then . . . all hell breaks loose as the rest of the band joins and the song stampedes out of control. Unfortunately I usually skip this track as all the noise gives me a headache but if you have the fortitude, the best guitar riffs on the album await as Steve H. really shows his chops.

Side Two is composed of two jams. The first is largely forgettable while the second is one you absolutely do not want to miss if you enjoy freak-out music. Clean Innocent Fun, a blues jam, isnt all that bad. It features some incredable lead vocals from Hillage backed up by some great soulful guitar playing. But the guitar, organ lead in the middle section goes on for way too long and I find that I loose interest long before the 10 min mark is reached. If they had trimmed this one down a bit it would have been much more listenable.

And finally we get to Metempsychosis, the mother of all progressive, acid-drenched freakouts. This is defiantly not a track for the faint of heart but with a set of sturdy ear drums and a little 'pond-grass' its a ride you'll never forget. Combine a few parts of Interstellar Overdrive and Echoes, a healthy dose of Phallus Dei and the tripped out sense of Hawkwind and you get the idea. It starts off with some spacey organ and guitar filler combined with plenty of weird noises and random cymbal clashes. Then Campbell begins a heavy, throbbing bass line and the ride begins. The next couple of minutes see the guitar and organ swirling around, riffing off each other before the music dies away and we are left in a vast abyss punctuated by faint, spooky wails. Then suddenly the throbbing bass returns and the monster finally explodes into a maelstrom of loud, discordant organ swirls and thrashing guitar chords that climax's the song. The album ends in a manner befitting 'schizoid man', with the music getting sucked into the blackness, guitar crying out in a high pitched scream before it suddenly ceases. The trip is over.

While I would love nothing better than to give Arzachel 5 stars, the production job was very fuzzy and this album desperately needs a remastering job. In addition, these guys should have left the blues to Cream and concentrated on what they do best, organ based psychedelic rock that gives Syd Barrett a run for his money. They certainly get an A for effort though. If you enjoy your music with an alternated state of concousness do your self a favor, buy, borrow or steal this album ASAP!

cohen34 | 4/5 |


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