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Black Bonzo - Sound of the Apocalypse CD (album) cover

SOUND OF THE APOCALYPSE

Black Bonzo

 

Heavy Prog

3.99 | 119 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Kotro
Prog Reviewer
4 stars What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

After a very promising debut, Black Bonzo apparently decided to pursue a more original form of composition and playing, drawing less on 70's inspirations than on their first work. What we have here is a more original album, keeping the respect for the past, but going for a more modern approach. The sound is heavier, the atmosphere darker, and the lyrics poignant, all resulting in a hard-driving majestic and gripping piece of music.

Not all influences were discarded - Thorns Upon A Crown opens with a typical Nice/ELP organ intro, to which heavy guitars and echoes are added. But it stops there. What follows is a martial- sounding rocker, pretty much Black Bonzo, with great guitar and rhythm section work, with the keyboard in the background for the remaining of the song, apart from great soloing somewhere in the middle, introducing the great guitar solo (something that I found lacking on the first album) and following it. Like a lot of the songs on the debut, this has a wonderful majestic and pompous feel to it. It is not as strong an opener as Lady of the Light was on the previous album, but still a good song. Giant Games starts calmly, with soft vocals over a gentle acoustic guitar - but it soon bursts into another majestic musical section before the gentle vocals reprise. Another section follows in this multiple themed track, full of changes in pace and time signatures. The final sections, briefly reminding us of Gentle Giant and Ange, are symphonic Prog bliss. Yesterday's Friends ensues, with a delicate acoustic guitar and flute opening, very medieval sounding, that again doesn't take much time to explode into another rocker with a martial beat (not a coincidence - war seems to be the prominent theme in the lyrics throughout the album), opened by a great guitar lick. And it is an excellent beat, with awesome rhythmic work by guitar and drums. Near the middle of the track, it develops into a jazzier section, with some interesting vocal harmonies and a stronger keyboard presence. A couple of minutes into it and we return to the boot camp. A softer, almost funereal section follows, with the adequate Mellotron accompaniment, that keeps building up before ending and immediately jumping into the next track, The Well. Again we are treated to some great chords, in this slightly more upbeat song. Keyboards sound a lot more modern in this track, but again it is a more guitar-driven track with piano and drums holding the not to fast pace. It gets slower midway, as the guitar goes numb and the piano is replaced by the Mellotron. After a quiet set of vocals, they all return in the form of a well conceived crescendo, that reaches climax in a guitar solo before ending as quickly as it began.

It is not an uncommon happening to find an album with very strong openers that ultimately disappoints in its second half, and this is especially true when the first part of the album is extremely enjoyable. Therefore, I was a bit weary going into the second half of Sound Of The Apocalypse , marked by the appropriately named Intermission - Revelation Song - how unfounded my fears were! If, like me, you were already happy after the first four songs, get ready for a treat. The small track that opens this half is a bluesy acoustic guitar and flute song, to which clapping, tambourines and very interesting vocal harmonies are added. Short and entertaining, but nothing like what's to follow - since its first note, Ageless Door is one of the most get-up-from-that-couch-and-JUMP rock songs I ever had the pleasure of hearing. It is probably the most perfect track in the entire album, with every instrument at the top of his game, but none stealing the show, rather working together to create one of the most exciting and battle-encouraging pieces of music I've heard in a long time. Both the keyboards and the guitars get a chance at soloing on this song, but the highlight is really on the sections where they work together. Iscariot follows, opened by a guitar solo, a quieter intro none like the previous. The song resumes the martial beat, but the sound is much more lush than on previous tracks, with a greater presence of they keyboards, both in front row as in the background. Again, the feel is very majestic, especially in the second section of the track, jumping between quieter, jazzier parts, and hard-rocking cavalcades (if I ever wanted to do a medieval movie with modern soundtrack, I would definitely hire Black Bonzo). We are even treated into a Bohemian Rhapsody-like break of the song into a single piano tune before a return of the rockier part. Again, the ending is very energetic but still quite moving. A single grand piano key opens Sound of the Apocalypse, and with that key alone you can sense something grand is coming up. Several other keys follow that one, before a delicately played electric guitar is heard. The drums bring in another martial beat and the warm and soft vocals offer a company for the piano. Soon we begin noticing a crescendo form, as the drums are better heard, and an acoustic guitar and Mellotron are introduced. The theme initially played by the piano is carried by the electric guitar in the chorus. The crescendo continues in a section that sounds darker and heavier, but then swiftly fades away into the opening section. A fast-paced jazzier section is opened (including brass), and King Crimson springs to mind when hearing this part. After a multiple explosion of sounds, the opening melody is reprised in a faster, funkier manner. The crescendo resumes, this time with a lot more might and vigorous energy, courtesy of the densely rich keyboards, topped by a guitar solo and an exciting ending that leaves one craving for more.

Gone is the obvious attempt to emulate Prog giants of the past, in favour of a more mature and idiosyncratic approach to composition. Black Bonzo took a great risk with their first album due to their emulation of classic 70's prog - but they survived in style, and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The result is a much more mature album, more original, more tightly performed and carefully built, but still keeping in mind te teachings of prog giants of past and present. While still not reaching masterpiece status, it is a step up from the debut (also very good) and an almost mandatory recommendation for any classic prog lover.

Kotro | 4/5 |

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