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Blue Öyster Cult - Imaginos CD (album) cover

IMAGINOS

Blue Öyster Cult

 

Prog Related

3.73 | 63 ratings

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Raff
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Join the Blue Oyster Cult

Just before "Imaginos" was released, the mighty Blue Oyster Cult had been in disarray, a shadow of their former powerful selves. With the departure of some key members, the spark seemed gone forever ? as witnessed by their previous, rather lacklustre release, 1986's "Club Ninja", held by many as their weakest recording effort. However, the completion of this 20-year-long project (originally conceived by drummer Albert Bouchard and mastermind Sandy Pearlman) brought the original members of the band together for what was destined to be their last really great album (in some ways, even their masterpiece), and certainly one of their most progressive offerings.

The very elaborate concept behind "Imaginos" was at least partly inspired by HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and crafted in order to provide an 'alternative' explanation for the onset of World War One. The titular character is a 'modified child' with supernatural abilities, whose story is told (though not in order) in the nine songs on the album, and foreshadowed on two songs featured on the "Secret Treaties" album - "Subhuman" and "Astronomy". Both are present on the album, the latter with a different musical arrangement (in my view inferior to the original, and way too 'Eighties' for my tastes), the former rewritten as "Blue Oyster Cult".

Such an intriguing, grandiose concept needed to be implemented accordingly. Therefore, the five members of the band brought on board a number of other musicians, including the 'Guitar Orchestra of the State of Imaginos', an impressive array of lead guitarists that included The Doors' Robbie Krieger (who had already guested on BOC's "ET Live"), and six-string wizard Joe Satriani. The result is a rich, majestic sound that fits the storyline like a glove, immediately noticeable from the first strains of opener "I Am the One You Warned Me Of," which sets things off with a bang. In comparison to the somewhat limp-wristed nature of the band's previous two albums, "The Revolution by Night" and "Club Ninja", there is an exhilarating sense of energy to be felt here. Even the poppier items, like the sax-driven title-track (which closes the album on a somewhat cheerful note, in spite of the rather disturbing lyrics), or the even more upbeat "Del Rio's Song" (possibly the album's weakest link) seem to barge in with a sort of assertiveness approached by none of the compositions appearing on the above-mentioned albums.

Vocalist Eric Bloom - one of the most distinctive (and underrated) voices in rock ? is at the top of his game, belting out the obscure lyrics with self-assured forcefulness. On the rousing "The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria", Bloom is flanked by guest singer Joey Cerisano - the song climaxes with a haunting chorus of "World without end", and Joe Satriani's blistering solo contributes to making the song even more memorable. Buck Dharma's gentler, more restrained voice does the honours on "Les Invisibles", though the song itself is anything but reassuring, with its sinister synth effects and guitar work, and its insistent, almost obsessive repetition of the word 'seven'; while "In the Presence of Another World" is a dark-hued mid-tempo, almost ballady at times, with a thundering, yet oddly catchy chorus stating that "Your master is a monster".

The true highpoint of the album, however, comes towards the end, with the double whammy of "Magna of Illusion" and "Blue Oyster Cult". The former, named after the mysterious obsidian mirror that Desdinova (the new name given to Imaginos by his rescuers, the human servants of 'the Invisible Ones') finds in a jungle in the Yucatan, and which, kept for twenty years in his attic, poisons the minds of European leaders before the outbreak of WWI, is a triumphal, keyboard- and guitar-laden march related from the point of view of the protagonist's granddaughter. "Blue Oyster Cult", on the other hand, is as creepily addictive as its earlier version, "Subhuman", with an anthemic close celebrating the occult nature of the band's name as originally conceived by Sandy Pearlman.

BOC are also known for the often outstanding cover artwork of their albums, and "Imaginos" is no exception - the über-Gothic Victorian mansion poised on a cliff on the background of a stormy sky aptly conveying the sense of mystery and menace implicit in the whole story. It is a pity the lyrics have not been included in the CD reissue, though they can be found on the band's website. At any rate, this is an album of epic proportions that, despite its 'Eighties-style' production (rather evident, for instance, in the drum sound), will appeal to both hard rock and prog fans. Although not quite as perfect as "Tyranny and Mutation" or "Secret Treaties", it is nonetheless deserving of a very solid 4.5-star rating.

Raff | 4/5 |

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