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Bigelf - Cheat The Gallows CD (album) cover

CHEAT THE GALLOWS

Bigelf

 

Heavy Prog

3.58 | 95 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Daggor
5 stars Put simply to start, Bigelf is a time capsule. Cheat the Gallows, is the hauntingly melodic buried treasure of 1972, magically resurfacing in 2008. Built in homage to the Beatle's Sgt. Peppers, with a sound not different than the most romanticized love child of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, raised by Alice Cooper, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour. Bigelf won't try to fool you for a second, they're not breaking any new ground, they're not trying to find out what's next in music, but telling the world their sinister, addictive, and energetic version of the golden era. The album starts with the anthemia "Gravest Show on Earth", a wordplay so obvious, it's a wonder Alice Cooper hasn't used it yet. While some bands might save the sweeping orchestral arrangements for a 10 minute extravaganza at the end of the album, Bigelf puts em up right away (As well as in the 10 minute extravaganza at the end). From Gravest show, the CD flows seamlessly into "Blackball", the heavy road song paying homage to, among others, Pink Floyd's Money, with a rocking sax solo. The orchestration continues and the question has to be raised, "Has orchestral rock ever rocked so hard?" Drummer Steve "Froth" Frothingham, Los Angeles homeless look-a-like, does an extremely respectable job holding down the beats with finnish bassist Duffy Snowhill, while Organist/Vocalist Damon Fox and guitarist Ace Mark absolutely rip and tear though everything ever right and just about the golden age of music. Blackball ends and a startlingly commercial song greets listeners, "Money, It's pure Evil".

Similar to Deep Purple, Bigelf never really takes themselves terribly serious with their lyrics, Money, It's Pure Evil (Not to be confused with the title track of 2000's Money Machine), is a highly radio friendly song that is as honest as it is catchy. A lot. The lyrics are basic, focusing on how money and Hollywood can corrupt, the orchestras are sweeping as ever, and Ace Mark rips an absolutely stunning guitar solo. The real first gem of the album though, is my personal favorite Bigelf track, "The Evils of Rock and Roll" (In addition to having "Evil" in two consecutive song titles, the band has referred to themselves as the Evil Beatles on more than one occasion, modesty be damned!).

Evils starts out fairly modest, if a bit haunting, vaguely reminiscent of something Iommi might have written for the Vol 4 album, at least until the 1:40 mark, when the main riff comes in, and the song rips into full "Sabotage Sabbath" glory. The melodic chemistry between Fox and Mark is downright stunning, and if a tribute were to ever be written to Sabbath's most monumental work, this would be it.

Having exhausted the need to rock for the first 4 songs, Bigelf tames a bit with "No Parachute". It's not necessarily a "Bad" song, but coming right after one of the most roaring starts to an album I've ever heard, it certainly seems a bit pale. Ace Mark delivers again with a downright heroic guitar solo, but it feels like a bit of a letdown. The game is a bit better, but for the most part, just another good melody where everything falls into place at the right time, complimented by a glorious guitar solo, and when that constitutes the weak link of an album, you've stumbled onto something really extraordinary.

Superstar, like Money, It's pure evil, was clearly written as a single. Bigelf isn't ashamed of that fact, Fox will be the first to admit he wants Bigelf to be heard on the radio, but they're not going to sit down and sing whiny lyrics over a four chord progression to accomplish it. Superstar differs from Money in one key area however, in that it's much dirtier, grimier, and more true to Bigelf's sound, however maybe a bit less catchy. Race With Time, like No Parachute and The Game, is a well constructed, intelligent track with good melodies, and a killer intro, and a great Organ breakdown from Damon. It's a great track, but nowhere near as good as what's to come, because Bigelf has clearly saved the best for last.

Well, maybe not the BEST, but it's a nice cliché, and Bigelf likes clichés, I'm sure Damon would be proud. Evils still remains the album's best track, but the final two songs, "Hydra", and "Counting Sheep", are the two, highly technical, progressive masterpieces of the album. Hydra is really Damon's showcase for his organ and singing, and if the song sounds great in the studio, it sounds twice as good live, with Damon extending the solos and rocking even harder, if that's possible. The Orchestra is back in full, epic force, and Froth's drumming is nothing short of spectacular. Which leads us to the album's closer, "Counting Sheep".

Counting Sheep is the real prog epic of the album, clocking in at a startling 11:20 for a band trying to get commercial recognition. This, more than anything, pays tribute to bands like Floyd, and Yes, as well as (In the spirit of Sgt. Peppers) a reprive to "The Gravest Show on Earth". It is frantic, eclectic, and ever changing, as well as one of the tracks that caused Mike Portnoy to fall in love with the band (Which was what led them to explode onto the prog scene, a full year after Cheat the Gallows had been released, and in the 18th year of their career). Fans of songs like "Superstar" or "Evils of Rock and Roll", might not be as high on this as other songs, but it is definitely a core principle of what makes Bigelf, Bigelf.

All in all, the album can be divided into three sections, The evil, rocking songs like Gravest Show, Blackball, Evils of Rock and Roll, and Hydra, the more commercial, but still very "Bigelf" melodic oriented songs like "Money, It's pure Evil", No Parachute, The Game, and Race with Time, and the super-prog, which is evident across the whole album, but really exemplified in Hydra and especially Counting Sheep. This is a very comforting and reassuring album for one who thinks that Rock is dying, and that the spirit of the genre has given way to the tides of commercialism, and possibly one of the best albums of the decade, a very obvious, thumbs up.

Taken from the defunct personal blog (daggreview.blogspot.com) of blackwindmetal.com writer Mark Nagy (AKA Dagg). Who is me.

Daggor | 5/5 |

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