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Black Bonzo

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4 stars Black Bonzo has sure changed since their first eponymous disc! That was practically a Uriah Heep Tribute Album; _Sound of the Apocalypse_ blends quite a few other influences into the mix. Namely Eloy, Nektar, Deep Purple and Omega. Maybe even a little of Jethro Tull and The Nice. In other words, these guys are as heavy as progrock gets. Keyboards (Organ, analog synth, mellotron, piano), drums, bass, and guitar, with occasional flute bits here and there. The vocalist comes in somewhere between the late David Byron (of Uriah Heep) and Pete Beck of Anti-Depressive Delivery; plenty of emotion there!

Great stuff, as retro as possible, but not slavishly imitative or heartlessly mechanical. These guys know the motions, but they do more than go through them. Most of the songs have a anti-war/anti-politician slant, as would be expected in the current climate. "Giant Games," for instance, is probably NOT a favorite at the Bush/Blair households: "Let's put on a show for all the people/make them believe we are victorious/We've fooled them before so why not once more?/Put them to sleep, the ones with disbelief"... For years my progrock motto has been "we don't buy this stuff for the lyrics," but _Sound of the Apocalypse_ is the exception to the rule.

Really nice. Quite superior to the merely fantastic first disc. Get yours now, before the seventh trumpet sounds. You'll have a hard time enjoying it if you wait till the locusts are upon us.

Report this review (#128150)
Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars On Sound of the Apocalypse, Black Bonzo's second album the band has undergone a slight musical metamorphosis. On their debut album the music was extremely inspired by Uriah Heep but on the new one they have moved into far more progressive territories. Many of today's progressive band's at times sounds very bombastic and flashy, but this is not the case with Black Bonzo who has a very 70's laid back, yet powerful sound. Musical reference points are many. At times they sound like Gentle Giant ("Giant Games"), Jethro Tull ("Revelation Song") and early Kansas ("Ageless Door"). The band hails from Skellefteň in Sweden and once again I'm amazed over the quality of music coming out of Scandinavia nowadays with bands like Dungen, Magic Pie or Anekdoten. Now you can add Black Bonzo to that list !
Report this review (#133602)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars


In 2004 this Swedish formation released its debut CD entitled Lady Of The Light, it contains very pleasant work on Hammond and Mellotron and the sound is deeply rooted in the late Sixties/early Seventies, I love it! This new CD has an awesome lay-out, especially the fold-out cover (similar to Yessongs but unfortunately on CD size) featuring a mindblowing painting of the apocalypse with lots of nature violence, very dark and ominous but also fascinating. But how about the music?

Well, I have to admit that my first listening session was a bit disappointing but gradually it grew, just like good prog! Black Bonzo their sound on this CD alternates between melodic rock and Heavy Prog with echoes from Seventies Uriah Heep and Kansas but less obvious than on their debut CD, Black Bonzo has matured in writing and done their best to sound more original. In general Black Bonzo delivers fluent and bombastic songs but it's remarkable how many tracks contain interesting shifting moods and surprising musical ideas: Giant Games has a break with choir-Mellotron and xylophone, Yesterdays Friends starts with classical guitar and flute and in Ageless we can enjoy a typically late Sixties/early Seventies bluesrock guitar interlude. The long final composition Sound Of The Apocalypse (more than 13 minutes) sounds very strong: first fragile piano and warm vocals, from mellow it becomes more and more lush, than omonous and bombastic with wonderful classical orechestrations and after a great build-up with lots of tension, the grand finale is very compelling, topped by a sensitive electric guitar solo.

To me this sounds as a beautiful, very melodic CD with the distinctive and pleasant sound of vintage keyboards (Hammond, Mellotron and Minimoog), good vocals and tasteful compositions, a big hand for Black Bonzo!

Report this review (#142144)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars There's no school like the old school.

That's actually the only expression that comes in mind when I listen to Black Bonzo. From the singing to the drums fills and the 2 tones guitar solo a la Kiss, everything here is from another era...except the production that provides crisp and crystallic sound.

There's some good songs, mostly based on a primary riff with many solos (Hammond and guitar alternates). My favorite is certainly the hommage to Gentle Giant on the second track. Done by GG itself would be very interesting to hear!

It's hard to describe Black Bonzo but there goes: take some of The Darkness riffs and in-your-face attitude, add a lot of Deep Purple Hammond, a pinch of Novalis (track 3), a tad of King Crimson Mellotron, a lot of Beatles Abbey Road period and some Gowan type singing.

I like the idea of doing it old school; making the challenge higher by having the task of creating acceptable songs AND trying to make you believe that was recorded 30 years ago.

Black Bonzo is joining with honors the very exclusive clique youngsters facinated by the 70's like Wobbler, the Darkness and Sloan.

In nomination for best underdog album of 2007.

Report this review (#148888)
Posted Sunday, November 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a good CD that I recommend its got lots of ideas and stuff I can't pigeon hole the sound of this band exactly but I hear what I consider to be lots of influences Gentle Giant, Spock's Beard, Echolyn, Genesis , Uriah Heep all come to mind but this sounds fresh and innovative, its definatly not a retro performance Black Bonzo brings their own style to the menu and really do have something to offer most prog fans. There's lots of modern prog out there this is nearing some of the top shelf stuff, better than most modern prog CD's I think.
Report this review (#149330)
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This band and its most recent album was the surprise of 2007 for me. Excellent recording and musicians playing with a flavor of modern progressive rock, somewhat like Porcupie Tree, yet very distinct.

Sounds like melodic King Crimson (if they would work at it), and yes I do agree that the German band Novalis and some of the italian progressive bands come to mind.

What is critically importantt to me in music is the sound and the landscape music creates. I play no instrument, do not read music but like to feel the music. These guys have it.

One of the best of 2007.

Report this review (#162245)
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars After listening and reviewing the most recent Beardfish album, I wanted to go back and review an album that deserves MUCH more credit than it has received. Sound of the Apocalypse is a wonderful release with that vintage 70's style with great melody and excellent vocals. After about 20 spins, this album keeps growing on me which is the sign of a well constructed album. Neo prog favorites like Gentle Giant, Echolyn and Genesis are definitely influences, BUT Black Bonzo has successfully branded their own sound apart from any other band. Their music has a very lighthearted feel and you are constantly reminded of great classic rock bands from years past. I look forward to more releases from them. Even though they are not as well known as some other neo prog acts, I encourage any fan of prog, any fan of good music to get this album. A wonderful job and well deserving of 4 stars! May prog be with you....
Report this review (#179304)
Posted Saturday, August 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Black Bonzo have produced one of the most exciting prog concept albums of recent years

This is an astounding prog album from a relatively obscure Swedish band that may be the Swedish answer to Yes. Certainly the first thing one will notice when hearing this album is the striking similarity of their style to the classic 70s eclectic prog of such artists as Uriah Heep, Kansas, Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP), Gentle Giant, Caravan, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Camel and Rush, to name a few. They are heavily influenced but are not mere imitations, rather adding their own inimitable style to the progressive genre. Every track is masterfully executed with technical precision and artistic flare all wrapped up in a concept album. The album artwork is sublime presented in a 3-gatefold widevision apocalyptic scenario. The imagery is sumptuous and compliments the conceptual material admirably.

The high-powered concept of an apocalyptic event from the pages of Revelation begins with 'Thorns Upon A Crown' that is driven by the hard pounding of an Emerson-like Hammond and Greg Lake-ish vocals. It ends with a backwards glass effect, perhaps we are sliding into the mirror of the future.

Track 2 is 'Giant Games' and sounds a little like Gentle Giant ironically enough. It is an excellent progressive rocker with a huge shuffle and shifting time signature changes throughout. The relentless Hammond and angular guitar riffing are exceptional. It even fades out in the tradition of 70s songs. The lyrics are about the 911 conspiracy, if such a thing exists.

The next track, Yesterday's Friends, is a 7 minute killer that speaks of loneliness, emptiness, alienation, lost friends and feelings of remorse. Somehow through the midst of this despair Black Bonzo's musical prowess injects a ray of hope, in a similar way Peter Hammill does in Van der Graaf Generator. The words are potent: "Why can't we be friends like we were yesterday? Sun was shining and you held my hand. Trapped in shackles, thrown to the jackals. I am struggling just to breathe." The vocals are similar in style to Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour and there is a jagged Robert Fripp-style guitar riff that crashes throughout. It's absolutely stunning and at 3 mins in, the track transforms into an off-kilter syncopated rhythm with Keith Emerson style staccatos on the Hammond. Yes, it's that good.

Could it get better? Absolutely. Track 4, 'The Well' is my favourite track because it sounds uncannily like a 70s throwback to the heavier side of Caravan with Pye Hastings type vocals. I love the lyrics: "The hammer is falling down so hard, it won't catch your very eye." powerful and emotive. The track is driven by a relentless heavy guitar and keyboard riff with swirling synth answers. The excellent melody is beautiful and it twists and turns in surprising directions. I admire the way the band has captured that eclectic 70s prog spirit, unashamedly, and they have hit it right on the head; not only paying homage to the classic prog sound but somehow reinventing it with their own original finesse.

Track 5 is a short intermission that reminds one immediately of Jethro Tull with flute and irregular vocals.

'Ageless Door' follows and send us back to the Hammond and aggressive guitar stabs. The off-beat drum patterns are similar to Bill Bruford's style, and they punctuate the track throughout as the more abrasive vocals are heard: "An echo in the corridor of time, a memory collapsed, a fainted will, a transcendent crime, spare me all hypocrisy and blame." The track rocks hard but never quite keeps rhythm, missing beats and jumping rhythm patterns. There are lots of double guitar licks, an interlude with strange effects over a lead solo from Karlsson, and Hammond stabs, sounding at times like early ELP; it is delicious prog bliss.

Track 7, 'Iscariot', is a fantastic song that moves in many directions. 3 mins into it the tracks changes gears into a psychedelic freak out. The thematic content concerns judgement day and sin and the consequences of the Judas kiss. Ahlund excels again on the scorching Hammond. Black Bonzo have stamped their authority on the use of the Hammond on this album.

How do you end such a brilliant album? Why, with a 13 min multimovement mini epic of course. 'Sound of the Apocalypse' is a scintillating excursion of musical virtuosity that includes mellotron, multi vocal harmonies and a wonderful vocal performance. It is broken into three sections in the tradition of such prog classic bands as Caravan. These meld together seamlessly to form a bonafide prog classic. Part 1 is 'Twins' (the Twin Towers?) that begins with a series of chilling minimalist piano chords, something like GodSpeed You Black Emperor's minimalist style. We hear a voice talking: "Changes to the chemistry of the oceans. of the atmosphere..." The Dave Gilmour style vocals begin and it builds slowly into a huge wall of sound with Mellotron and multi-part guitars. At 5 mins into the track, it suddenly changes time signature pace into part 2 'Towers Collapse' (Must be a reference to 911, though the lyrics are subtle). This is an instrumental with erratic piano and jazz drums. There are strange saxophone sounds and it reminds one of the off-kilter middle section of King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man'. This is a showpiece for these musicians. Part 3 is 'The Boiling Point' and the track returns to the opening stanza but it is more of an irregular time pattern. The swirling keyboards build to the type of majestic finale as Yes's 'And You and I' - the soundscape of symphonic Mellotron is backed by Karlsson's searing guitar solos. The heartbeat of a bass continues underneath it all and it builds to the crescendo of finality, as good as I have heard, and then it is all over. And I immediately put the CD on again and listen to it knowing this is one of the best in my prog collection.

So there you have it. Overblown and curiously true to the retro 70s classic Golden era of prog, Black Bonzo have produced one of the most exciting and surprising concept albums of 2007.

Report this review (#181778)
Posted Thursday, September 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#197131)
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This Reminds Me A lot Of Uriah Heep,Gentle Giant..The Beatles,We have here an amazing album,very progressive in all the senses.Black Bonzothey try to have the old sound,and they do it not a is something that a lot of bands around Here are missing..Some people are looking for something Like this..what we have here is the old sound with new elemments.what in a certain way,it gives more beautiful moments.

this album is very dinamic,The Voice of magnus reminds that Era..i am waiting for their next album in this year..i am very happy with this One..really..the more i listen to it i understand more their music..i hope that the next album will be more heavy,something more agressive..lets Wait..

But for Now,we have this amazing Bonzo and beardfish ,they are doing beautifuls albums. so check it will find nice compositions,heavy things,amazing vocals..and the well have a lot of things to think.

Nice Work,keep on the good Work.

Report this review (#200076)
Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent hammond organ driven rock that will appeal to fans of Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Kansas, Quatermass and Jethro Tull.

This is a remarkable album considering that this is only Black Bonzo's second album. They sound like seasoned pros with a well-developed music style. This is a concept album which works well and is actually easy to understand. This album matches the quality of many 70s prog classics and I would award it 4.5 stars if I could. . After playing this album twice, I had to track down their first album and am anxiously awaiting delivery.

If you missed this one in 2007, don't delay any further. According to their website, a 3rd release is imminent. I can't wait!

Report this review (#204107)
Posted Monday, February 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars - Dogs get fleas: fleas get poodles - (Scottish Proverb)

Three years after the Bonzo's debut album, this second helping of Prog Smorgasbord appeared and although it follows closely the same menu as it's predecessor, I am glad to report that the band have moved significantly forward insofar as concocting their own unique recipies goes.

Post Modern cheesy dip anyone?

Thorns Upon a Crown - A knowingly twee analogue synth intro parts the curtains (see No Earthly Connection) and just before you anticipate Seven Seas of Rye via the Queen harmonised guitar lick, the Bonzos suddenly about-turn and instead, embark on a naggingly addictive groove featuring some greasy chopped Hammond and counterpoint lead guitar. This is a very robust track with a complex and ever changing structure that never idles for long. Despite the competing meters of the arrangement, the melodic writing is also very accomplished and Magnus Lindgren has by now got his David Byron impersonation downpat. However, to be kind to Black Bonzo, it could be proffered that some of the lyrics lose much of their substance in translation from the Swedish?

- Jupiter and Mars satellites and stars - (Not a lot going on upstairs here methinks?)

A very bracing instrumental section follows replete with gutsy overdriven organ and a pretty damn nifty guitar solo that does regrettably owe a considerable debt to the life of one Brian (May sue?) A Jon Lord pastiche 'tremolo' organ excursion follows and it must be said that Nicklas ┼hlund has an uncanny gift of obtaining some truly bowel melting keyboard sounds be they from organ, synth, Tron or piano. The lad has obviously studied the past obsessively and his reward and ours, is a palette of textures that sounds simply glorious. The rejoinder back to the song section is beautifully paced and all things considered, this is a belter opening salvo from these precocious scandinavian pups.

Giant Games - I like the singer's voice during this very understated intro as it carries a faint echo of Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy. Within his middle range, Mr Lindgren posseses a very endearing delivery that I much prefer to the more habitual 'rawk' histrionics of his upper register. Thereafter we encounter a bombastic transition segueing into the memorable vocal hook waiting patiently for us in the chorus. The guitar solo that follows strays inadvisably into the forbidden garden of 'widdley widdley' at this point but it does at least carry with it an unusual texture to mitigate the charge. Yep, this is one heavy mother prog buddies, and we encounter a dislocated and lurching unison section prior to returning to the spooky intro. There are more meter changes here than a Heathrow taxi rank and the sheer relentless intensity of the piece makes for a bumpy but exhilerating ride. There is also perhaps a nod to Gentle Giant in both the title and the use of the layering of vocal melody counterpoint. Sumptuous organ swells underneath the repeated chorus at a slightly slower tempo brings this coruscating number to a close.

Yesterdays Friends - Pastoral 'Italian school' flute confirmed by plaintive and lyrical slide guitar lulls us momentarily before Black Bonzo kick off their fluffy slippers and lurch unannounced into some visceral staccato instrumentation which cleverly contradicts the languid melody. Mikael Israelsson's martial snare simply reinforces the latent tension to unnerving effect. Once again alas, the band cannot be accused of having any literary pretensions?

- Why can't we be friends like we were yesterday sun was shining and you held my hand? -

The lyrics are cringeworthy throughout this album but the palliative of another memorable hook in the chorus soothes our vandalised ears for the time being. Unfortunately the repetition of the contradiction device in the subsequent verses just becomes clumsy and wearying. There is however a nice frisson created by a dischord from the organ under some faintly incongruous backing vocals. On this tune the singer betrays a trace of Robert Smith when they both get a bit angsty in the middle registers. Yesterdays Friends is clearly guilty of outstaying it's welcome and would have been very good with 3 minutes shaved off the end. Charming use of mellotron strings to the fade.

The Well - Fast paced 'chugger' with heaps of Uriah everywhere you look and some rapidfire rippling panned synth to elicit gasps of Is that your cellphone ringing? from your unwitting loved ones. A relatively straightforward beat but Israelsson injects same with many unusual and crafty fills which makes his playing a real treat on every track. The breakdown section is well controlled and the band illustrate a fine sense of spacial dynamics utilising some plangent echoed guitar timbres and subtle washes of mellotron. But again the whole thing is just too bloody long and despite an effective crescendo passage exploiting choir backing, the arrangement becomes impossibly top heavy with everything (including) the heavily modded Bb kitchen sink being hammered, plucked, blown AND sucked into overwrought submission. Over egging the puddy lads.... and be aware that the guitar solo is borderline parody of the aforementioned Brian May.

Intermission:Revelation Song - Jethro Tull for Dummies: a piece of cod 'folk' worn over some very roomy tights.

Ageless Door - Restive and elusive rhythm that teases then shies away from mutating into the anticipated shuffle. This arrangement never sits still for long but just remember that shedloads of compositional ideas are no substitute for a few inspired ones. Nice injection of strings for the chorus - Genesis organ a la the Knife is overlaid with yet more Brian May guitar and we appear to catch a fleeting glimpse of a traditional celtic jig? The 'spacey' section does precisely what it was designed to i.e fill up space

Iscariot - Almost unremittingly awful, like witnessing your one true love at the height of their chicken pox virus (not a spectator sport). This might just also be the skinny chicken pumped full of air you buy at the supermarket. (at the risk of labouring the poultry metaphors a tad) Despite a beautiful short organ solo and some Wishbone Ash style medieval jesting, nothing presented here will even endure the longevity of a soap bubble. The stop/start unison writing is overdone and ends up just sounding contrived and disjointed. Shame really, as the intro is decent but rather undermined by a risibly jaunty and stirring verse the effect of which I am convinced is not unwittingly comedic.

Sound of the Apocalypse - Very effective chord progression stated on unadorned piano with martial snare eventually being joined by muted vocals. They do however milk this thematic material until the cows might just refuse to ever come home again and the intended gradual layering of intensity gets delivered as a rather heavy handed 'overwrought by instalments' instead.

Were the scriptures delivered by these post-modern Swedes, then the Book of Revelations might be considered about as harrowing as the sight of yesterday's abandoned blancmange. I suspect that as promising and ripe as these musical ideas are, someone like Porcupine Tree would have handled said materials with far greater weight and economy. (see Gravity Eyelids)

Thank god, circa 6 minutes in the unrelenting relents and we mutate into a fast paced instrumental section with some inspired unison playing and yummy analogue synth weirdness - for the first time there is a flavour of jazz from the Bonzos (can you hear a sax/brass in there?) - very exhilarating take on jazz rock/fusion in places and this writing is much more chromatic and adventurous than most of what preceded it. The opening harmonies return but are imbued with a double time feel via some inspired ostinato bass from Anthon Johansson. The central departure of this track just might represent a side of Black Bonzo I could grow to love but this style of composition is all too rare on this album. Mere repetition does not imbue a composition with epic status, it only serves to push up the tab on the fare.

Ten Feet Away - Strumalonga Led Zep - Achilles naps between battles.

Losing Faith - Lovely 6/8 type loping groove with a whiff of Fred Merc in the tonsil dept, and extra toppings of Uriah Heep, Atomic Rooster, Deep Purple and Queen (delete as applicable) Lovely creepy piano passage worthy of the late Vincent Crane reinforced by electric guitar arpeggios. We meet here one of the highpoints of the record as the perceived accellerando occurs not due to an increase in tempo but that of the guitarist transitioning between smaller and smaller note lengths. This is brilliantly done and is often a technique under-exploited in the heavier end of the rock spectrum. Howay the lads.

Black Bonzo are extremely accomplished musicians with a keen ear for the sounds and textures of the heavy prog of the 70's but they have come to resemble XTC in the practice of their art i.e they know their chosen genre just TOO well and can replicate and mimic with insouciant ease any manner of past masters of this music. Perhaps this canine needs some DISobedience classes before they finally shake off the yoke of the past and land a big wet brown one on their master's lap. Right on Mucky Pup!

Sound of the Apocalypse is significantly more original than the debut, but at this rate, it will take the Bonzos into their buspass dotage to come up with anything approaching a groundbreaking or innovative creation. Those of you that are at all receptive to the promptings of Uriah Heep, Queen, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster or cheesy AOR e.g. Kansas, Styx, Boston, etc will find much to enjoy with this album.

For the remainder, we would prefer to save our freshly minted chocolate coins than trade in these used counterfeit notes.

Report this review (#204177)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I honestly feel blessed. This is a band I just happened to come across by incident, and they instantly took a place on my top-5 list of favourite bands for the moment. Even though these young lads are men of my country, they are pretty unknown and anonymous around here. These are the guys that sound like they traveled from the 70's in a time machine, along with their equipment, to treat us with the art of true music making. That's why I feel blessed... A group of people that takes this kind of music seriously and bringing it into the current century.

This is the second album from Black Bonzo and the sound has taken a step in a slightly more modern direction from the first album, wich was more "pure 70's" to the sound, bringing your thoughts back to bands like Uriah Heep and Purple.

Opening track is called Thorns Upon a Crown, wich is a good tune for a starter... It starts of with a cool keyboard intro and soon developes into a catchy tune with a high pitch chorus.

After the first track, setting the standard high, we are introduced to one of the albums top tracks. Giant Games is both catchy and mellow, inspired by the sounds of Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant, with a touch of the fab four as well.

Yesterdays Friends is a beautiful piece with mellow and nostalgic lyrics. The melody is drifting between mellow and more up-beat, keeping a good contrast troughout the whole song.

The album continues with The Well, wich is the first track of this album where I lose some attention. What saves this tune is the excellent guitar work, wich is superiour!

We now move on to the so called intermission, Revelation Song, a short pseudo Jethro Tull wich is driven by (yeah, you guessed it) flute. This is a track that, in my opinion, never should have left the mixing studio. But this is no reason to turn the CD off or stop reading this review, 'cause after this short break we are introduced to one of the top-3 tracks of the album.

Ageless Door was the first Black Bonzo song I heard, and is still one of my favourites! After a random intro, we are given one of the most tasty Hammond riffs in modern prog music! The melody is excellent and the drums give you the chills and make you wanna jump up and down your couch (or whereever you spend time listening to CD's) to the ride work at the end of the song.

The bombastic Iscariot is taking the sound a step further with the stunning guitar work and folk inspired melody. Again, one of the albums top-3's.

The album is closed with the title track, Sound of the Apocalypse... There is only one word to describe it: Epic! At the end of this tune, you just want to listen to the album again from top.

Even though there are a couple of question marks during half time, this album deserves a lot of credit. A fair rating would be something like 4.3 stars, so I give it a 4.

Report this review (#218018)
Posted Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was surprisingly impressed with Black Bonzo's Sound of the Apocalypse. Having never heard anything by this band before, I was tempted to purchase this album after reading several postiive reviews for not just this album, but the previous and subsequent releases, both I will probably seek out in the not too distant future. The reason I chose this one is that it has more favorable reviews than their debut and it was cheaper at Amazon than the others (always a smart risk, particularly if it involves pricey imports).

The music on this album is very energetic and quite powerful in delivery. It shows much in the way of a combination of hard rock and symphonic rock. The organ work evens out the soaring and powerful guitar work. The drummer is quite exceptional, at times reminding me of an early Cozy Powell. There are some jazz/fusion leanings in places too. Unlike other reviewers, I'm finding it hard to pin down their influences. I sense the Deep Purple influence, but the music is way too complicated for Deep Purple. I don't sense the Queen references as much. I do sense some Gentle Giant influences, but the band is much harder sounding. I sense some King Crimson in the mix, but not anywhere near the angularity. Some Genesis/Yes in places. Some Spock's Beard and Echolyn in places, too. Jethro Tull for certain on the short Intermission/Revelation Song number. In other words, a lot of influences that blend together in such a way that they sound like something new, but akin to the spirit of 1970s progressive rock. That's probably the best way I can describe this wonderful work.

Easily one of the best purchases I've made in recent years. This one will continue living in my CD player for a long time to come. Highly recommended and well worth receiving masterpiece status to my ears. Five stars.

Report this review (#258936)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars BLACK BONZO's second album is an improvement over their debut but i'm still not completely sold. I keep thinking of fellow Swede's RITUAL who i'm not very fond of either. Sure there's lots to like here with the mellotron and organ getting the spotlight often but the vocals and overall sound just don't do it for me. I wish the music was like the album cover art and pictures inside. Darker and more serious.

"Thorns Upon A Crown" opens with synths then it kicks in and vocals arrive just before a minute.The organ floats in the background. Guitar solo before 4 1/2 minutes. "Giant Games" has this light intro then it turns powerful with organ before settling back again as contrasts continue. "Yesterday's Friends" kicks in quickly and vocals join in just before a minute. Again the contrasts between light and heavier continue as it calms down on the chorus each time. Mellotron before 5 1/2 minutes and then at 6 minutes. "The Well" sounds like a cross between DEEP PURPLE and QUEEN and surprisingly I like it. Mellotron in this one and I like when it kicks back in before 5 minutes with vocal melodies.

"Intermission-Revelation Song" is a short piece with strummed guitar, flute and vocals. "Ageless Door" is uptempo with passionate vocals. It sounds VDGG inspired. "Iscariot" is too light and wimpy early on but it turns heavier with organ before 3 minutes before getting mellow again. "Sound Of The Apocalypse" is the 13 minute closer and a highlight no doubt. Piano and spoken words early then reserved vocals arrive 1 1/2 minutes in with marching styled drums. It's slowly building.Then a calm after 5 minutes before kicking back in a minute later.The tempo continues to shift. Mellotron before 10 minutes.

Take my rating with a grain of salt because most prog fans really like this album. I think if your into RITUAL you'll love this band.

Report this review (#445219)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | Review Permalink

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