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CHEAT THE GALLOWS

Bigelf

Heavy Prog


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The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Cheat The Gallows plays like a tribute to many bands of the recent past. Mostly, it draws heavily from the hard rock giants from the 70's, including DEEP PURPLE and BLACK SABBATH. There are riffs taken directly from the music of these British legends.

Another strong point of reference is PINK FLOYD. BIGELF's singer has no shame in trying to sound exaclty like Roger Waters at times. There are details of glam here and there, with DAVID BOWIE coming to mind, too. The vocal style also brings memories of THE BEATLES.

But this is mostly progressive-hard rock, with strong riffs and powerful songs, with enough progressive elements to make them worthy of inclusion in any prog collection, especially the last track, "Counting Sheep", which covers a lot of grounds.

The album is enjoyable, entertaining, with music that sounds like the artists were not taking themselves too seriously.

The lack of originality at times hurts the overall impact of the music, but I think that was the intended effect. BIGELF wanted to review the past's glories, wanted to pay a hommage to the legends that gave birth to hard rock and heavy metal. They partially succeed. Some better songs would have helped make the album a stronger one, but what we have is enough to warrant three stars.

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#225873)
Posted Friday, July 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 3.6 stars

Long live Rock and Roll !!!

This is rather unoriginal music, but when do you get to listen to a good band that tries to play a tribute to the 70s classic rock bands? (as opposed to prog rock bands like Yes/Genesis).

You have here a great collection of intelligently crafted classic rock with some influences to prog rock. There are many catchy hooks, inspired instrumental sections, and great old-school grooves that bring a lot of nostalgia. You'll hear passages that may remind you of various bands, including Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, among others. While they capture the sound and vision of these bands, they made sure not to rip off any of these.

This means that you will get crunchy guitars, hammond organ runs, analogue synthesizers, epic choruses, mellotrons, and adventurous song structures. While there are songs that do not work as well as others (the Frank Zappa/Beatles inspired opener, the AC/DC inspired "Superstar", and the radio-rocker "Money, It's Pure Evil"), none fall flat for me and there is enough variety within the album to keep me interested throughout.

There are highlights in here, mostly being sections within songs rather than song themselves. The exceptions to this are "The Evils of Rock & Roll" which does everything a 70s rock fan wishes for and the groovy "Hydra" which has a wonderfully retro synthesizer solo that goes on for a while.

This is the band that is substituting for "Beardfish" in the Prog Nation tour with Dream Theater. They deserve to be there and have potential to be a popular band. I am looking forward to seeing them play.

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#228981)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After a brief hiatus the band regrouped with some of their most exciting material to date!

Actually I'm still somewhat confused about the origin of this material since according to the album's credit notes two of these song were co-written by Richard Anton who was one of the band's early members and left before the release of Money Machine. Then there is a question of Gravest Show On Earth and The Evils Of Rock & Roll which are credited to Damon Fox and Bigelf's other founding member A.H.M. Butler-Jones who left the band in 2002. This is unfortunately also Butler-Jones' final credit since he passed away last new year's eve due to complications with pneumonia.

Finally the song Money, It's Pure Evil was previously heard as a bonus track on Bigelf's previous album Hex where it was entitled simply $. This sums up to a total of five out of ten tracks that in one way or another have already been in development before the recording sessions of Cheat The Gallows.

Still this is a second studio album by the same line-up which is actually a record considering all the changes that the band has undergone over the years with only Damon Fox as the only remaining member left from the original line-up. I personally consider this release to be a definite improvement over Hex and although it still suffers from the issue of trying to appeal to a wider audience most of these compositions work a whole lot better for me. First of all I really like the whole intro and outro idea which makes me think a bit about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band but it's not all done just for the sake of a tribute since there is enough originality to keep it all sound fresh and existing to my ears. It's true that the band does tend to sound a bit too much like a cover band towards the album's middle section but that doesn't ruin the overall flow for me.

I was delighted to see the band perform as one of the supporting acts at Progressive Nation 2009. They were originally billed alongside Opeth and Unexpect on the European leg of the tour, but after Pain of Salvation and Beardfish dropped out, due to the bankruptcy of their record label's distributor, Bigelf filled in as one of the replacements during the U.S. tour as well. From what I've heard the band has now also continued to perform at the South America leg of the tour which will definitely get them the biggest exposure to date!

When I saw the show here in Stockholm, Sweden Bigelf announced that they would come out to the stands after their show to chat and sign albums. I had a chance to briefly chat with all of the members and they were even nice enough to sign my copy of the album. That whole experience replays in my head every time I listen to Cheat The Gallows so for me it's one of those must have albums in my collection. As for everyone who have never heard this album I still think that it would be an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection especially if you're one of the retro 70's fans!

***** star songs: Gravest Show On Earth (5:00) Blackball (7:02) Counting Sheep (11:20)

**** star songs: Money, It's Pure Evil (3:18) The Evils Of Rock & Roll (6:37) No Parachute (3:43) The Game (5:11) Race With Time (4:28) Hydra (6:23)

*** star songs: Superstar (3:46)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#268916)
Posted Sunday, February 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Bigelf just doesn't pull it out of the hat

Ever since I saw Bigelf perform live at Progressive Nation 2009 tour at Stockholm Hovet, I've given their latest album Cheat the Gallows couple of spins each year. No reason for more, because frankly, how much can one endure disappointment?

US/Finnish hard rock group Bigelf creates high expectations with their Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin influences. There are even some hints to The Wall era Pink Floyd in their harsh-sounding organ heavy dramatic hard rock style, with occasional musical humour here and there. But if you really look farther Damon Fox's fearsome topper hat and massive Mellotron/Hammond C3 duo which looks like it has jumped right out of Captain Nemo's submarine from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, you find nothing special.

Bigelf's annoyingly conventional guitar parts mixed with sporadical whoops from (two!) organs create a really woolly and unclear concert and studio sound. 23-piece orchestra adds character to the best songs on the album, but is still notably underused. The listener would find some very promising moments for Bigelf's own style to emerge, especially in four star songs listed below, but in the end it still drowns into their desperate act to make some dramatic doom rock, which might be impressive on stage but hardly memorable on cd. With some cuts Cheat the Gallows would have made a great EP.

Noteworthy four-star song: The Evils of Rock 'n Roll. Three-star songs: Money, It's Pure Evil, Hydra, Counting Sheep.

2,5 stars

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Send comments to Oliverum (BETA) | Report this review (#424353)
Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A tale of two halves...

After a five year gap Bigelf return on a new record label, but their signature style remains intact.

The Good: If Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles got together and produced a musical lovechild it would sound something like this. The album opener promises The Greatest Show on Earth and by the end of the first four tracks you would be forgiven for believing it. Don't expect virtuoso musicianship but the songwriting is proficient, and its product addictive.

The Bad: It's hard to believe that after such a promising start this release could plummet into an abyss of pure unadulterated filler for (almost) the rest of its duration. Whilst Superstar, The Game and Race With Time are merely sub-par, No Parachute is actually dire and through a combination of science and scissors has now been scratched from the face of the earth (CD). The albums closes with Counting Sheep, a mini rock opera of sorts which starts off amusingly enough, but quickly loses its charm by dragging on forever and a day. However, despite this latter drop in class there is still a beacon of hope in the form of Hydra which, in contrast to its back end brethren, is my absolute favourite of the whole album.

The Verdict: Some banging tunes to be found but also bring a body bag.

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Send comments to Starhammer (BETA) | Report this review (#438197)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Admin / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars The evils of rock and roll

Bigelf are an interesting group of musicians. A quartet dedicated to resurrecting retro blues- rock with an intense abuse of the Hammond organ and growling guitar riffs, the band is able to craft a rather interesting brand of music. Cheating the Gallows, the band's third studio album, shows no shortage of this bombastic brand of heavy prog. Although the prog of the music is comprised of little more than the Hammond and Mellotron riffs, overall the band crafts an interesting album, with multiple moments of lighthearted playing of four guys who are having a good time. Despite the fact that much of the album seems to borrow quite a bit from their 70s influences, such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and King Crimson, they are still able to present an overall good album for us to listen to.

With much of the band's music a high tribute to the 70s greats, some of it can come off as a cheesy amalgam of 70s riffs, atmospheres, and themes. Of course this is not bad, but the overall lack of originality the band displays on much of the album harms the overall performance of the band. Songs like The Gravest Show on Earth, Money, It's Pure Evil, Superstar, and The Evils of Rock & Roll show how these guys have an obvious affection for their yesteryear influences, with similar rocking riffs, bluesy use of the Hammond to accent the riffs, and that certain atmosphere that many 70s hard rock bands conjured up in their classic recordings. Now the band's tribute to these greats is obviously not bad, with many great moments within the music showing that the band is not just your everyday cover band. The music in the end is good, albeit a little dry.

Cheating the Gallows certainly covers a bit of ground, with its near-hour length paying a nice tribute to many bands, from Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin to King Crimson and Pink Floyd. The majority of the creative concepts found on the album are a direct result of the band's amalgamation of their numerous influences into a single display of rather interesting heavy progressive rock. Obviously these tracks aren't bad, with some great spices of inventiveness found in some of the mellow melodic breakdowns and jazzy dynamics peppered throughout the album. Overall, the album isn't spectacular. However, the album is certainly not bad in any way. The band is able to craft a nice tribute, with their own (slightly influence-reliant) musical stamp across the music as well. The slightly dissonant quality of Damon Fox's voice mixed with the cinematic quality of the riffs and growling Hammond organ plodding make for an interesting sound. In the end, despite some obvious reliance upon their influences, the band has crafted an overall good album. 3+ stars.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#438513)
Posted Sunday, April 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Daggor (BETA) | Report this review (#982999)
Posted Friday, June 21, 2013 | Review Permalink

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