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ARZACHEL

Arzachel

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Take off your shoes, socks, turn off the lights, shut all windows and blinds and turn up your amplifier to 11... here comes some pure progressive psychedelia. ARZACHEL were in and out of the world of music for only a short period and have left behind this one and only little treasure of wonderful wierdness. ARZACHEL was really the young genius of Steve HILLAGE (guitars) and Dave STEWART (keyboards) and although never really intended for wide distribution has become one of the most collectible and trasured gems of this era. ARZACHEL contains classic HILLAGE acid guitar windouts and Dave STEWART's psychedelic keyboard drones and solos. ARZACHEL contains 2 longer length tracks (11 & 17 Mins) and 4 shorter numbers. The sound repro is as you might expect not in full digital, but does not detract from your listening enjoyment. The fine folks at Drop Out Records have included a nice little history and package about this band as well...
Report this review (#21650)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!! This could be seen as the first Egg album on Marijuana as the official Egg albums would be done on LSD . If I don't finish this review , it will be the fault of double U (also known as the evil Dubya) and his friends of "tolerance zero" knocking on my door because the terrorist I must be full of oil-mass destructing weapons hidden away behind the Mosque disguised as my garden shed . Sounds silly enough????

I think you are ready for the lunacy of this album. We are dealing with a very heavily laced drugged out psychadelia but it is of great quality, very fun and giving the urge to roll a doobie (or a spliff if you wish). The short opening track Darden of Earthly Delights is clearly out to give the tone of the album but also reminding you that we are still in the 60's. Queen Street Gang and Azatoth are pure psych and gives you a good idea of the potential that the group had even back then. However I am a little more reserved towards Clean Innocent Fun which I find a tad long (especially that it is a blues track). But clearly the masterpiece is the 16 min+ monster track Metempsychosis with its unreal themes , out of this world solos and lenghty interplay. I never saw the vinyl, but I wonder how they managed to fit the last two tracks (totals up to almost 27 mins) on one vinyl side back in 1969!

Ooooooppppsss!!!! I hear that ugly knock on the door now , time to gooooooooooooo! Hey wait a minute.... I am innocent.....but screw Dubya..... Aaaaarggghhhhhhh!!!!!

Report this review (#21651)
Posted Thursday, April 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
DaviesHippych
4 stars This is not the easiest to get hold of, but well worth the effort. It is one of the best psychodelic albums of its time, with leanings toward more traditional heavy bands of the day (mountain on acid perhaps). It is a shame it hasn't been remastered as the production is a bit iffy, but that may be why it has such a good feel about it.
Report this review (#21652)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars wow what a trip. one of the most under rated psych albums EVER. very catchy songs but a little tough on the ears..blame that on the poor production..than again its a unique album and when you choose to listen to it, it adds its own unique touch to the day. try and pick this up..or at least d/l to see what psych was truly about in the late 60s. 3.5 stars.
Report this review (#39534)
Posted Friday, July 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I picked this up off the internet some time ago and listened to it knowing nothing about it aside from the fact that it was just really rare. I didn't love it the first time, but the second time I listened to it, I realized it was one of the best albums I own. That is saying quite alot considering it was written and recorded in a day by a band that had not rehearsed together for quite some time. The words rocking, gloomy, spacey, bluesy, noisy, lighthearted could all describe this album accurately. It is instant magic and still stands up against any psychedelic album as one of the best of all time. Buy this, download this, steal this, just get yourself a copy of this album. You won't regret it.
Report this review (#41476)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Many years ago I purchased this CD, unfortunately the recording quality was very poor (it must have been a bootleg recording). But the music blew me away, what a great compelling psychedelic inspired music! The excellent work from Mr. Hillage and Mr. Stewart (they had to use pseudonyms) are magnificent. After reading the recent euphoric review on Prog Archives I will try to find a decent recorded CD from this outstanding album!
Report this review (#41477)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The only album of Arzachel released in 1969 "Arzachel". It is a member who forms EGG and an interesting work of Steve Hillage to understand the difference well though aimed.It is energetic and the performance is hot though it is an old-fashioned sound. It is overwhelmed to heat and the power in the latter half of the album to rise to loud. The performance of Steve Hillage is wonderful.
Report this review (#54457)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The style of the 60's can be heard pleasantly in the music of this album, as there are some blues influences and raw organ sounds on it. I'm not a big fan of blues, but I think that blues elements in music can be wonderful, as they are blended with some other musical elements, just like CREAM did for example. And psychedelia is a classic counterpart with blues, like a black pepper is to a dragon in cuisine! The album covers are great, and they describe the atmosphere on the album perfectly. The long epic track is interesting, but I liked the shorter tracks too. I think this music could slightly be compared to the album by AARDVARK and early PINK FLOYD works. ARZACHEL is just maybe a more organ driven band, and there are bit more aggressive and blues rock driven elements in it. Surreal and nice, highly recommended!
Report this review (#56998)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
NetsNJFan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Next too Pink Floyd's "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and the omnipresent "Sergeant Pepper", this lone album by Arzachel is one of the best psychedelic albums ever. Arzachel (also known as Uriel) is essentially Egg + Steve Hillage. The band recorded this album in one afternoon, making it all the more remarkable. Boasting ethereal organ from Dave Stewart (who has not made a bad album) and the oh-so English vocals of both Mont Campbell and Steve Hillage, this album is a real treat.

It starts off with the short and efficient "Garden of Earthly Delights", a track driven by Stewart's organ and alternating verses sung by Hillage and Campbell. "Garden." is an incredible track that gets things off to an energetic and decidedly English beginning. "Azathoth" brings things down a bit, featuring haunting church organ and distant vocals from Hillage. Moving at a slow, stately pace, one hardly expects the organ-noise, which erupts halfway through before falling back into its hymnal melody. "Queen St. Gang" is an understated instrumental which continues much in the vein of "Azathoth", slowly churning along but progressing beautifully all the while. "Leg" is a bit less successful than the previous three tracks, delving into blues and away from the delicious psychedelia. It reminds me of Jethro Tull circa 1968-69 with organ instead of guitar. The album concludes with too long jams, "Clean Innocent Fun" which is pretty good, though derivative. The second jam, the sixteen minute monster, "Metempsychosis" is better than any 60's Pink Floyd instrumental in terms of madness. It slowly moves along, gaining momentum, and Hillage and Stewart in tandem are both ugly and hypnotic in this piece. It finally concludes with some distorted organ. Apparently the band watched the clock during the whole jam and only played until they had an album filled. The song is incredible however, but takes a few listens. True, experimental psychedelia at its most acid laced.

Overall, and excellent and energetic record. It shows just how talented these young kids were at the time, barely out of high school. Dave Stewart, obviously, shows the greatest promise here and goes on to become one of progressive rock's most famed musicians. Steve Hillage and the rest aren't slouches though. Highly recommended to fans of Psyche, Space, blues and Canterbury, it hits all of the bases.

4/5 Stars: Excellent, but not essential.

(Note: This album was made under funny pseudonyms, due to contractual reasons with Decca. (Egg had recently signed.) The clever boys use the names of depsied teachers as covers. For example, Dave Stewart becomes "Sam Lee-Uff").

Report this review (#60848)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is an absolute monster and it crushes almost all psychedelic albums easily. The Arzachel album is basically one freakout after another and the amazing thing is that none of the tracks are even remotely weak or boring in anyway. In fact the album is so solid that you'll wonder why these guys didn't become instant superstars. Every aspect of this album is way way above average, and even when they're not really trying to be totally awsome they still are. Arzachel sounds similar to Caravan's first album, just try to picture a much heavier Caravan and with more emphasis on freaking out. This album is an absolute masterpiece and is highly recommended to anyone mildly interested in psychedelic music and prog.
Report this review (#62598)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've just heard about Steve Hillage, the guitar player of this album (he played also with Khan and Gong), so I xpected to be fascinated by his guitar. Nothing happened to me after having listened to this album...Yes, it's a quite good psychedelic album, very near to the first wave of progressive bands and also at the sound of the 13th elevators or maybe the one of sgt. peppers, and it doesn't lack of ideas, but there is not the 'Song' that really impresses you or the one that symbolize the album itself. I prefer Space Shanty (Khan), where the Real progressive and canterbury sound goes out and where the guitar of Hillage (in this album every musicians took a nickname) draws the line of space rock.
Report this review (#67642)
Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Amazing sensation at first listening! The sound runs very slightly in the first part of the album ( "Garden of earthly delights", "Azathoth", and "Queen St. Gang") along the fantastic organ played by Dave Stewart, just interrupted by the chirping of a guitar (magnificient the Steve Hillage's proof). In the second part ("Leg", "Clean innocent fun", and "Metempsychosis") the stuff becomes more difficult, more psychedelic and bluesy marked through the diffuse use of improvisation. The incoming is excellent! Pay attention at the finest vocal duet between Mont Campbell and Steve Hillage. Highly raccomanded to Canterbury scene fun ( look at the incredible line-up!)

Report this review (#73200)
Posted Sunday, March 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The production has oft been remarked upon, for this psychedelic fuzz-fest, but to my ears, this simply makes it all the more compelling, and lends the music the correct "free-festival" atmosphere.

In actual fact, the main problem with the production seems to be the almost complete absence of compression, and omnipresent and over-worked reverb, leading to what might be considered excessive distortion. However, I have to say that I find it a veritable feast of fuzz and feedback, with a great range of dynamics and a very full sound for each instrument - a beautiful and powerful sound.

The self-titled album from the psychedelic pseudonyms is a surreal trip through a variety of musical styles that go beyond psychedelia and into the realms of Progressive Rock proper. The band get into some seriously good grooves, and seldom if ever make the kinds of mistakes and fluffs that plague many Krautrock albums of this time, and Hawkwind albums for decades to come.

I've seen many comparisons made to Pink Floyd, and I'd like to scotch most of those rumours here and now. The huge organ sound that Dave Stewart produces is far more akin to Deep Purple - or more accurately, The Nice, inspired, as it was, by Keith Emerson, and Hillage's guitar work, although not the polished leading light of space rock that he would become in Gong and his solo work, is utterly remarkable. Especially when you consider that he was 17 at the time. Come to that, not one of the musicians were in their twenties when they made this recording, so the professionalism of musicianship is extraordinary.

The closest this album comes to Pink Floyd is in the cosmic "wooey noises" that begin the 14-minute jam "Metempsychosis", a track that threatens to drop into "Interstellar Overdrive" at any moment - but instead remains an energetic variation on a theme, albeit with slightly uninspired moments that drift off into stoned noodle. These, fortunately, are way more than balanced with moments of pure drama and psychedelic power with some particularly stunning vocal and keyboard work. Think Hawkwind at their very best and you're close.

As has been remarked upon, this album was recorded in a single day - Hillage himself is alleged to have said it was just done "for a laugh" - and the fun certainly comes across. The plethora of pseudonyms that plague the personnel were largely for contractural reasons, which the artists got around by using the invented names - even the band name was a pseudonym.

I guess that those fond of categorising are going to say that this is more of a psychedelic jam or Space Rock album than a "proper" Prog Rock album, and they'd probably be right.

However, it's so much more together than the average psych album, and so much more than pure Space Rock, that I'm just going to have to say that you really ought to have this in your Prog collection as an indeal representative of where Prog was at in 1969 (ITCOTCK excepted, of course!).

It's a bit of a masterpiece really ;o)

Report this review (#76200)
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Warning: no delights with Soft Machine or National Health taste will be found in this garden.

'Arzachel'is an unique piece, due to their origin and results. If there's any classification for their music, it could be psychedelic rock. The musicians' comments in the inside sleeve reinforce this first impression. Steve Hillage believes in music as an 'only really physical art form (...) in a lifelong search for the ultimate musical power'. Dave Stewart says that music is 'expression of one's inner being (...) that leads to the spiritual liberation of one's persoality'. Almost existentialist words, that lead into songs that can scarcely stand the volume, distortion, textures of instruments in such electric form.

This album was recorded in just one day, and has a pretty deficient sound. Sometimes, the channels of the organ seem sodden, other times with volume sways. However, Arzachel uses this circumstance to give the work a rustic appearance, plenty of urge and explosion. And we have a rock band. A basic drum kit and a drummer with rhythmic skills, and an unmannered bass-wall (from Mont Campbell and Clive Brooks, future Egg members), are the base for Sam Lee Uff (aka Dave Stewart) and Simeon Sasparella (Steve Hillage) job. The first one with keyboard emulsions and an organ out of focus and scales, devouring any intend to convention and form. Hillage displays his contundent face with hard rock brushings, so near of the electric blues of Jimi Hendrix. This is how climates are no result of harmonic ensembles (like in Canterbury scene), but of exhuberance. The group gives more as a band than in their separate parts. 'Leg' or 'Clean innocent fun' are the highlights, together with the disperse jam 'Metempsychosis' and the advocation of 'Azathoth' the Mighty.

Arzachel is close to expressionism and psychedelia, (perhaps is the clearest example of this) in English rock music during the '60s. Just 'close': no San Francisco smells, or incipient Swedish scene are here, neither colourful visions. Any idea of 'instrumental landscapes' catch fire near the jams that surge in the songs (not 'out of' or 'in spite of' the songs, old clisés of psych rock). 'Close', but with no drugs, no lights, no men bathing on the fruits of Earth. Just 'close', because this collective of musicians don't know drama, and prefer to search for new shapes and forms under good will and mood instead of conceit.

Nothing more... turn up the volume and let the sound invade your body. Sorry for the common place, but current exaltations of vulgarity, sometimes forces unfair repetition.

Report this review (#88197)
Posted Friday, August 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Five stars without a second of a doubt, this is a great sample of the obscure side of psichedelic/acid rock!!! The albums starts off with the soft almost giddy Garden of Earthly Delights, wich is just a premonition of whats about to happen. In the song the dark organ present in the next couple of tracks isnt present, though the dual long held vocals make an early appereance, the next song I feel its too early in the album, it could hold a diferent place in the album, never the less it holds excelent with the flow of the album and as a single track by its self, the great "Azathoth". Here the guitar doesnt make an appearance until late in the track, the rest is perfectly placed with the acid-based ambient the dual- vocals and the organ make of it. The passages are long, soft but sturdy (if that makes any sense) and wave up and down, up and down, up and down...Queen St. Gang maintains almost the same caracter as Azathoth and its the perfect link between it and the paulatine Leg. now this! is a heavy track, its starts off nice and quite with this little organ and the intro. suddenly the lyrics come on you really dont expect it and then you cant get off the roller coaster. The lyrics are simple, from what i can understand "And all the women were dancing, because the man were ill..." and it goes just along with the track. it mellows down just as it started. Clean and Innocent Fun, is really soulfull and is basically your Psichedelic jam, the guitar and, again the organ, hold this piece together, long but really nice. Metempsychosis, now this is the weird track in the album, it holds nicelly with the rest of the album, its just another kind of jam, I sense more free than the previous one, notice that its a bit longer, it gets kind of loose in some parts but its ok, the least favorite track on the album. I feel the guitar doesnt have a premier role in the album, this place is held by the organ, the place of the guitar in most places is limited to creating a type of atmosphere. The drum sections actually mooves pretty freely in the record, having the bass to keep a steady and "in place" rythimn section. Very very nice album, apart from the precautions included in the "instructions" part of controlled substances about driving and/ or operating heavy machinery, there should be another added about listening to this album while under the influence of any controlled substance...say, cough syrup.
Report this review (#94771)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I don't think this band are very well known even among prog fans which is a shame as this their one and only album is a fine offering. To be honest I don't know a great deal about them so was suprised to discover only recently that Simeon Sasparella is non other than Steve Hillage. I got the reissue on akarma in 2002. It is definately a product of its time with heavy use of organ throughout the six tracks. Strong bass lines and drumming carry the music on with mad guitar riffs and screeching feedback punctuating the clever use of keyboards. These could have outshone the Doors if only they had kept going, but this sole album has left us wondering what if.

Good stuff but not great

Report this review (#100265)
Posted Friday, November 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A total album! Starts with an track, that could be played by Black Widow called Garden Of Earthly Delights. Catchy melody, a little hint of the Canterbury Scene. Then the album gets a little more psychedelic with Azathoth, a track which starts witha an church irgan intro, then it starts to grow uo when the guitar sounds are played. Queen St. Gang is full of great melody, a simple catchy instrumental track with a dark felling. Leg - a more symphonic number. Clean Innocent Fun - strange bluesything, with great vocals and guitar. And finally Metempsychosis (if your studying philosophy you should know what that means:)). Aninstumental track, almost 17 minutes long. Strange sound and psychedelic atmosphre. Sadly the production of this masterpiece isn't too good... But musically 5 stars it is.
Report this review (#105656)
Posted Friday, January 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars In late September '06, I got this album,brand new,at a record store in Seattle for $13.50,and when I heard it, I was amazed! The songs on the first side are 4 typical psychadelic hard rock songs,but side 2 is the real highlight! ''Clean Innocent Fun'',which is 10.5 minutes long,has a blues-like feel to it at times,whereas ''Metempsychosis'',which is almost 17 minutes long,is pretty much a freak-out song. The first 2 minutes,there are some spacey sounds,before the music kicks in,turning into a psychadelic jam for the next 4.5 minutes. Then,things quiet down for the next 3 minutes,and pick back up again,but only for around 1.5 minutes. 11 minutes into ''Metempsychosis'',there is a 1 minute bass solo,then another hard psychadelic jam(like before) to end the song. I recommend getting this! I was glad I did!
Report this review (#110348)
Posted Thursday, February 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The band took their name from a crater on the moon and so it's no surprise that the music is spacey and psychedelic with some blues thrown in as well. I remember when I first received this record and saw the names of the band members on the back (with a funny write up about each of them) I thought I had ordered the wrong cd, because the guys used fake names to avoid any contractural problems that might arise. So Steve Hillage is named Simeon Sasparella (haha) and so on.

"Garden Of Earthly Delights" features the dual vocals of Campbell and Hillage that are done so well. We are treated to some drifting organ melodies and lazy guitar from Hillage that gathers strength before the song ends. "Azathoth" opens with organ as the drums come in as well as haunting vocals and some screeching guitar.

"Queen St.Gang" is an instrumental of drums and organ, and the organ sounds so good. "Leg" is a blues song with some incredible guitar solos. "Clean Innocent Fun" is another blues song with an organ / guitar melody 2 1/2 minutes in that is great. The final song "Metempsychosis" is very "Interstellar Overdrive" sounding except this goes on for over 16 minutes and eventually sounds like a Krautrock style jam. It's quite a ride anyway.

I admit I bought this because of the involvement of Hillage and Stewart and although it's good (the sound quality isn't) it doesn't compare to the KHAN's "Space Shanty" that they did together along with two other musicians. Still this is a good sample of an early Psychedelic record.

Report this review (#111592)
Posted Sunday, February 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I do believe this record is among of the most psychedelic ones in the whole music history! That's completely insane! The organ treatment is often pushed to the limits bearable. The tracks are really VISCERAL and borderline insane at many bits. During the experimental and crazy moments, the music just sounds lacerated, like the brutal & burning ache involved during a violent & deep expectorating cough. When the music is more structured, the tracks can be very good: the melodic & ardent organ offers a cavernous & religious texture: Keith Emerson immediately comes to mind, but the musician here is obviously less a virtuoso. I have a problem with the guitar sound: it is often dangerously badly crafted, seeming to focus too much on the bizarre & weird noise produced. "Azatoth" slightly reminds me the band Mandalaband, especially the lead vocals. There are some bluesy rock/hard rock textures like on "Leg" and "Clean Innocent Fun". The "epic" "Metempsychosis" is almost a total mess of disgraceful & annoying noises, comparable to the worst krautrock disasters: this last track contributes to lower the rating: I give an overall rating of 3 stars only because "Metempsychosis" lasts more than 16 minutes.
Report this review (#123689)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Call me a prog luddite, but I've only recently discovered this masterpiece. So quick, before the wife puts the hoover round, let me capture the mode of a 38 year old record, recorded in one afternoon. Wow, blown me away. Its mix of short and long tracks is brilliant, all of which capture the essence and sound of psychodelic rock. I've never liked the Floyd (what?) and a recent attempt to re-listen to Piper at the Gates of Dawn failed to impress, despite urgings of the ersuite Stuart Maconie. Nope, this is the sound for me, with awesome Hillage guitars and Stewart keyboards. There is a power to this record not oft captured on vinyl and I guess "Safe as Milk" is the only other 60's album that has really turned me on a new artist. Back to "Egg" and "Fish Rising" for me. Forget the track by track review, just listen to the whole masterpiece; they knock it off in one afternoon (and what an afternoon that must have been), so listen to it as a single body of music. All I can say is ....wow !
Report this review (#144891)
Posted Monday, October 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Funeral psych be-in from Stewart, Hillage, Brown and Campbell in '69 just before the first Egg album sessions but having to avoid a dispute with Decca, down to using silly pseudonyms on the back cover. Steve Hillage was available on guitar and Stewart being no fool, grabbed him. With a whopping 250 pounds, they recorded a now highly prized LP for the tiny Zel label. It is a bedraggled but interesting moment, a meeting of dirty, sometimes freeform psych and early prog rock. The first half has some good bits such as 'Azathoth', 'Queen St. Gang' is warped and lethargic, and 'Leg' is led by Stewart's pipe organ. Hillage has good moments too, showing an ear for the heavy riff-blues that was swirling around the English scene. The second half is essentially a long acid freakout and sounds a bit like the band was in an airplane hangar, and though flashes of greatness can be seen sporadically, it is not frequent.

Short-lived outfit that recorded this mediocre but significant link in the psych/prog relationship and though new listeners should steer clear, it may be of interest to history buffs.

Report this review (#155377)
Posted Thursday, December 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Arzachel is Steve Hillage (GONG) first historical formation and this album is among the freakiest 1969's progressive rock essays. This self title and unique album from the band is completely amazing and turned to seriously fuzzed out guitar sections, accompanied by crazy, eccentric keyboards. Arzachel's music alternates strong, incisive psych pop songs with long "lysergic" trippy improvisations where the guitar and keyboards duet propulses you into an other galaxy. "Garden of earthly delights" is a typical psych-pop compostion with reminiscence from early Pink Floyd, including catchy melodies and a happily 60's psych instrumentation with Emerson- like luminous keyboard treatments (thinking about The Nice). The guitar lead section at the end is pure magic, intense and emotionally spacey. "Queen street Gang" is a real trippy / hippie projection with an efficient leading musical theme, including a nice groove. The solo parts are dominated by an extravagant Hammond Organ. "Leg" starts with a funny pipe organ introduction then goes into a dynamic, powerful bluesy rockin' trip, including mesmerizing guitar solos, a pure musical "fury". "Clear innocent fun" is a more heavy rocking song, featuring a moody like musical expression and lot of guitars and distortion. An impressively emotional, abrasive and aggressive composition. My favoruite piece with the next to come. "Metempsychosis" sounds like an Amon Duul II B side, a gorgeous psych / atonal ambience with lot of noises and manipulations. This is a darker mantra like trip and the only instrumental piece on the album. So good! "Arzachel" is among my favourite 1969's progressive rock albums with "Electrip" (Xhol Caravan), A=mh2 (Clark Hutchinson) and a few others.
Report this review (#155878)
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow, what an incredible trip! Next to Piper at the Gates, this is the best psychedelic sound out there! I heard a ludicrous rumor somewhere that this album was recorded in an obscure cave in the Ukraine. Could it be true? The commies would never let these guys past the border. But you know what . . . the music actually sounds like it fits the setting, very damp, raw and earthy. Arzachel is composed of a couple standard psych tunes, two blues workouts and one mammoth jam all dominated by the organ of Dave Stewart. Not to do any injustice to the talent of Steve Hillage, but the guitar is relegated to the role of useful appendage on this album. It is the organ that takes the reins and masterfully weaves the trippy atmosphere from track to track. The rhythm section doesnt disappoint either but you wont get any extended drum sections here, their job is to lay down a grove that the organ and guitar can work over. If it sounds like Im slamming a one-man band nothing could be further from the truth. Im simply amazed that this band has been able to construct the fantastic sound that it has relying on one major instrument.

Side One begins with the call to prayer that is Garden Of Earthly Delights. Both organ and guitar create a glorious opening riff that quickly starts chugging along once the bass and drums kick in. The lyrics are definately catchy as Hillage and bassist Mort Campbell compare a woman's features to the Garden of Eden. Then suddenly the pop melody drops off and Steve breaks loose on a minute long guitar solo that sounds so lonely and forlorn. It never fails to move me each time i hear it and is certainly one of the memorable moments of the album. 5 stars to this terrific opening song!

The next track is a hymn to 'Azathoth the mighty, center of confusion', a deity out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel. The song opens with the churchy organ and slowly plods along very drudgingly creating a sombre, morose effect. The guitar joins in a bit in the middle when the song gets a bit trippier with some disembodied wailing before we come back to the main theme. Queen St. Gang which follows, is a nice, laid back, mellow organ tune with the rhythm section laying down a solid beat behind the scenes.The closest to compare to it would be 'Any Color You Like' off of DSOTM. When I hear this song, I never fail to imagine myself cruising down the highway. Now we get to the more bluesy songs with Leg. The song opens with a quiet, bouncy organ riff that goes on for about a minute, lulling the listener into a false sense of security, then a very bluesy guitar comes in for a bit and then . . . all hell breaks loose as the rest of the band joins and the song stampedes out of control. Unfortunately I usually skip this track as all the noise gives me a headache but if you have the fortitude, the best guitar riffs on the album await as Steve H. really shows his chops.

Side Two is composed of two jams. The first is largely forgettable while the second is one you absolutely do not want to miss if you enjoy freak-out music. Clean Innocent Fun, a blues jam, isnt all that bad. It features some incredable lead vocals from Hillage backed up by some great soulful guitar playing. But the guitar, organ lead in the middle section goes on for way too long and I find that I loose interest long before the 10 min mark is reached. If they had trimmed this one down a bit it would have been much more listenable.

And finally we get to Metempsychosis, the mother of all progressive, acid-drenched freakouts. This is defiantly not a track for the faint of heart but with a set of sturdy ear drums and a little 'pond-grass' its a ride you'll never forget. Combine a few parts of Interstellar Overdrive and Echoes, a healthy dose of Phallus Dei and the tripped out sense of Hawkwind and you get the idea. It starts off with some spacey organ and guitar filler combined with plenty of weird noises and random cymbal clashes. Then Campbell begins a heavy, throbbing bass line and the ride begins. The next couple of minutes see the guitar and organ swirling around, riffing off each other before the music dies away and we are left in a vast abyss punctuated by faint, spooky wails. Then suddenly the throbbing bass returns and the monster finally explodes into a maelstrom of loud, discordant organ swirls and thrashing guitar chords that climax's the song. The album ends in a manner befitting 'schizoid man', with the music getting sucked into the blackness, guitar crying out in a high pitched scream before it suddenly ceases. The trip is over.

While I would love nothing better than to give Arzachel 5 stars, the production job was very fuzzy and this album desperately needs a remastering job. In addition, these guys should have left the blues to Cream and concentrated on what they do best, organ based psychedelic rock that gives Syd Barrett a run for his money. They certainly get an A for effort though. If you enjoy your music with an alternated state of concousness do your self a favor, buy, borrow or steal this album ASAP!

Report this review (#176170)
Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the debut and sole album from psychadelic rock band Arzachel ( originaly named Uriel). The story behind Arzachel is pretty special as they weren´t together as a band at the time the album was recorded. Dave Stewart ( Organ), Clive Brooks ( Drums) and Mont Campbell ( Bass/Vocals) had changed the name of the band from Arzachel to Egg after Steve Hillage ( Guitar/Vocals) left. Shortly after Egg had signed a contract with Decca a small label called Zackariya Enterprises gave the musicians an opportunity to record an album. The material wasn´t written for Egg so the four musicians decided to reunite and record this album. The album was recorded and mixed in one long session which gives it a very special almost live feel.

The album has four shorter songs and two long psychadelic jams. The music is bluesy psychadelic rock but at the same time there is a strange dark mood to the songs which is primarely created by Dave Stewart´s organ sound. I have never heard an organ sound this thin and eerie. The sustained notes sound so great in my ears. Note that the crash cymbals on the drumkit makes noise when the organ is playing alone. This is basically recorded live in the studio.

Both Garden of Earthly Delights and Azathoth are great psychadelic rock songs with some great vocals from Steve Hillage or Mont Campbell ( I´m not sure who sings what on the album). Azathoth is especially eerie and dark. There is almost a psalm like feel to this song and a subtle chanting quality to the vocals. The third song on the album called Queen Street Gang is a great instrumental track where the organ plays some dark melodies. Leg is a very bluesy song but of course still psychadelic. Clean Innocent Fun has a bluesy vocal part before entering into psychadelic jamming while Metempsychosis is a 16 minute long psychadelic jam with lots of great inventive playing.

The musicianship is excellent on this album. Creating an album like this in a single long session is not something you do if you´re not an accomplished musician. I have the greatest respect for this performance. If you know the music that these musicians would go on to create with bands like Egg, Khan, Gong, Hatfield & the North, National Health etc. you probably won´t be too surprised but they are really good even at this imature stage of their career.

The production or lack of such thing is really charming and not at all disturbing for the listening pleasure IMO. I love the live feel this brings to the music.

The coverartwork is beautifully dark and intriguing. It fits the music perfectly.

Arzachel´s sole album is a real dark psychadelic gem from the late sixties. It´s seldom that I like albums from that period as much as I like this one. This is a must have album. Because of the dark approach in the music I´ll compare it to the mood bands like High Tide and Dr. Z also revel in but this is a unique album and it doesn´t really sound like any of those two bands ( maybe a bit like High Tide). For me this is a big 4 star rating. I can´t wait to get my hands on Arzachel Collectors Edition by Uriel ( which is a kind of re-release from 2007) which should include six previously unavailable bonus tracks. It can only be good.

Report this review (#179160)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Formed by the reunited members of Uriel (a seminal band from the Canterbury scene), and while the trio Egg was already working, Arzachel recorded their sole album during a one-day recording session. The result was awesome, and you can tell that these guys had refreshing ideas, genuine enthusiasm, and a 20/20 capability to read each other's minds while cooking and jamming all the way through. What this album brings is an explosive mixture of psychedelic fireworks and jazz-oriented jam rock, with some notable touches of symphonic rock (much in the vein of the rough approach that was still around). This is no Egg, indeed, so don't expect that sense of stylish delicacy that Stewart, Campbell and Brooks delivered on their albums; Arzachel's sonic orientation is closer to the cosmic jamming punctuated with aggressive interactions that soon will make the best of Khan (a band led by Hillage a few years later), although Arzachel wins in this comparison regarding roughness and excitation. There is much influence from vintage Pink Floyd's harder facet, the Hendrix prototype and primitive hard rock. The talents of Hillage and Stewart at creating compelling musical excursions is infinite at this early stage of their respective careers, while the rhythmic foundation set by Campbell and Brooks is perfectly solid. The opener 'Garden of Earthly Delights' is a playful, gleeful piece that very much pursues the beat swing: I wish the fade-out didn't arrive so soon, since the lead guitar feels really mean. The Gothic, almost sinister vibe of 'Azathoth' states a very effective symphonic approach, and so does the melancholic 'Queen St. Gang': both pieces give Stewart enough room to display his gusto for academic insertions in a jazz-rock context, and they can in fact be described as a midway between early Procol Harum and the Egg factotum. Things shift toward the bluesy side of things abundantly in 'Leg' and 'Clean Innocent Fun': the former brings a heavy prog approach to the standards of Cream and early Led Zeppelin (well, back then for these guys they were fresh and contemporary), while the latter is crucially expanded through a Storm und Drag of psychedelic tension powerfully driven by the guitar phrases and the explosive organ chops. The album's culmination is displayed in the 17 minute 'Metempsychosis', a monster exercise on spacey jams that seem to set the world on fire while indulging on fiery sonic expansions where the disturbing and the mesmerizing collide and fuse into one musical force. The use of tribal cadences in many passages of the drummer's delivery helps to state a bumping dynamics to the jam's core. The vibe that grows and develops with the ongoing improvisation is the ultimate example of Arzachel as a unit - this album is a must for any serious prog collector, more so if you're a Canterbury freak and/or a space-rock hopeless fanatic. 4 1/3 stars for this one!
Report this review (#179186)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The nice trippy pop opening track Garden of Earthly Delights gives no forewarning of what will happens later on the album....

This album is the first recording of the likes of Steve Hillage and Dave Stewart if I am not much mistaken. In other words; ARZACHEL = EGG+STEVE HILLAGE. Some even says it is the first real EGG album. I can agree with that. It is very much EGG here (jokes omitted). Both the first track and in particular the the second track Azathoth is very much EGG. The third track Queen Street Gang is also EGG. But the last part of the album is much more STEVE HILLAGE and pure psychadelia and acid prog. The final track Metempsychosis gives me a lot of John Lord and DEEP PURPLE vibes. Now I know where John Lord ripped some of the Deep Purple In Rock stuff from. This album, no less.

The quality of this album is excellent and very much down my alley. I really like all the tracks from the triopy pop tracks to the all out acid prog tracks. The album develops from each track. From pop to acid. Maybe that has anything to do with the LSD taking effect during the recording. I don't know. But even those of us who prefer a nice cup of coffee/tea and some biscuits will find this acid laden album very delightful. Yes, turn up the volume and really enjoy the thumping guitars from Mr. Hillage and the excellent keyboards work from Mr. Stewart. Then take another zip of your mug of tea/coffee while you take a bite of the biscuit. Enjoy !

Life is good.

4 stars.

Report this review (#203894)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Little Steve Hillage was only 17 when he played guitar on this! But don't be fooled by that or the fact that they're a one album only crew. It's great stuff! This band would go on (minus Hillage) to form 'Egg' the following year. The recording quality is pretty ropey - particularly on some of the keyboards, but it's more than made up for with the sheer enthusiasm of all involved. It sounds like it should have been the soundtrack to the film Withnail and I' rather than the Hendrix material that was used.

This is pure Acid Psychedelia material. Big guitars (that take occasional breaks), shouty vocals and a lot of 'Saucerful of Secrets' and 'Interstellar Overdrive' experimentation are present on this recording. There's not much wrong with it at all - oh, and it's another album that's on that scary 'Nurse With Wound List' Uuurgghh! I wish I'd never heard of it before! It's become an obsession...

Report this review (#208867)
Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Heavy Psychedelic Blues Collector's Item

Egg + Steve Hillage = Uriel which had to record their single album under the name Arzachel. Even the band member's names were faked and the album remained an obscure secret for some time. It sounds like the makings of a rare progressive gem.

Alas, no. This is a record of some incredibly talented teenagers playing echo-ey psychedelic blues jams in the realm of Led Zeppelin I, early Pink Floyd, and most notably early Deep Purple. It is proto-prog in the true sense of the word. Though the music was somewhat exploratory for the time, it sounds very typical of the period now. What's more, these musicians developed massively over the next years' projects. While I do not have the first Egg album, the spirit of the second Egg album and this one could not be further away. Arzachel is bluesy improvisation in straight time. Egg relies on both complex time and harmony to create classically inspired, extremely challenging compositions.

I enjoy both styles of music, and the style of Arzachel has been near and dear to my heart since I first submerged myself in Led Zeppelin's music at age 14, over 20 years ago. The fact that Steve Hillage holds his own on guitar even compared to the colossal Yardbirds trio tells you something. Dave Stewart plays the blues organ like a seasoned master, though he was only 18 himself. But his massive range of tonality and complex signature style is really nowhere to be seen on the record. The rhythm section holds up, but playing this record alongside an early Deep Purple record reveals a more limited skill set, used well. The vocals are also simply adequate to fair.

The recording quality is very rough, to say the least. Though the musicians are basically playing live in the studio, and the energy is captured well on the record, the production quality itself is quite poor. The organ sounds sometimes bite painfully hard and the sheer volume on "Leg" overwhelms the tape beyond saturation. The EQing is harsh and the idea of listening to such an aggressive mix under the influence (which I hear suggested in many reviews) sounds about as unpleasant as a musical experience could be. Finally, the overdone echo / reverbs relegate the album toward 60's cliché.

There is really nothing about this album that makes me think prog. Everything here is well within the psychedelic toolkit, though both Stewart and Hillage explore those tools with youthful excitement and remarkable skill. If anyone tells you that in 1969 no one could match Led Zeppelin's heaviness playing the psychedelic blues, well Arzachel gives them a run for their money to say the least. It's just that these same players went on to play some of the most exploratory music of all time. This album shows the foundation upon which it was all built. But it really is for Canterbury fans exploring the dark alleys of the genre, and should be obtained only after one has already soaked in Stewart and Hillage's developed work. (Khan being the best single album, but Gong, Hatfield, National Health, and Hillage's solo work all being better). Outside of prog, this is a solid 3/5 start album. But its lack of progressive elements and poor sound quality lower it to 2/5 for me.

Report this review (#241429)
Posted Friday, September 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Arzachel's self-titled debut presents an early phase of two famous musicians of the Canterbury prog scene: Dave Stewart on Hammond organ and Steve Hillage on guitar. It is a rough, unpolished work clearly sounding like many psych/acid-rock records of the late 1960s.

First part of the album consists of 4 shorter tracks dominated by the heavy organ sound and certain Baroque feel, somewhere in line with contemporary experiments of THE NICE, PROCOL HARUM or what would FOCUS do in a year or two later on. Starting from the halfway through "Leg", the music evolves into a blues-based heavy rock, reflecting both the British blues champions like John Mayall or Clapton's CREAM (re-hashing of the old blues "rolling and tumbling" theme) and the emerging heavy rock of the Hammond-dominant DEEP PURPLE for instance. Two lengthy tracks present the transition from the heavy electrified blues towards the psychedelic space-jam with lots of improvisation and some really fiery guitar technique of Hillage. His guitar is still not recogniseable and sounds like any of the 1969 freaky guitar player on trip, but still it is a convincing play. The closer "Metempsychosis" is definitely over-streched psychedelic jam that does not appear as well-structured composition and can be really boring to listen to.

"Arzachel" is good effort and one of the fine examples of the acid-rock era witnessing the emergence of heavy riff-based rock music, but more important albums of these musicians would follow during the 1970s.

PERSONAL RATING: 3,5/5

P.A. RATING: 3/5

Report this review (#254842)
Posted Tuesday, December 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars An excellent lineup of musicians released in 1969 an album that's a junction between the 60s psychedelia and what the Canterbury subgenre was about to become. The first track, "Garden of Earthly Delights", is evocative for the first half of the song, when it's bewteen the harmonies of Beatles and Caravan, driven by organ and voice. Then we have a psychedelic section on which bass and drums support the electric guitar giving the track a Floydian sound.

"Azatoth" is the "Idiot and blind God" of the HP Lovecraft's mythology (the writer, not the band). The church organ creates a pseudo-religious environment on which Steve Hillage sings a hymn to "the Almighty center of confusion". The hymn part and its chaotic counterpart which follows are probably the best interpretation ever made in music of the HP Lovecraft's horror. It's scary and bizarre, that's exactly how the writer described it.

The organ comes back to Earth on the following psychedelic track "Queen St. Gang" that has elements coming from the 60s blues-revival and has the mood of some hippy movies of the era. I think it has something to do with a BBC show but I don't remember which one.

"Leg" is a rock-blues that reminds to Colosseum. The bad production adds a "bootleg" flavour that enhances the sense of psychedelia. The guitar solo is a typical blues solo, nothing exceptional but enjoyable. While until now we have had organ based music, so very Canterbury oriented, it's like this song comes from before as it's a product of the 60s also with its chaotic final.

"Clean Innocent Fun" is another dark blues. Guitar and voice play the same melody on a loudy blues base to whom the organ gives its psychedelic effort. Put Janis Joplin's band (Big Brother) and the early Pink Floyd together and you'll have an idea of how this track sounds. I could define it "cannabis oriented". Also on this track the sound quality is not good, but it's part of the package and doesn't disturb so much. A cleaner sound would have likely been less drug-oriented. 10 minutes of classic noisy psychedelia.

"Metempsychosis" is the epic track. 16 minutes that open with noise very similar to the central section of "Saucerful of Secrets" (in the Pompeii version). When the guitar plays bass rhythmic notes, followed by drums, it's very similar to "Astronomy domine". I think this is one of the songs closer to Syd Barrett's music that I've ever heard out of Pink Floyd. The guitar solo plays over the repetitive bass and drums base, with the organ acting as Rick Wright on the noisy part of Echoes (Pompeii again). Hillage's guitar is more close to Barrett than to Gilmour, instead. After about 7 minutes it calms down. The organ plays discordant notes on which Hillage sings scary vocalisms. If you liked Ummagumma, this track is for you. Also the bass that introduces a rocky section after 9 minutes is in the style of Interstellar Overdrive. Let's remind that "Metempsychosis" is the word which indicates the transmigration of souls (KA) from one body to another in the reincarnation process. This is what the music is trying to represent. There's also room for a short bass solo by Mont Campbell followed by the last 4 minutes of heavy psychedelic music. A masterpiece for fans of the genre.

"Azatoth" and "Metempsychosis" are enough to rate this album 4 stars.

Report this review (#299109)
Posted Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album, in a sense, is the start of something big. Yes, everyone would go in their seperate ways, while some might meet up again, this is the start of Steve Hillage greatness. Of course, none of the other musicians are subpar (actually, the opposite), they didn't have the impact as Hillage did on the music world, besides Dave Stewart possibly. The music itself is good for the times, though it still sounds like a 60s rock album from a jam band and the production is horrible. The album is still somewhat of a obscure oddity.

1.Garden of Earthly Delights - Excellent opener. Very mellow and laid back with excellent organ passages with drug induced lyricism, performed with excellent vocals. The most structured and listenable song on the album. (9/10)

2.Azathoth - This track, i find, much too preachy and sloppy for my tastes, despite the absolutly delicious opening church organ that is bestowed upon this track. The lyrics are not really anything to get excited about, and the vocals maybe even worse. The rythym section seems to be staying in beat just fine; the only part of the track that may be listenable. (3/10)

3.Queen St. Gang - Starts with a very groovy and mellow bass and drum beat, with trippy organ and guitar parts coming in. Very simple yet stylish for the times. (6/10)

4.Leg - Another average track that seems to not go anywhere. The cresendo at the beginning of the song maybe missleading, as it is excellently performed. It dosen't seem to go anywhere for a few minutes, though the guitar and rythym section come in to make an almost garage band type of sound is harsh and forced vocals from Hillage. (4.5/10)

5.Clean Innocent Fun - The lengthy track that I can stand. The vocals and guitar parts are very nice, and the jazzy organ seems to fit in perfect with the almost blues interludes. The lyrics are nothing to get excited by, but the performance is astonishing. (8/10)

6.Metempsychosis - Almost unlistenable. Trying at something huge and failing dosent go without its rewards, though. It's attempts at making an almost Hawkwind type of sound before Hawkwind obviously fail, as they hopelessly jam into inner space with no mission nor goal. Awkward to say the least. (3/10)

Though the album may contain some hopelessly horrific songs, it's not actually that bad. An early almost experimental album (at the least Side 2 is experimental in its own right) the band had huge goals, though these goals are not very prevailent here, they would be in future albums by Egg, Gong, and Steve Hillage. 2 stars for the effort.

Report this review (#306885)
Posted Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Hillage /Stewart archive recordings of terrible sound quality. I believe this release has high historical value as early acid/psychedelic release of later well known great musicians. But speaking about his musical value, I am not so sure.

Music there is heavy psychedelic sound,based mostly on vintage simplistic organ passages. Not too much guitar could be heard (ok, sound quality doesn't help with that as well. Sound mix is below even that time standard, some songs sound just as unfinished demos (what is not too far from truth). Many elements of 60-s rock are mixed with new to time keyboards attacks, but now all sound is absolutely dated.

With my great respect to Hillage/Stewart legacy, I can't imagine someone listening this album just for pleasure. Rare and expensive release for collectors though.

Report this review (#323342)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Appropriate that the cover art to this one should include a creature from a medieval alchemical illustration, because for this album Egg (plus Steve Hillage) mysteriously transformed into Arzachel, a unit with the same lineup as the earlier Uriel and working in a similar psychedelic vein, but performing material rush-written (or improvised on the spot) for this album.

Make no mistake - the thing was originally conceived as a purely commercial entity, the small record label that funded the sessions wanting a bit of hard psych to bolster their product line. (Dave Stewart tells a hilarious story about how when playing the closing improvisation - the epic Metempsychosis - the band were all watching the studio clock intently, jamming until they had enough material to finish the album off.) And you can kind of tell from the production values - the album suffers from a slightly muffled mix in which Mont Campbell's bass is rather buried and Dave Stewart's organ tends to drown everything else out.

Still, despite the album's humble origins, it still holds up quite well. It does, of course, introduce the record-buying public to Steve Hillage's guitar skills, and the album consists mainly of Hillage and Stewart trading guitar and organ solos with occasional vocals from Steve - with Mont Campbell contributing occasional singing. (The interplay between his vocals and Steve's on Garden of Unearthly Delights contrasts their voices nicely.) The lyrics tend towards loud declarations or foreboding intonations about somewhat mystical topics - Azathoth takes its subject matter from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (the writer, not the then-active psych band), and Clean Innocent Fun has Steve yelling some nonsense at the beginning and end to sandwich the band's improvisation in the middle. On balance, the album probably wasn't ever going to set the world on fire, but it never fails to entertain. A four star album dragged down by two-star production standards - so let's call it three.

Report this review (#452147)
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Arzachel - st (1969)

This is a very interesting early progressive record, covering a wide variety of styles associated with the progressive movement. On this record you'll hear proto-prog, avant- garde-space-rock (Metempsychosis), extremely heavy rock , post blues rock (vocal parts on Clean innocent fun), majestic neo-classical organ driven rock (Azathoth and Queen Street Gang) and perhaps even a bit of proto-punk (on 'Leg'). The record became famous in the vinyl record community because of it's extreme rarity and it has some early musicianship of soon to be famous progressive rock musicians. Quite easily, Arzachel (or formerly known as Uriel) consists of Egg + Steve Hillage (Kahn, Gong, solo), with Egg consisting of Brooks, Campbell and no less then Dave Stewart (Egg, Kahn, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Bruford) on organs. Therefore, this record can also be seen as one of the earliest Canterbury records, though it's sound is quite different.

Recently I was able to buy a vinyl reprint of this otherwise unavailable record with a purple color, just as the early French reprint. The sound of Arzachel is very edgy. Whilst some compositions thrive in thickness of sound (with a pleasant slightly distorted vibe), the louder tracks seems to suffer from quite extreme loudness resulting in heavy noisy guitar and drums sounds. To some (like me partially) this will enhance the feeling of obscure heaviness and that relentless feeling of free garage experimentation. To others this will simply sound a bit ugly or unpleasant.

However, one thing is for sure. The song-writing and neo-classical compositions on side one and the free space/avant-garde experimentation on side two are sometimes plain brilliant. The guts to make such a 'heavy' progressive record is quite rare, especially in the late sixties. The way pleasant organ rock is combined with avant-garde on Azaroth is just so exciting and the endless heavy space jamming on Metempsychosis (over 16 minutes) is just unbelievable. The early guitars of Hillage are very pleasant, because he didn't yet found 'his favorite tricks and licks' - something that would bother me on later records. The psychedelic organ passages of Dave Stewart remind me a bit of Pawn Hearts era VdGG. Some people might argue that the record also has elements that make it sound unfinished or naive. Perhaps it can't be denied that with a bit more time and a better studio recording this would have been better, but the obscurity and rawness give the record a magic touch.

Conclusion. An excellent eclectic psychedelic/space record with the roughest edges you'll encounter. If you are searching for that 'heavy mind-set', that feeling of raw honesty and free garage experimentation - this is it. Others might be better of by first listening some of this material on youtube before buying the record. I myself feel tempted to give five stars, but the controversy of sound-quality makes me obliged to make it a very big four.

Simply ground-braking, exciting stuff that is spacier then the moon-landing itself.

Report this review (#500899)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Arzachel is a crater on the moon and the music reflects the alienation and deep atmospheres of space. The opener announces the outlandish psychedelic style immediately, with a whirling dervish of sustained organ howls and spacey glissando guitar. It is little wonder the sound is hyper space intensity with the likes of Dave Stewart on keys and Steve Hillage on guitar. 'Garden of Earthly Delights' features Hillage's estranged vocals, and energetic pulses of organ, bass and drums.

'Azathoth' is driven by cathedral organ drones and slow vocalisations that seem sto come from the netherverse. 'Queen St. Gang' is a steady cadence of beautiful instrumentation, followed by 'Leg' which has a weird bluesy feel. The final lengthy jam sessions are provided to cap of this stunning curio. 'Clean Innocent Fun' and an epic Pink Floyd style classic 'Metempsychosis'. The tempo quickens as it progresses into a brain rattling time sig with organ distortion and high squealing guitar arpeggios.

Despite the poor production rough garage sound, Arzachel is a band that should be enjoyed by any space rock/ psychedelic prog addict.

Report this review (#603724)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I would start by saying that almost everything Prog produced before 1970 had many things in the psychedelic vein. If we add a good dose of drug (whatever that is) here is the excess! Arzachel is a really unique band in this sense, the daughter of a night of sex between music and drugs! If you do not know all this I think would be really hard to understand this album, confusing it with an album of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd! But, as Steve Hillage is not Syd Barrett, "Arzachel" respect to Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd albums is an album less sick but less rational, less psychedelic but initially, as a final composition (I can call it that?) Is even madder than Syd Barrett with Pink Floyd! Dave Stewart is another great organist in the vein of Keith Emerson or Vincent Crane and in this album is a great magician!

If you like the more sick Psychedelic Rock... Here is the album for you!

Report this review (#630040)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Cult, legendary name of the UK Psych scene, formed at the fall of 67' in London and featuring David L. Stewart on keyboards, Mont Campbell on bass/vocals, Steve Hillage on guitar and Clive Brooks on drums.During the summer of 68' Hillage left Uriel to attend university and the remaining trio, pressed by its managers, changed its name to Egg.A brief reunion of the original group took place in 1969 and the four friends recorded an album under the name Arzachel, using pseudonyms to avoid comparisons with Egg's music.This rare self-titled LP was released in November 69' on the short-lived London-based label Evolution.

The first side of the LP saws a band with a unique talent of mixing hypnotic, psychedelic grooves with Baroque-inspired Classical organ parts, thus producing a variety of atmospheres, ranging from haunting instrumental passages to more dreamy vocal-led textures.Great but a bit dated music with superb organ work by Stewart and excellent vocals by Campbell.The closing track of the side, ''Leg'', sees the band entering more Heavy/Psych Rock realms with angry vocals, powerful guitars and dynamic organ paces.The second side is a different story, containg two long psychedelic jams with a very rich sound and a rather free structure.The mood becomes really sinister with more abstract lines, characterized by endless guitar solos, nervous organ masturbations and groovy drumming, while vocal pars come not easy either, having a very dark delivery.Interesting music for what it is, but with little true value, regarding the composition level.

As a tightly connected part of pre-Egg's history, ''Arzachel'' has seen numerous reissues over the years and comes as a recommended release to all fans of improvised Psych/Prog as well as to collector's of prog history as a nice hostorical and archival album.Recommended as a whole.

Report this review (#943172)
Posted Saturday, April 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Before the successful solo career, before Gong and way even before Khan, there was Arzachel. Yes, I'm talking about Steve Hillage, that legendary psychedelic guitarist who's forty-five year career has pretty much seen it all. And this is where it began. A deeply psychedelic excursion into early prog-rock territory laced with organs, spacey effects and neon dropped keyboards, underground psych-rock outfit Arzachel saw Hillage teamed with Canterbury keyboardist extraordinaire Dave Stewart and the multi-instrumentalist duo of Mont Campbell(bass) and Clive Brooks(drums), who would of course go on to form the quirky jazz-influenced group Egg. Nowadays, original vinyl copies of 'Arzachel' can fetch to upwards of £1,000, such is the rarity and reputation of an album steeped in Canterbury-lore. As an album it certainly has its moments, yet is let down by the two lengthy pieces that make up side 2, the shorter, more focused pieces such as the star-kissed opener 'Garden Of Earthly Delights' and the catchy r'n'b of the Stewart-led 'Queen St. Gang'. Elsewhere, the raucous acid blues of 'Leg' finds the group whirling deep into psychedelic territory, whilst the fuzzy 'Azazoth' exudes yet more of the album's deeply-lysergic ambience. Much more ambitious in their conception yet let down by incessant, unplesant jamming, overly-emphatic execution and an unpleasant, doomy feel, both the heavy and intense 'Clean Innocent Fun', which features yet more wild blues licks from Hillage, and the mind-melting cosmic madness of the aptly-titled 'Metampsychosis', simply fail to hold the attention. The low-budget production only adds to the slightly menacing atmosphere, though you have to give the group marks for pure intensity. Unlike Hillage's next album, the more polished and melodic 'Space Shanty', 'Arzachel' seems to lose focus just at the right moment, providing maybe just a touch too much far-out madness. That said, it's still a fasinating curio from the short-lived British psychedelic scene of the late-sixties, offering up intense underground thrills for all fans of darkly obscure progressive music. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2014
Report this review (#1159746)
Posted Thursday, April 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hard to hit this one for me. This is very well listed in the Psychedelic category, because what I really listen here is a rather immature band. And for the people involved here, some would hope to listen another pure Canterbury work, but that's not the case. Aside from "Metampsychosis" (which I cannot tell if is a strange improvisation or a great execution of a complex song) all the songs in here sound a little disastrous to me. Still this is a nice psych album, it is just that we expect too much after listening to the future works of these monsters. I give a low 3 stars, gotta admit it is great to listen to these guys so early in their careers. Hillage would result to be an awesome guitarist, a genius composer and a beautiful vocalist, and Stewart is for me the greatest Canterbury keyboardist, also one hell of a composer. As we know, Stewart, Campbell and Brooks went on to form Egg, Stewart and Hillage were involved in the excellent Space Shanty. Stewart was also obviosuly involved in Hatfield, National Health and Bruford's solo works, while our beloved Stevie also went on to Gong and has an awesome solo career (note that Stewart also appears in "Fish Rising"!), Cheers for all that!
Report this review (#1673621)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars One of the big bangs of Canterbury Scene talent began right here after three young students: Steve Hillage, Dave Stewart and Mont Campbell met in 1968 at the City of London School. They soon hooked up with another, Clive Brooks and formed a simple blues rock band called Uriel (named after one of the archangels in Hebrew tradition) playing covers of Cream, Hendrix, John Mayall and The Nice. Then it got a bit complicated. After visiting London's famous Middle Earth Club they were indoctrinating into the cult of 60s psychedelia which steered their musical interests into completely new arenas. The new Uriel quickly caught the attention of Decca records but because their name sounded too much like "urinal," were forced to changed their name to Egg, however the contracts were signed as a trio without Hillage who had planned to return to his education and due to legalities when the band wanted to release an album together they had to choose yet another name and settled for ARZACHEL which is the Latin truncation of the Arab Muslim astronomer Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm al-Zarqālī who created all kinds of new gadgets but the name was inspired by the crater on the moon. While Egg would soon deliver their debut album ARZACHEL managed to record this one single album that was recorded in a single 8-hour session and released it before Hillage quit the band to return to school. As expected from the influences on board this Canterbury Scene related act delivered a healthy dose of psychedelic blues rock although nothing on ARZACHEL's eponymous album really displays where Hillage would go with Khan, Gong and solo and likewise displays little of what the rest of the members would conjure up with Egg and later National Health. The strange thing about this one is that not only did the band change their name at the last minute for this album but the members all adopted aliases as well.

Basil Dowling (Clive Brooks) / drums Njerogi Gategaka (Mont Campbell) / bass, vocals Sam Lee-Uff (Dave Stewart) / organ Simeon Sasparella (Steve Hillage) / guitar, vocals

ARZACHEL threw together two distinct sides on their LP. Side one consisted of four groovy psychedelic blues tracks mostly with vocals all quite distinct from one another whereas side two consisted of more extended jamming sessions that offered a couple very tripped out acid dripping experiences. "Garden Of Earthly Delights" is probably the most Canterbury sounding track on the album with the harmonizing vocal effect of Campbell and Hillage and apparently made enough of an impression that the title (which originated from the Hieronymus Bosch painting) inspired the beloved prog rock label of the same name. "Azathoth" is an organ based piece that has a rather trip hop sort of beat to it and i could easily see this appearing on a DJs set list. Another vocal track that continues the Canterbury vibe without emphasis on the blues. The instrumental "Queen St. Gang" has a more funky bass groove to it and has the ultimate chilled lounge lizard vibe with lots of organ gymnastics. "Leg" begins as a psychedelic stew of organ noodling but breaks into a Cream sounding heavy blues psych number.

"Clean Innocent Fun" begins as a call-and-response between a unified vocalist / blues guitar lick and the hard and heavy organ which reminds a lot of the very first Led Zeppelin album that came out the same year only drenched in intoxicating doses of Pink Floydian psychedelics with heavy organ attacks, blues guitar runs and atmospheric freak outs. The yummiest treat of the album is the closing 16 minute and 19 second instrumental "Metempsychosis" (a fancy term for reincarnation) which is the most psychedelic and free form track on the album. It is obviously inspired by early Pink Floyd and while having the same alienating effect as their "Saucerful Of Secrets" track however the guitar is clearly more derived from their "Astronomy Domine" track. This one goes into interstellar hyperdrive with a heavy rhythmic drive and sizzling guitar solos, psychotropic organ runs and very much incorporates the most detached aspects of Floyd while going on a huge meandering jamming tangent that adds some of the best musical chops the band has to offer ushering the album out with a big bang of cacophony.

ARZACHEL is clearly a mandatory listen for anyone interested in the development of progressive rock's Canterbury Scene branch as it is the antecedent of the much greater works of its members at an early stage. While not as accomplished or original as their respective works as solo members or with Egg, Gong and National Health, ARZACHEL does have its own appeal as a psychedelic blues rock album. While clearly steeped in the influences they wear on their sleeves with not quite enough time to simmer them down into their own cohesive sounds, it's still an interesting listen nonetheless. The musicianship is clearly of the highest quality and although i've heard that the production values of the earliest pressings were not the best, my 2014 Prog Temple remastered CD sounds like it could have come out in modern times. This is an album i teeter back and forth about rating. The first time i heard it i loved it and it was a 4 star album. The second time i was less enthralled and it dropped down to 3. The third time i loved it again and it was once again a 4. While being fully aware of the weaknesses of the album which mostly resides in the lack of creativity in the compositions, despite this i love to listen to this one as it not only has addictive bluesy hooks with psychedelic fixings but also resonates as an interesting historical artifact of the prog rock world. When all is said and done this is an essential album to be experienced.

Report this review (#1729845)
Posted Saturday, June 3, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars The English band Arzachel (previously known as Uriel) had an excellent line-up. Their self-titled only album release featured legendary guitarist Steve Hillage and keyboard player Dave Stewart who later went on to achieve great success when he teamed up with Barbara Gaskin for "It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To). Mont Campbell performed on vocals (also a vocalist with Egg and National Health) and the Impressive drummer on the album was Clive Brooks. They all appeared on this album under assumed names. Arzachel will appeal equally to fans of Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock and Space Rock.

The first track "Garden of Earthly Delights" is a very promising and impressive opening to the album and nicely sets the scene for the album as a whole. The track features a very pleasant rock organ playing in the background overlaid with electric guitar and fine vocals. The track ends with some appealingly far-out psychedelic guitar playing from Steve Hillage. Track 2 "Azathoth" has a very religious feel to it, opening with a resonant church organ and charming ethereal vocals. The middle section of the song features some powerfully heavy and freaky guitar riffs, before returning to the more sedate sound of the church organ towards the end. Track 3 "Queen St. Gang" is an instrumental and it's the stand-out track on the album for me. Again, it features the magnificent sound of the organ under-laying the music as a whole, together with some gently laid-back drumming. Track 4 "Leg" opens with an impressive organ solo before launching into heavy electric guitar riffs, twinned with powerful bass and drumming in the rhythm section. After the deceptively quiet beginning, this track turns into a real out-and-out rocking barnstormer of a song. Track 5 "Clean Innocent Fun", at over 10 minutes long, begins as a slow and heavy, full-on psychedelic jam which gathers in pace and dramatic intensity as the song progresses and should appeal to fans of Jimi Hendrix. The final track on the album "Metempsychosis" is the longest number at over 16 minutes in length. The track opens with some freaky sound effects before launching into some powerful and throbbing Space Rock which is very reminiscent of Hawkwind's early albums. This is by far the heaviest track on the album and features some wonderfully freaky psychedelic guitar licks. The song has a hauntingly reflective middle section before returning to the heavy pounding rhythm for the grand finale to the album.

Overall, this album deserves four stars, but would have deserved five stars if it wasn't for the poor production quality of the album.

Report this review (#2270415)
Posted Thursday, October 17, 2019 | Review Permalink

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