Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Mahavishnu Orchestra

Jazz Rock/Fusion

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Mahavishnu Orchestra Apocalypse album cover
3.66 | 324 ratings | 25 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Power of Love (4:13)
2. Vision Is a Naked Sword (14:18)
3. Smile of the Beyond (8:00)
4. Wings of Karma (6:06)
5. Hymn to Him (19:19)

Total Time 51:56

Line-up / Musicians

- John McLaughlin / guitars, vocal composer
- Gayle Moran / keyboards, vocals
- Jean-Luc Ponty / violins (electric & baritone electric)
- Ralphe Armstrong / bass, double bass, vocals
- Michael Walden / drums, percussion, vocals, clavinet (?)

- London Symphony Orchestra
- Hugh Beau / orchestra leader
- Michael Tilson Thomas / piano (2), orchestra conductor
- Michael Gibbs / orchestration
- Marsha Westbrook / viola
- Carol Shive / violin, vocals
- Philip Hirschi / cello, vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Chris Poisson ("Ashok") with Pranavananda (photo)

LP Columbia - KC 32957 (1974, US)

CD Columbia ‎- CK 46111 (1990,US) Remastered by Larry Keyes & Tim Geelan
CD CBS - 467092 (1990, Europe) Remastered by Larry Keyes & Tim Geelan

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry


MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Apocalypse ratings distribution

(324 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Owl
4 stars Johnny Mac was not one to do things halfway, that's for sure! Not only forming a new and larger version of MO, but also enlisting the aid of orchestrator Michael Gibbs, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony, he creates a song cycle of incredible color, passion, variety and power.

Among the highlights are Jean Luc Ponty's soaring lead violin passages, the fiery rhythm section of Ralphe Armstrong and Narada Michael Walden and of course Johnny Mac's compositions and the London Symphony giving its all.

On the minus side is Gayle Moran's howling at the moon on"Smile Of The Beyond", easily the weak track, but the other songs make you forget that in a heck of a hurry.

Hard to pick a favorite as each song (save for "Smile--") is so strong and compelling. "Power of Love" is downright spellbinding between Ponty's soaring violin, the orchestra providing a subtly shifting landscape and McLaughlin's somber acoustic guitar. "Vision Is A Naked Sword" is one of the scariest pieces of music I've ever heard, I mean this is "wrath of God, end of the world" type stuff here, not for the faint of heart. "Wings of Karma" is a nice orchestral interlude and the closer, "Hymn to Him" is beyond description, tear-jerkingly beautiful and wrecklessly fierce at the same time. Gotta love how Ponty and Johnny Mac fire phrases back and forth with the full symphony.

The only other gripe I have is the fact that John's guitar was not recorded that well, sounding very tinny and harsh, not having the full, thick meaty tone he's normally known for. Otherwise, the production quality is first class, with veteran Beatles producer George Martin at the helm.

One star off for "Smile Of The Beyond". If that wasn't there. this would been 5 stars easily. Despite that, grab this and play it at 11! Especially "Vision Is A Naked Sword".

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars With the first line-up of MO now gone, McLaughlin instantly went back to work, recreating a group, which had yet to reach its goals of mixing Stravinsky and jazz-rock. So recruiting Ponty and Gayle Moran in the forefront, and adding Narada Walden and Armstrong in rhythm section behind him, technically MO was no worse off. If Ponty and Armstrong were better than Goodman and Laird (this is debatable and certainly not flagrant), he was losing out on Hammer and Cobham being replaced with Moran and Walden (and anything but that obvious) but the group was still top notch, especially adding a small string section.

This fan once dismissed this album a tad because of the heavy string arrangements it contains, but with age, Apocalypse is probably becoming THE album that MO had set out to make right from the start: it is probably the one closest achieving the Stravinsky realm and not just because of the orchestra, but in its writing concept. A fairly long album (over the 50 minutes), Apocalypse is a bold and daring move, especially risking the "Orchestra and group" thing, missed by Deep purple and but almost transformed into a touchdown by Caravan and Procol Harum, here still more convincingly so, even if Sir George Martin botches up the job, much the way he's done it with Stackridge's Bowler Hat album. Indeed, if Sir George was indisputable in the 60's with the fab four, he was not quite up to par in the following decade: he's responsible for the cheesiest moments of this album.

After the slow-crescendoing Power Of Love, where strings of all kinds are echoing the same feeling than on Carlos and Alice's Illuminations album, the album plunges deeply (and darkly) with the impressive Vision Is A Naked Sword, where the Orchestra is magnifying the exploits of the group and Narada's drumming is wowing everyone. The 14 minutes of this track are simply awesome, changing perpetually, alternating group, orchestra and both fused passages and a solid Mc solo. The first side closes on the very slow and cheesy intro with strings accompanying Gayle Moran's very average singing, before the track finally jumps into shape halfway through, Gayle getting some help from Narada and apparently Armstrong as well in the middle section. But as quick as it came, the group disappears to leave the orchestra to close up cheesily.

Just two tracks on the flipside with Wings Of Karma starting on very Stravinskyan orchestra (Spring's Rite comes to mind) before Ponty leads the grouping a wild fusion of molten lava, the orchestra enhancing the group's depth of sound. The huge epic Hymn To Him is the centrepiece of the album and one of the main achievements of Mc's MO, all line-up considered. Indeed the Hymn is more an ode as to how to fuse classical jazz and rock music together and somehow it manages the feat in a way that very few others managed (if at all). There are moments when the over-powering strings are laying it a bit thick and a certain lack of finesse can be seen, but this is a very minor gripe.

Apocalypse was a bold move, one touchdown, but the conversion kick bouncing off the poles, but the point totals were enough for MO to have won the bet high-handedly. I'd say the album's best moments are when the orchestra is at the service of the group or when parts of the group help out the orchestra, but when the orchestra is left to do the majority of the music in a given moments, it sounds too awkward for this listener. Nevertheless an essential album that represent fusion at its best.

Review by loserboy
4 stars The early recordings of John McLaughlin and the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA remain amongst my favourites in the world of prog fusion. "Apocalypse" featured the re-formed MAHAV's line up with Jean Luc Ponty (violin) and Michel Walden (percussionist) and the added orchestral genius of George Martin. "Apocalypse" was a very different album from the early days of pure frenzied fusion and really takes classical and fusion a pulls them together in a leaner style. In 1974 the idea of meshing classical and contemporary sounds were very much in style and lots of progressive rock bands played in this arena. Make no mistake my friends, "Apocalypse" is pure genius and the progressive mix of orchestral jazz/prog/fusion will definitely keep you up at night. Songs build with full orchestral support into some pretty monumental musical moments. Of course there is still a whole lot of MAHAV instrumentation which will keep you amazed. McLaughlin's guitar with Ponty's violin strokes and Walden's drumming... what else could you ask for. Definitely an essential recording from my perspective and one that does something very different from the rest. A true progressive set... Brilliant...!
Review by Philo
2 stars The genuine spirit of the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the white hot intensely fused mayhem that appeared on the albums Inner Mounting Flame and Birds Of Fire and when this original five some of McLaughlin/Cobham/Laird/Hammer/Goodman broke up the good name should have been laid to rest. But maybe because they split up so acrimoniously guitarist and founder John McLaughlin felt he had something to prove and that the Mahavishnu Orchestra was his vehicle regardless of the passengers. This album is more like a bus and as nondescript as one yet not as functional, and/or as accessible. George Martin comes in to produce what is a very over indulgent orchestrated affair which has done little for me and simply annoys the hell out of me, and even though McLaughlin continued in the more traditional format after this album with piss poor results and the occasional positive this album is a largely forgettable piece serving little purpose. But hey, don't take my word for it get it and see for yourself. And if you loved the early Mahavishnu Orchestra then you might just hate this or even like it a little bit but it will never be played too often that I can assure you.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Through this fourth album, John McLaughlin took grandiose approach to the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra with the use of full orchestra : The London Symphony Orchestra, with its leader: Hugh Beau and Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas. Not only that, after they recorded three intense albums during 1971-1973, the personnel changed completely for the second version of the group. A reformation of the group in 1974 brought Jean-Luc PONTY on board to play violin, along with a host of new supporting musicians. Gayle Moran, whom I knew the first time with Return To Forever is taking keyboard and vocal jobs. Rick Laird whom previously played bass is now replaced by Ralphe Armstrong while Billy Cobham is replaced by Michael Walden. Jan Hammer is gone too.

With "Power of Love" sees the band in "overture" style using orchestra as rhythm section, the band moves forward with great track "Vision is A Naked Sword". This track combines powerful guitar work by McLaughlin augmented by bass guitar and violin. The full orchestra is also taking part during breaks as well as serving as rhythm section. Jean Luc Ponty provides his violin solo especially during orchestra work. "Smile Of The Beyond" brings - for the first time in Mahavishnu career - vocal into the music. Gayle Moran starts her voice wonderfully at the opening part, accompanied by orchestra. Half-way through, the track is performed in mellow with chanting nuance and Moran's voice, obviously. The other half of the track is fast tempo music in jazz-rock fusion style. I can see Ralphe Armstrong plays dynamic bass lines throughout this segment, accompanying guitar and violin solo. The track returns back to mellow style.

"Wings of Karma" starts ambient with violin and orchestra for approximately 2 minutes at the beginning. The music starts to roll with all instruments played together after minute 2:10. This represents another great thread of violin, guitar solos and orchestra. The orchestra is given more at the end of the track. "Hymn to Him" closes the album in an epic form. This the best track from the album. It combines dynamic collaboration among guitar solo, violin solo, bass guitar, orchestra, keyboard and powerful drumming. I think, for this track itself it's worth to have this album.

It's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. This is the first time I see there is no poem by Sri Chinmoy at the CD sleeve. As most of you might have known, John McLaughlin became a disciple of Sri Chinmoy and and adopted the name Maha (the creator) Vishnu (the preserver). Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Chicapah
3 stars With all of the original members of his innovative and surprisingly popular group scattered to the four winds John McLaughlin decided to make the Mahavishnu Orchestra a REAL orchestra and put together an album with the London Symphony acting as a partner and a whole bunch of his virtuoso friends. By that time every type of music had been joined with an orchestra so why not jazz rock/fusion? When this LP appeared on the record racks in 1974 and I saw that George Martin had produced the project I could hardly wait to get home and revel in some high fidelity fireworks. I was hoping to hear more of the wild, exhilarating hold-on-to-your-seat roller coaster thrills that I had enjoyed from the previous incarnation of this unique band.

With a title like "Power of Love" you might brace for a powerful rush out of the gate but it turns out to be a very subdued, soothing blend of muted orchestra, some intricate acoustic guitar and Jean-Luc Ponty's tasteful violin. It may not be what you expected but after you hear it a few times you can better appreciate its aura of peace and beauty. "Vision is a Naked Sword" is next and it's more along the lines of what you probably anticipated from the get-go. It's a bold attempt to meld the symphony with the band but on this particular song the experiment fails from a lack of cohesion. It begins with a very typical Mahavishnu convoluted melody but this time around the orchestra clumsily performs it. I must mention that drummer Narada Michael Walden replaces the phenomenal Billy Cobham and he does an excellent job. There are brief moments when they approach the tightness of the old group but each time they involve the symphony they lose momentum. After a short drum solo and an electric piano ride from conductor Michael Tilson Thomas the orchestra delivers some ascending swirls that hold promise. But then it drops down to McLaughlin riffing on guitar with Ponty eventually adding violin on top. Unfortunately they stay in this guitar segment too long and it becomes quite tedious. The symphony reenters with the original melody but they can't save this inconsistent mess. "Smile of the Beyond" follows and things get unbelievably weird in a hurry. It features Gayle Moran's smooth vocal over an orchestral score that would be right at home in a Broadway production of an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. That's not so tragic in itself but imagine that you're in the audience for this show. Abruptly they transition into an uptempo dance sequence with some contemporary chorale work behind the music. Then out stroll John and Jean-Luc to deliver some avant garde, high velocity, slightly out of tune solos! You'd likely say, "This is so ridiculous it's almost laughable! What in the hell are they doing in this song?" Very strange but that's exactly what happens here. Makes no sense whatsoever. The tune ends with Gayle singing the operatic air as if the rude interruption had never taken place. Yark. Moving right along, "Wings of Karma" gets things back on track. A very pretty symphonic score gives way to a jazzy feel with the guitar and violin providing the melody line. McLaughlin and Ponty both turn in excellent rides over the orchestra as they build up to a frenzy before returning to the opening. With "Hymn to Him" they get it right again. The symphony provides an easy-listening background while the guitar and violin add florid noodlings that rise and fall. Then the orchestra starts to play a theme that grows and grows till McLaughlin finally unleashes his electric guitar and delivers his trademark intensity. Things subside for a piano break from Moran which leads to a new melody played by the guitar and violin together as bassist Ralphe Armstrong shows his stuff. Ponty offers up his best solo then the whole thing escalates to supersonic speed and you receive the long-delayed payoff as John and Jean-Luc trade hot licks wedged between some fiery flourishes from the symphony. The twenty-minute song ends as it began with the orchestra and band descending together in a gorgeous grand finale.

In the history of symphonic experimentation there have been more duds than skyrockets. Using that analogy this one's just a sparkler. McLaughlin certainly had an adventurer's spirit with this project yet he could have benefited enormously from a good dose of selective editing and basic common sense. But the engineering and production are top drawer and, since there are five songs and three of them turned out okay, it's a no-brainer to give this one a solid three stars. Just try not to choke on your Dr Pepper when you hear the ludicrous "Smile of the Beyond."

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Apocalypse" was the first MAHAVISHNU record I heard back in my teens when I most actively explored prog rock. Then I found it too serious and too distant and even too difficult to comprehend. Recently I gave it another spin in order to write this contribution to PA. Well, I can't say that I was much wrong back then...

This album comprises of elements of what I would call "symphonic fusion" and the band, now featuring different line-up from previous works, is doing an amazing performance. I was never a fan of McLaughlin's speedy guitar technique, but one must pay tribute to his love and confidence towards his musical expression. A remarkable novelty on this record is the presence of J.L. Ponty, jazz-violin virtuoso, who is capable of producing rather spacey and almost psychedelic effects on his electric violin. On the composition side, I am much less convinced that "Apocalypse" is an important album. Symphonic arrangements, lush orchestration and occasional female vocals are largely spoiling the rock sound of the band and bring zero interest to my ears. At times it all sounds like coming as soundtrack from a classic Holywood melodramatic films of the 1950s... nice to listen but out of the scope of prog rock daring achievements.

If you are a fusion fan, you will definitely need to hear this album, simply because it comes from the nest of a premiere exponent of the genre. Otherwise, I will not go as far as recommending it to larger, general prog rock community.


Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Often ignored in favor of their better-known releases, M.O.'s 1974 project 'Apocalypse' was an ambitious gathering of musicians from all backgrounds led by McLaughlin and his second Mahavishnu incarnation of Ralphe Armstrong on bass, the percussion of Michael Walden, Gayle Moran's keys and voice, and Jean-Luc Ponty's violins. They are supported by the London Symphony Orchestra with George Martin handling production and except for a few passages of dated jam-rock, it is among the best things they ever did. In '74, it was nothing terribly original in the brave new world of progressive fusion to employ a full orchestra, or to dabble in realms never meant to meet. What is special about this session is that it worked so well. And it is filled with beautiful, powerful music.

A solemn piano, John's strings and a vibration of brass gingerly awaken 'Power of Love', sad and reflective, a nourishing piece that tugs at the heart. The mood changes and this record comes alive on the enormous 'Vision is a Naked Sword', a titan of strings, horns, and Walden's cracking skins. It expands with rushes of change, huge movements, migrations west, east, and the two crashing into each other with great joy. And McLaughlin's fevered frenzy out in front, possessed, as if he's trying to squeeze out several lines at once. 'Smile of the Beyond' is pleasant enough and features Gayle Moran's engaging mezzo-soprano, the London Symphony giving their all with much pride and no prejudice as heard in 'Wings of Karma' and the sublime 'Hymn to Him', a 19- minute roiling cauldron of musical interaction, atom-smashing, skattered altercations and the occasional explosion of life. An album that remains a passed-over high point in the all too often bourgeois world of fusion, and perhaps John McLaughlin's finest hour as leader.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra meets an actual orchestra, London Symphony, that is. MO vs. the LSO? This has got to be one of the greatest integrations of an orchestra into progressive music and I suspect they all had blisters on their fingers by the end of the recording session. These guys all get a tough workout.

Many people lament the break up of the original MO lineup, but I'm not in that camp. Apocalypse is John McLaughlin's first outing as the MO without any of the original members and I love that period but, this is my favorite MO album. The music here is very apocalyptic, but some of the song titles don't quite fit the theme: Power of Love, Smile of the Beyond, Hymn To Him. Vision Is A Naked Sword and Wings of Karma, I can kind of get.

The Power of Love is a rather mellow starter for the album, but it has some kind of ominous undertones going on in the music.

After a brief moment of silence, Vision Is A Naked Sword, sneaks up on you and the music is very dark. Over 14 minutes of intense Mahavishnu and London Symphony Orchestra interplay. But it's not all totally bleak. Almost like a musical short story.

Things mellow out again with Smile of the Beyond, but not completely. And you get a first for MO, vocals, female vocals no less. Gayle Moran, who is also the keyboardist for this lineup has a really pretty voice. There will be more pieces to come in the soon to be future, but fortunately vocals in MO have been occasional. Usually not much room for them in this kind of music. This one starts out with Moran singing and the other orchestra, but then the band really takes off and jams about midway, before a return to the beginning, still a little bit of ominous feeling at the end. I think Moran's keyboard work is a little bit of a departure from the style that Jan Hammer, who preceded her.

Wings of Karma starts off continuing and intensifying the quiet ominous sound. After giving LSO a could opportunity play, the band really takes off again. Then you get the band and the orchestra trading licks and the music starts to pick up speed. And then, a sudden mellow ending.

Hymn To Him also starts out mellow. There's enough music packed into this one track to fill up a whole album by itself. This track is sort of the Supper's Ready of jazz-rock/fusion. Actually, it probably takes you to even more places musically. The hectic climactic section of this piece goes on for several minutes and I'd be highly surprised if everyone's fingers aren't blistered by the time slows down. Things end on a rather upbeat note.

The interplay of all the musicional elements is just spectacular. Jean-Luc Ponty, Ralphe Armstrong, and Michanel Walden are excellent successors to Jerry Goodman, Rick Laird, and Billy Cobham Respectively and respectfully. Also of note, the album was produced by George Martin of Beatles fame and Michael Tilson-Thomas conducted the London Symphony Orchestra.

And of course, things just wouldn't be the same without John, who is the core. Can't compliment the guitar work on here enough.

Hey, I was looking at the credits on the back of the CD case, and I notice Columbia Records is at 666 Fifth Avenue. Hmm.

Review by Sinusoid
2 stars I had become an immediate fan of the Mahavishnu Orchestra thanks to fiery fusion that encompasses their first two studio efforts, INNER MOUNTING FLAME and BIRDS OF FIRE. This is where I toss out my Mahavishnu Orchestra fan card; APOCALYPSE is incredibly weak in comparison to the first two.

APOCALYPSE is much more classical string instrument laden than any prevoius Mahavishnu attempt. They've had Jerry Goodman play violin, but aside from that (here, Jean Luc-Ponty replaces Goodman), what sounds like a full string orchestra is also integrated into the music. So, if anything, the ambitions here would almost put this as the best Mahavishnu album...ever.

I don't think so. All the orchestra does is really bog down what could've been a nice composition. The orchestra is used in almost a cliche manner; every song begins and ends with a soft orchestra thing with maybe a couple of band instruments as well. I find myself bored half of the time with these pieces. However, even when the whole band kicks in, I still find myself bored. The solos from guitar and violin are starting to get old by now, the pieces are just too long for my sake, and the whole album just sounds like a ''business as usual'' kind of thing even though there's a new Mahavishnu Orchestra here.

The most interesting track here might be ''Smiles of the Beyond'' because it has what no other Mahavishnu song had before; vocals. I honestly think they're a bit too much, but they're nonoffensive, so I let them pass.

My overall opinion of Mahavishnu Orchestra took a digger here. This is for those who like orchestras and don't mind the odd classical, jazz, funk hybrid type of thing. I find this to be too boring to put on repeat, and hearing the album only makes me realize how much I crave for ''Meeting of the Spirits'' again.

Review by The Quiet One
5 stars The only Mahavishnu Orchestra album which actually features an Orchestra!

Apocalypse by Mahavishnu Orchestra is the first album without the classic line-up of their first two albums, with this album(and the following one) John created something totally different from what the band was known of, even more-so with the addition of the London Symphony Orchestra bringing delights and majesty the band had never showed before, leave the over-complicated and frenetic passages, and technically brilliant musicianship to the original line-up.

Mind you that this new line-up is no less than incredible; drummer Michael Walden full-fills with blasting and unpredictable fills, Jean-Luc Ponty shines like he always has done, Ralph Armstrong plays some thrilling bass lines and Mahavishnu himself is no less than extraordinary, as you should expect. Gayle Moran is the only member of this line-up that doesn't spark as you would expect, she's a subtle though efficient jazzy keyboard player, but Jan Hammer who played in the original line-up really overshadows her, the main reason of this is that Gayle doesn't play any solos, so what this new line-up doesn't have that made so characteristic of the first line-up are those breathtaking duels between guitar, synths and violin, though that does not take that there will be exceptional duels between Ponty's violin and John's guitar allthrough this record.

The overall result is an original blend of Classical arrangements and Jazz Rock interpolations, the former obviously being played by the Symphony and the later by the original band. Mind you this is not like Time and a Word by Yes in which the orchestra or symphony plays along the musicians on board, Apocalypse is very much in the style of Jon Lord compositions in which both Classical and Rock appear but both have their separate turn and rarely touch each other: both have their own separate moment.

Exception to the ''rule'' would be the opener, Power of Love, in which showcases a delightful and gentle orchestral arrangement led by John's sweet, slow paced, acoustic guitar. A beautiful entry to this album which reminds me of John's tranquil, though mind-opening work on Natural Elements by Shakti.

The next song, Vision is a Naked Sword, on the other hand sticks to the ''rule'' of each having their own turn; starting with the orchestra in a very glorious and powerful way, all soon to fade and let the jazz rock band come-in and do what they know best: play Jazz Rock. This song pretty much sums up what this line-up was capable of producing; Jean-Luc Ponty with his electric violin shining underneath the orchestra and over-top John's guitar, Michael Walden delivering always strong and unpredictable drumming, Ralph adds every now and then some cool bass lines, Gayle some typical jazzy keyboards, finally John with a wah-wah sends us an unforgettable frenetic solo spot, and of course the London Symphony Orchestra with the main role of playing the central theme in that glorious and powerful way I mentioned before.

Carries on, Smile of the Beyond, in which starts-off sweetly like Power of Love with the smooth Orchestra, this time with Gayle Moran's lovely vocals! However, unlike the opener, Smile of the Beyond does have the separate turns well-defined, after the 4 minutes of the charming orchestra it all becomes an up-lifting Jazz Rock fest with McLaughlin and Ponty taking the lead with some astonishing solos.

The album continues in the same vein with Wings of Karma, introductory part made by the London Symphony Orchestra, while the main attraction being made by the rock-instrumentalists.

Finally the 19 minute Hymn to Him is the peak of the whole band (including the symphony orchestra). If you need music that mixes both classical and jazz/rock in such an extraordinary and original way, you either recur to this or the First Movement of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra written by Jon Lord. Hymn to Him has it all, besides amazing jazzy sections and magnificent orchestral sections, and even a mind-blowing duel between both; this proves that John can make really outstanding music without having to be technical in any way like their first two albums had to be.

Apocalypse ends up being a real eruption of incredibly gorgeous and exciting fresh music, that is if you can handle an Orchestra in your music in which it has a main role as a theme and mood settler. If you can't handle that, you'll either find this boring after some few minutes which happened to me when I first heard this or will just say this isn't the real Mahavishnu Orchestra just because it doesn't have much of the fierce and raw jazziness and rock prowess their first two albums had.

Mind you, this album is not strictly for Jazz Rock/Fusion fans, open-minded Symphonic fans might want to have a peek at this as well. All in all a really emotional, powerful and progressive album, which deserves no less than 5 stars.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In the years when I terrorized my neighbours in boarding school with my Mahavishnu cassettes, I sort of skipped this album. Despite the orchestra it didn't seem to add anything relevant to the Mahavishnu sound. I also found it long-winded and thought that the orchestra was more distracting then adding anything.

After a gentle intro, Vision brings the orchestra to the fore and adds some Prokofiev flavour to the Mahavishnu sound. While I like both the orchestral part and the improvisation here, I don't think they sit really well together, except for the last few seconds where the orchestra joins the band. It rather feels like a copy-paste job then like a good example of integrating an orchestra into rock.

Smile of the Beyond introduces vocals. It's not without merit but jazz vocals like this are not really my cup of tea. (Who knows, maybe in a couple of years they will be). Halfway in the band joins for a short but rather generic jam. Wings of Karma starts with a classical introduction that reminds me of Prokofiev's more romantic moments. Again I don't think the interplay with the orchestra to be very successful, so if I want to hear this ambience I'll rather play Romeo and Juliet.

Up until now, I'd say we've been listening to a 3.5 star album, so obviously the 19 minute Hymn will make it flip one way or the other. Frankly it sounds like a bad mix of a rather uninspired fusion jam with a romantic film score. No, this one will flip to the 3 stars.

It looks like my taste hasn't changed a bit in 20 years. Is this an indication that I always judged this album correctly? Or is this something I should really worry about :-/

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars On this album, John McLaughlin completely rebuilt his Mahavishnu Orchestra. Every member has changed. And they didn't miss a beat. With the addition of the London Symphony Orchestra, this album was truly symphonic jazz rock fusion (whew!).

The album is great, but the only five star song here is Vision Is A Naked Sword (What does that mean?), which features Michael Walden's amazing drumming, with the LSO blasting away power chords. Oh, and McLaughlin plays some nice guitar on this as well.

The opening track, Power Of Love, serves as a light introduction to the new band. And Smile Of The Beyond features Gayle Moran's fine vocals (no wonder Chick Corea liked her). Hymn To Him is an almost twenty minute epic that has some nice sections, but tends to break down at times.

Review by Matti
5 stars What a lovely cover art! And the album itself is also a beauty. Only lately I've gotten into MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA (15 years ago I generally didn't much enjoy Birds Of Fire), and of the four albums I've now listened to, this one is my favourite. Up to my taste, the first two albums - which are rated the highest - are quite uneven. No, I don't mean uneven objectively (I really don't argue them being among the most amazing classics of fusion, and superb what comes to technical brilliance) but uneven subjectively, measured against MY enjoyment. That is, I don't necessarily enjoy music that shines with technical skill and bursts with energy.

This one is surely the most symphonic MO album, and not only because it features The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Two of the five tracks are long (14 and 19 minutes) and only one under 6 minutes, and none has dull moments. I also like the presence of vocals. So, this music stands firmly on THREE musical continents, jazz, rock and classical, with and without vocals, and does it in the most natural manner. It may lose the comparison to the preceding albums what comes to "pyrotechnics" but it's more harmonic and beautiful.

Review by Warthur
1 stars After the original Mahavishnu Orchestra lineup dissolved over bitter arguments about John McLaughlin's control over the band, John pieced together a new lineup to start afresh. Not one to balk at a challenge, he also decided that the new lineup's first studio album would be an ambitious attempt to combine a fusion band and the London Symphony Orchestra - with the legendary George Martin producing.

The Mahavishnus weren't the first band to attempt to combine their playing with that of an orchestra. They were also, as Apocalypse shows, not the first band to discover when doing so that all they achieved was a murky compromise which robbed both the band and the orchestra of their power. The fact is that the original Mahavishnu lineup didn't need an orchestra to lay thick snoozeworthy string segments over their music, because they had all the power and energy they needed right there in the lineup. McLaughlin's attempts to integrate the orchestra into the Mahavishnu sound are hamfisted and awkward, and too often consist of the orchestra playing a bit, then the band playing a bit, then the orchestra playing a bit with perhaps one or two band members soloing, and so on in that vein, with the end result being that on half the album we don't get to hear the full Mahavishnu lineup as it existed at the time playing together as a unit. All too often, the orchestra is drafted in to play parts which on the previous albums would have been handled by a band member, rather than adding something unique to the sound, which seems like a waste of time.

When the band *do* get to play as a unit, however, the reasoning behind minimising the amount of time they spend doing so becomes all too clear: whilst the individual members all have decent chops, the lineup simply hadn't gelled as a unit at this point in time, and their interplay is lacklustre and misses the firey vigour that characterised the previous incarnation of the band. What John and the crew needed to do at this point in time was rehearse exhaustively and work on creating a band album on which the group could have a chance to get used to each other. By taking on the orchestra project, the band ended up creating a huge challenge for themselves well before they were ready to face it, and no number of string players are able to cover for the lack of confidence on show.

Compositionally, John seems to be running out of ideas too, with most of the material on here being highly reminiscent of previous Mahavishnu tracks... except not quite as good, because of the awkwardness of cramming the orchestra into them and because the lineup were not yet as comfortable and confident as the previous band were. A few limp attempts to incorporate vocals into the band's music crop up here and there and only serve to embarrass the band further. The band's playing is also sabotaged by some baffling production decisions by George Martin - precisely why is John's guitar sound so weak and faint on this album?

Where the band get to play together without the orchestra butting in, Apocalypse is an interesting but otherwise forgettable fusion album, one which would have probably been forgotten about if it weren't for the Mahavishnu name attached to it. But the botched incorporation of the orchestra as a desperate attempt to cover up the cracks makes the album a tiresome chore to listen to. When you consider the fire and the fury of The Inner Mounting Flame, I'd say that things have come to a pretty sorry pass when I can say that a Mahavishnu Orchestra album bored me, but that's precisely what Apocalypse does. The result is an album I can recommend only to the most uncritical of McLaughlin cultists.

Oh, and there's no flute players on this album so I don't know what the cover artist was thinking.

Review by Progfan97402
3 stars This was the first album with the new lineup of John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty, Narada Michael Walden, teenager Ralph Armstrong, and Gayle Moran (Chick Corea's wife). It seemed the egos of the original lineup got so big they exploded like balloons causing the split. Here on Apocalypse I really felt McLaughlin bit off more than he could chew. When it's just the band going into a jam, it's some really nice fusion, which not up to the greatness of Birds of Fire or The Inner Mountain Flame, still nice. It's the orchestral and vocal passages I really felt bog things down. The orchestra was courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra, but isn't quite so successful as say, the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed or Procol Harum's Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, but at least still had better orchestra/band interaction than Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orcestra. I'm sure McLaughlin had those albums in mind, when he wanted a fusion version of said albums. The album isn't too bad, but didn't leave much of an impression on me. So I was really surprised about their next album Visions of the Emerald Beyond, as it was a gigantic relief to me, it's a MUCH better album, about 90% instrumental, only minimal use of vocals, and no orchestra. I much prefer that album over Apocalypse. Apocalypse is probably something you'd get after you get the classic albums from the original lineup, and Visions from the Emerald Beyond.
Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars John McLaughlin and his MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA had a stunningly successful three year run after releasing their milestone fusion albums "The Inner Mountain Flame" and "Birds Of Fire" by blending the dexterity of progressive rock and the colorful chord progressions of jazz with world music including gypsy folk, Indian classical music with a touch of funk and psychedelia. The original five-man lineup of McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham and Rick Laird were taken by surprise with their sudden ascent to stardom and even found their albums of intricate complexity climbing up the Billboard album charts but the intensity of the touring schedule, the pressures of fame and the disputes between a cast of seasoned musicians took its toll fairly quickly and the original MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA ceased to exist before a planned third album could be completed.

The world would have to wait a couple more decades to finally experience the long lost third album find a proper release in the form of "The Lost Trident Sessions" but in the meantime instead of completely abandoning the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA altogether, McLaughlin completely reinvented the project with a completely new cast of members and when he decided to carry on to the next level, he really wasn't messing around. After reforming in 1974 McLaughlin decided to keep the core style of the original band in tact but released the third album APOCALYPSE as an even more ambitious project that took on the usual jazz-rock-fusion of the earlier albums but added the elements of symphonic prog and a cameo with the London Symphony Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas as the conductor.

The term third stream refers to the blending of jazz and Western classical music and although the stylistic visionary approach dates back to the 1950s with Charles Mingus and Moondog pioneering the uncanny blend, the attempt to incorporate rock music into the mix as far as i'm aware had never been done up to this point. After a new lineup was chosen the new cast of characters was McLaughlin as bandleader, guitarist and composer, Gayle Moran on keyboards and vocals, Jean-Luc Ponty on violins, Ralphe Armstrong on bass and Michael Walden on drums, percussion and clavinet. The London Symphony Orchestra included a pianist, viola, another violin, a cello and lots of orchestration. This clash of the titans approach resulted in one of the most unique sounding albums in all of the 70s with classic sounds that were carried on from the original MAHAVISHNU lineup but delivered in a completely more cerebral context.

Right from the getgo with the opening instrumental "Power Of Love" it's obvious that McLaughlin took a complete 180 in terms of steering the band's sound away from the technical wizardry non-stop barrage of sizzling energy that the first two albums excelled at and rather took over four minutes to craft a more atmospheric contemplative approach that was developed to narrate the theme of the APOCALYPSE. It was really a go for the gusto type of album which found no other than The Beatles' own George Martin in the the producer's seat. For those expecting a continuation of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's first two releases, they must've been in shock when hearing this one as it truly has more in common with scores such as George Gerschwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" than it does the previous incarnation of what came before. Nevertheless the album was critically acclaimed although it wasn't quite the hit with the public despite retaining some of the jazz-funk and fusion methodologies of yore.

APOCALYPSE featured five tracks with the sprawling 14 minute plus "Vision Is A Naked Sowrd" and the 19 minute plus "Hymn To Him" as the dominant scores of the album. While the jazz-rock-fusion aspects of the album tend to alternate with the symphonic classical elements, the overall effect turned out pretty darn good as the pacing of the different motifs is what keeps the album from becoming stale. The opening "Power Of Love" provides an atmospheric generator that ushers in "Vision Is A Naked Sword" which focuses on lush orchestral concerto type music with segments that break into the MAHAVISHNU jazz-rock sound complete with John's guitar wizardry. The feisty "Wings Of Karma" operates differently with the heavy rock parts coming first and then settling into the symphony and carries over to the lengthy "Hymn To Him" which tackles all of the different sounds married together for this one superb display of a stylistic truce where all the musicians on board are in total respect of one another.

Unlike the all instrumental albums that preceded, APOCALYPSE showcased some beautiful diva vocals courtesy of Carol Shive although the majority of the album is focuses on intricate instrumental passages. Whereas the previous lineup featured a barrage of testosterone infused aggressiveness, APOCALYPSE adopted a more sensual feminine side of things with long lengthy tributes to atmospheric classical motifs that eschew the rock and jazz altogether but there are often also nice cooperative efforts where the two disparate styles trade off in a crafty call and response. Unlike the first two albums which offered instant gratification, APOCALYPSE very much required a much longer gestation period to win me over and it's not until a recent revisiting of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA albums that this one has finally won me over. This one is a little underwhelming upon first listen but after carefully following its compositional flow reveals itself to be quite eccentrically ingenious. Divorced from the context of the superior masterpieces that came before, APOCALYPSE reveals itself to be quite the brilliant album in its own right.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Apocalypse is the third album of MO, with quite a different line-up that many have already described in other reviews. The largest noticeable change is the orchestra inclusion to create a symphonic, sometimes overblown sound. Titles of songs are somewhat pompous as are maybe ambitions. I find vi ... (read more)

Report this review (#2337660) | Posted by sgtpepper | Saturday, February 22, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra is one of the most famous and acknowledged fusion rochestras in the history of rock music. They were'nt active for so many years and their classical studio albums aren't very many but have important places in the history of prog rock. Especially "Birds of fire" of course but ... (read more)

Report this review (#1373917) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Friday, February 27, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Hmm........ Not exactly what I expected from this band. The monster riff maisters Mahavishnu Orchestra goes full symphony orchestra on this album. The contrast to the first two albums is pretty big. Not to mention the follow up album to this one. The full orchestra bit in the middle who goes o ... (read more)

Report this review (#592865) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars The first time I listened to this album, I was annoyed, I found it very boring. Maybe too long (Hymn To Him, almost 20 minutes, is really a bore by moments, even if it contains some good parts), maybe to...monstruous. Too symphonistic for me. It seems like John McLaughlin (oh, excuse me, [I ... (read more)

Report this review (#162837) | Posted by Zardoz | Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Ambitious stuff from a reformed Mahavishnu Orchestra, with as it happens a proper orchestra in tow behind them - the London Symphony Orchestra; Michael Tislon Thomas at the helm; and even George Martin adding his name to the credits. But it's all to flabby and overblown, at least until the fi ... (read more)

Report this review (#107896) | Posted by Phil | Thursday, January 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After all the bickering was over and Mahavishnu Orchestra Mk. I ended on a bitter note McLaughlin restructured the Mahavishnu Orchestra and recruited the London Philharmonic Orchestra for his next spiritual excursion. Those captivated by the sizzling razzle dazzle pyrotechnic meltdowns of the pre ... (read more)

Report this review (#79883) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Wednesday, May 31, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Some albums transcend category: this is one of them. Let your ears approach this as they would any other classical music though, or jazz for that matter. This of course is much easier to do now with the CD version than it was with my well-worn scratchy old vinyl. Even when I did spin my LP ... (read more)

Report this review (#39880) | Posted by Vingatondooda | Thursday, July 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Considered by many the lesser album in their discography, Apocalypse was my introduction to MO and remains a favorite of mine many years later. It is one of the more successful attempts to mix jazz fusion or progressive rock with orchestration (for another good try see Yes' Magnification). T ... (read more)

Report this review (#22498) | Posted by | Thursday, July 22, 2004 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA "Apocalypse"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.