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The esoteric themes of Blue Öyster Cult

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Toaster Mantis View Drop Down
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    Posted: April 24 2014 at 15:19
Their first three LPs with black/white/red cover art have enough compositional ambition and outside-the-box thinking in the instrumentation to go along with the cryptic lyrics even though they're not really progressive in the same sense as the UK bands of that movement. They did indeed become a bit too "arena rock" for my liking after Agents of Fortune.
"The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kentucky_Hawkwindage Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2014 at 16:06
Originally posted by verslibre

An overlooked/underrated BÖC album is 1978's Mirrors. (Okay, not really, not if you're a fan!) It boasts "The Great Sun Jester" and "The Vigil" (lyrics by M. Moorcock), Allen Lanier's "In Thee," and a truly wonderful album closer called "Lonely Teardrops."





I completely agree-a very underrated BOC album.I couldn't have named 2 better BOC songs from that LP myself! I actually totalled out a `72 Chevelle SS in 1986 while The Vigil was playing,the car got away from me,not sure if was the BOC or the 400 HP lol.Actually not that funny as i was banged up pretty good from that wreck took about a year before i walked without crutches again.Left leg was fractured in 8 places.Now as i'm older the injuries are beginning to catch up with me in the form of Mr Arthritis.Thank god for hydrocodone i guess....
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dr wu23 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dr wu23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2014 at 16:54
Originally posted by Toaster Mantis

Their first three LPs with black/white/red cover art have enough compositional ambition and outside-the-box thinking in the instrumentation to go along with the cryptic lyrics even though they're not really progressive in the same sense as the UK bands of that movement. They did indeed become a bit too "arena rock" for my liking after Agents of Fortune.
I tend to agree but even the later lp's have some real gems here and there.
 
btw...you started the thread about the esoteric elements but haven't really said much...what are your thoughts on those aspects?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Prog Sothoth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 24 2014 at 20:14
The first three albums are my favorite, although I do enjoy the borderline metal of Cultasaurus and the semi-scifi Fire Of Unknown Origin.

The debut definitely has this spacey reverbed production that actually matches the cover art quite well. Even the hard rocker such as "Cities On Flame" wind up sounding like borderline space-rock thanks to all that echoing, but the production really works wonders on the mellower tunes, especially the "Screams / She's As Beautiful As A Foot" duo, in which they sound not just trippy, but full-on eerie. Talking about tasteful guitar playing, "Then Came The Last Days Of May" is utterly gorgeous, and combined with the 'drug deal gone wrong' lyrics, the whole effect is haunting.

Secret Treaties has a warmer production and has more of a straight rock vibe for awhile, but the last three songs veer awayeaties from conventional rock into something not a lot of bands were doing at the time. "Astronomy" is so epic.

My fav BOC though is Tyranny And Mutation. I loved how they took "I'm On The Lamb" from the debut and turned it into some kind of proto-punk/thrash thing called "The Red & The Black". No surprise that the Minutemen eventually covered it. Nice mean guitar tone throughout the album, and I dig every song, even the bluesy and not so adventurous "OD'd On Life Itself". The only issue at all I would have is that I wish the production on the drums had a bit more 'oomph' at times. 

Lyrically those albums sort of matched the weird esoteric stuff ("Workshop Of The Telescopes" and "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" are really out there) with other tunes that possessed a sort of renegade biker theme. 

Agents Of Fortune and Spectres certainly had some signature great tunes, but no shortage of oddball clunkers as well. I've never actually heard Mirrors or anything after The Revolution By Night which turned out to be a kind of unfortunate blind buy purchase when it came out.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Toaster Mantis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2014 at 08:31
By the way: I haven't contributed with my own BÖC exegesis yet because I've been outside for most of spring break and this week I've been too busy with thesis-writing so far. Might write it down this weekend.
"The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
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Post Options Post Options   Quote uduwudu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 27 2014 at 04:20
BOC have had the occasional habit of chasing the hit song, sometimes successfully which largely conflicts with the more esoteric nature of the symbolism that turned up. It doesn't help that that the overall  view is not that clear. Pearlam is BOC's Sinfield indeed.

An oft overlooked number that should be as tone classic (it is for me) is Astronomy from Secret Treaties. Probably doesn't help that their production on these classic albums is not that great.

I read an observation somewhere that BOC never made the transition to the 80s metal scene; something to do with cold intellectualism - there are no songs about women in the traditional hard rock sense, no love songs either, (good!). This is something Iron Maiden have in common with BOC. They do not do sentimental, nor blues. The closest thing to blues is the name of Roeser's instrumental; Buck's Boogie and that is it as roots music goes. A metal pioneer band with a hard rock sound and sci fi themes.

Trouble is things didn't go as they should have. With the benefit of hindsight the planned Imaginos release did not emerge until 1988 and even then only after trying circumstances. This would have been the album that brought all the ideas into a (more of less) cohesive frame. But the live album and then thehome recording studios generating new material, the hit single paradox BOC found themselves in meant that their foot had slipped a bit and probably became seen as hard rock band with all the attention on post Reaper activities rather than the big concept album that would have been central to their career.

Still, later albums aren't as bad as they are noted by fashion oriented critics. Revolution By Night has a great number in Shadow of California for instance, as well as the only number of their's I don't like a hit single called Shooting Shark with one of the most boring rhythms I have ever heard. This appeared straight after a number (Take Me Away) written with Aldo Nova and a cracking riff number it is as well. But it's the Califirnina track that's central to that album which is so non-80s... (released '86).

One of the best releases to get BOC is possibly the Extraterrestrial Live album. In concert this band shines and the full instrumental firepower is on display. Robbie Krieger turns up and I can heartily endorse consumption of this album perhaps in the society of a... relaxing beverage of your choice...



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Post Options Post Options   Quote Toaster Mantis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 27 2014 at 05:59
Another thing that kept BÖC from assimilating into the post-NWoBHM heavy metal scene is that their music is way more subtle than Black Sabbath or even Deep Purple. Their best songs go as much for otherworldliness as they do for heaviness.

As far as the "Imaginos" mythology's meaning goes? I can grasp that it revolves around extraterrestrial and paranormal forces influencing the course of human history from behind the scenes getting hidden even more hidden after the Age of Enlightenment as described by the astrologer narrating Workshop of the Telescopes, despite the occult and the scientific continuing to intersect as the protagonist of Flaming Telepaths will know all too well.

More points of crossover between "official" history and the hidden occult forces' scheming will include the rise and fall of Fascism as documented in Me262, the 1960s/1970s blossoming and spilling-out-to-the-mainstream of everything countercultural for better and for worse as shown in Transmaniacon MC, Cities on Flame..., Dominance & Submission...

Further recurring motifs is that of a character who's a hybrid between humanity and the cosmic beings manipulating history coming to realize his origins and destiny appearing to be the narrator of many BÖC songs, as well as the juxtaposition between imagery of modern urban decay on one hand and that of esoteric occult tradition going back into the distant past often in the lyrics to the same song.
"The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dr wu23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 27 2014 at 12:02
Those interested in occult mythology might find this interesting......the Men In Black are mentioned several times in BOC tunes.
http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/bb/bluebook666.htm
 
 
btw this is a very strange web archive...I recall reading some of it many years ago online. Not directly related to BOC but I'm sure many of their themes came from similar ideas.


Edited by dr wu23 - April 27 2014 at 12:06
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