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Atomic Rooster - Death Walks Behind You CD (album) cover


Atomic Rooster


Heavy Prog

3.86 | 321 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Many new members of ProgArchives are somewhat baffled when they come across a subgenre that bears the intriguing yet unusual name of Heavy Prog. We all know about Heavy Metal, of course. but heavy PROG? Since this is hardly ever mentioned in books of the subject, it must be another of PA's preposterous concoctions...

Well, preposterous or not, if you really want to know what HP is all about, look no further than this album. A dark, haunting, Hammond-drenched effort which sounds like Black Sabbath meeting Deep Purple with ELP writing the soundtrack, "Death Walks Behind You" - from the brilliant title right down to the iconic cover (depicting William Blake's Nebuchadnezzar on a simple black background) - is THE blueprint for the heavier side of our favourite genre. It is an absolute feast for any self-respecting fan of the mighty Hammond organ, and a welcome respite from the pastoral soundscapes of the likes of Camel or Genesis. It is definitely hard-edged, occasionally oppressive, undeniably raw and unpolished, yet immensely powerful. As the previous reviews prove quite clearly, it is an album that can command unconditional love, or one that can leave the listener cold and unimpressed.

Personally, I was quite floored by my first listen of the album, and was hooked ever since. True, Death Walks Behind You is not perfect, but then very few albums are, even those normally hailed as masterpieces. Vincent Crane's highly effective, aggressive playing style, perfectly complemented by John DuCann's strong, expressive voice and blistering guitar lines, feels like utter delight to the ears of every Hammond lover. The third band member, drummer Paul Hammond (what a coincidence..), lays down a powerful backbeat, assisted by Crane's skillful use of both keyboard and foot pedals to replace the missing bass lines. This idiosyncratic take on the classic power trio unleash a massive volume of music that, while not as technically impeccable as ELP's or Deep Purple's, is possessed of intensity and power in spades.

There are a couple of tracks that relieve the tension and overall dark mood of the album - namely the catchy, almost upbeat "Tomorrow Night" (originally released as a single), and the heavy rock-goes-commercial "I Can't Take No More". Neither are favourites of mine - especially the latter could be scrapped from the album without doing a whole lot of damage. On the other hand, the slow, melancholy number "Nobody Else", dominated by Crane's piano, sees a remarkably emotional vocal performance by DuCann, providing a perfect foil for Crane's despondent, foreboding lyrics (he suffered from mental problems and ended up committing suicide, as did Hammond).

The real highlights of the album, however, are to be found elsewhere. The title-track is introduced by dissonant, menacing piano, and then explodes into a monstrous, hypnotic organ riff punctuated by the obsessive repetition of the title, "Death Walks Behind You"; while "7 Streets" is a more structured composition, based on the interplay between organ and guitar. "Sleeping for Years" is in a similar vein - both are excellent examples of heavy progressive rock, somewhat influenced by Black Sabbath, but with better vocals and lashings of keyboards replacing Tony Iommi's monstrous riffing. The two instrumentals, "VUG" and "Gershatzer", are probably the most progressive offerings on the album, showcasing Crane's skills as a Hammond player; the latter, which is almost 8 minutes long, has the slightly loose feel of a jam session, intensified by the presence of a short drum solo.

Even though I had thought about giving this album a five-star rating, I will settle for four - seen as we don't yet have access to half-star ratings. In any case, this is very, very highly recommended to Hammond fans, and anyone who likes their prog with a harder edge (though not necessarily metal). A fascinating, almost addictive album by an underrated, very unlucky band.

Raff | 4/5 |


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