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Blue Öyster Cult - Spectres CD (album) cover


Blue Öyster Cult


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3.38 | 155 ratings

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3 stars Much in the same vein as its predecessor, "Agents of Fortune", "Spectres" is however a much more consistent album in terms of songwriting. Though most of the compositions here could be superficially classed as AOR, they are solid, well-played tunes which will often stick in your mind for a long time. As other reviewers have already pointed out, the prog quotient is somewhat scarce, while the dictates of radio appeal seem to prevail. On the other hand, the songs possess for the most part a kind of sophistication that makes them interesting, even if not as challenging as, for instance, "7 Screamin' Dizbusters" or "Astronomy".

Though BOC can (and do) rock hard, they can also do melody as well as more celebrated bands. This is a constant of their output - the finely-crafted balance between melody, accessibility and full-on aggression. I find that particularly evident on "Spectres" - with the 'harder' side represented by two very different songs such as the fittingly crushing mid-tempo of opener "Godzilla", or the catchy, fast-paced "R U Ready to Rock?"; and the softer side by wistful, autumnal tracks such as "Fireworks" or "I Love the Night". The more radio-friendly direction taken by the band is instead embodied by pleasant, but ultimately forgettable songs like "Goin' Through the Motions" (co-written with legendary British songwriter Ian Hunter, formerly of Mott the Hoople), or "Death Valley Nights". However, it must also be said that BOC's take on AOR is quite unlike that of other, well-known US bands. Even when their songs are definitely easy on the ear, they always have a certain elegance about them that rescues them from descending into cheesiness.

The album's true highlights are to be found in two rather different compositions. "The Golden Age of Leather", an epic biker tale of heroism and death, boasts a very distinctive structure - a solemn, anthemic, a cappella introduction, followed by a series of time signature shifts culminating in a beautiful, haunting chorus. Album closer "Nosferatu" is instead a slow, dark, nocturnal tune, featuring that old mainstay of progressive rock, the mighty Mellotron.

As I have also stated in my "Agents of Fortune" review, there is little or no connection to prog to be found in this album - which doesn't mean it cannot be enjoyed by prog fans, especially if they keep their minds (and ears) open. Though "Spectres" is no masterpiece, it does have more than its share of good points, and is definitely a more cohesive effort than its predecessor. It is also a very pleasant listen for those days when 20-minute-long epics simply won't do. A solid 3.5 stars.

Raff | 3/5 |


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