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


Atomic Rooster


Heavy Prog

3.86 | 350 ratings

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4 stars Big Blue Rooster

For such a weighty cockerel, Atomic Rooster somewhat ironically, always represented a delicate balancing act for this rodent. Without Crane's progressive and ambitious musical sensibilities, I fear they would have been just another boxy metallic vehicle long forgotten from the early 70's. When they got the elusive recipe right they harnessed the weight of Sabbath and the artistry of ELP but when they got it wrong... (the R'n'B garnished funk of the Chris Farlowe line-up must represent their 'Salmonella of the Soul')

Death Walks Behind You - As far as sinister and plain creepy 'pant fillers' are concerned, this critter represents the 'dry clean only' diapers of doom rock. It's malleable template has been borrowed and battered, knowingly or otherwise by most of the schlock horror brigade who followed in its terrifying wake. One of the many highlights for me are those sections where the rising sepulchral backing vocals intone the title against the inexorable gravitational pull of the underlying descending harmonies. Accidental or otherwise, it's an audio pun to erm...die for and cleverly alludes to the futility of resisting the advances of the grim reaper. Despite the morbid subject matter there was never a po-faced gloom about Rooster and even here they still exude a residue of sheer unbridled Hammer House of Rawk kitschy fun.The claustrophobic riff might be in danger of becoming bludgeoning but for the judicious organ phrases that Crane weaves adroitly in an around its immutable force. This is a feature of most of the band's output, and for this reviewer at any rate, helps prevent them degenerating into a predictable fuzz sludgemunster. Notice how the writing eschews much of the traditional linearity of heavy rock as the opening riff is transposed to fit over the verse harmonies towards the fade. Such techniques are very subtle but can make or break a composition's place in the memory banks forever hence. A great song, brilliantly performed, arranged and paced throughout. (I caught Mrs L singing this in the bathroom the other day, she is going to hell forever, as I have long suspected, forever damned without relief)

VUG - An enervating boogie fuelled instrumental that illustrates that even when Crane's music is as technical and ambitious as this, he never forgets that without soul and shed-loads of groove, 'chops' are the last resort of the uninspired and unimaginative. Lovers of the Hammond organ beware, the cryptic title could very well stand as a warning to your susceptibility to its cathartic properties i.e. Valuable Undergarments Grimed

Tomorrow Night - A deceptively simple song that seeps into the subconscious only after several listens, whereupon it floats to the surface as if to remind us what a classic tune it truly is (invariably when you are attempting grocery shopping at a dry cleaners).

Streets - Despite some stirring and heroic organ on the intro this number is a rather 'unlucky dip' of unrelated ideas that never preface each other satisfactorily. Plenty of fiery spleen to enjoy in the individual sections thereof, but the arrangement smacks of being a chunky pumpkin shoehorned into a rather unflattering slipper.

Sleeping For Years - The 'freakout' guitar effects utilised on the intro are reminiscent of Davy O'List's more visionary moments circa the 1st Nice album but we soon lapse thereafter into stubbornly grey blues scale riffing until an inspired departure into the tag hook. Just wish the sections that surrounded this moment of brilliance had been more carefully considered y'all.

I Can't Take No More - Rock's perennial vendetta against 'girly' grammar reached its apex with Slade during the 70's (Mama weer all fonetik now etc) and the enduring conceit of pale white boys from Hull attempting to sound like unschooled delta blues-men is evidenced here. That said, this became something of a Rooster live concert staple and although a very simple song belonging to the 'chuggist' school of advanced 'plod' has a pretty damn irresistible melodic compass and infectious energy. (ya dig wot I'm sayin like bro?)

Nobody Else - The gentler side of Rooster was never exemplified so perfectly as on this very moving and soulful ballad. Delicate yet tacitly funky piano from Crane over which Cann weaves marble sinews of guitar and delivers a sung melody that showcases a more confessional vocal style to exquisite effect.

Gershatzer - Probably my favourite Rooster instrumental of all. The florid classical piano interlude that follows the sublime main organ theme may have been imitated (unconsciously perhaps) by Freddie Mercury of Queen on their A Night at the Opera album (Death on Two Legs?) Whatever, this side of the Rooster beastie is the one that will appeal to most progheads I suspect as the 'stodge' represented by the fat drenched 'Rock Pie' is absent and replaced by a more sophisticated and healthy quiche (albeit one laced with radioactive eggs) There is some dazzling playing from Crane on Gershatzer and he exploits great use of dynamics and organ effects to imbue the central spacey section with some intestine ravaging atmospherics. If you like dirty and visceral organ played with innovation and derring-do, step right up. (Who needs porn when there is a Hammond product catalogue at your fingertips?)

Vincent Crane's subsequent descent into clinical depression and ultimately, suicide at just 45, robbed the world of one of its most talented musicians. I can't be the only one here who shudders at the irony of the title of this album. It seems a pity that his name is seldom heard when those who profess a keen appreciation for the lineage of the Prog genre, bandy around the names of the 'great and the good' without referencing one Mr Cheeseman. His legacy to progressive rock music is considerable and for those who might be unfamiliar with his work:

Do yourselves a favour and check out the first Crazy World of Arthur Brown album and the Faster Than the Speed of Light solo album (also featuring Arthur) for evidence of a prodigiously brilliant composer and arranger.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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