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4 stars [Eleventh in a series] (Note: In between "Magician Among the Spirits" and "Hologram of Baal," The Church (minus a vacationing Marty Willson-Piper) released an album under the assumed name "The Refo:mation" (that's not a typo), called "pharmakoi / distance-crunching honchos with echo units." It is a great, if slightly bizarre, album, and deserves a place alongside the band's later oeuvre.) / After the seeming disappointment of "Magician...," many Church fans felt...dis-spirited. It's a good thing we didn't give up on the band, though, because they came back stronger than ever with one of their finest, most creative, interesting, compelling and listenable albums - and their third breakthrough album. With "Hologram of Baal," the band not only returns to form, but (if such a thing is possible) creates textures that better many of those on "Priest=Aura" and "Sometime Anywhere." / "Anaesthesia" starts us off in great form with interesting sound effects, quickly leading into a mildly hypnotic (they were getting extremely good at this...) drum- and acoustic guitar-driven composition with a subtle electric guitar figure, and a fabulous, heavily textured atmosphere. "Ricochet" is one Kilbey's strangest tales, supported by a seemingly simple arrangement of dueling guitar figures, a straight-ahead beat, and some of Kilbey's best bass work. "Louisiana" is one of Kilbey's best ballads, with one of the most beautiful arrangements the band has ever written. An absolute gem. With a heavy nod to one of their influences, "The Great Machine" is a Floydian composition with a subtly sound-filled arrangement full of hypnotic guitars, keyboards, percussion, sound effects, studio tricks, and a talk-sung Kilbey song-poem. "No Certainty Attached" - one of the band's best "new" rockers, with a driving beat, rocking guitars, a heavy bass line, and a heavily reverbed atmosphere - segues beautifully into "Tranquility," another absolutely gorgeous Kilbey ballad song-poem, supported by an increasingly-present, super-textured atmosphere. "Buffalo" is a nice light-rocking ballad, driven by acoustic guitar, soaring ultra-textured electric guitar, and an atmosphere that might be even more extreme than "Tranquility." "This is it" is one of the band's weirdest arrangements, propelled by a strange drum figure, double guitars, a subtle keyboard, and a "space-y" atmosphere. "Another Earth" is a light rocker with verses driven by textured guitar and a nice rock beat, leading into sound-filled choruses with a heavier beat, more-present guitars, and maximal texture. Bringing to mind "Lullaby" (from "Priest=Aura"), "Glow-Worm" closes the album in perfect Church style with a beautiful, ultra-textured ballad including mega-heavy string synth, super-echo electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and dueling vocals. / "Hologram of Baal" is an incredibly creative album, and definitely among the band's best. It also strongly presages much of the "sound" and creativity that would dominate their next two albums, "After Everything Now This" and "Forget Yourself."
Report this review (#22)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars With Tim Powles now in charge of production and with Peter Koppes back we could figure out that some changes were about to happen. And those who supposed that were right. With a first listen this is quite obvious. The production, sound and atmosphere is now more complex, intricated and deeper if that was possible. These elements, along with the removement of some uncertaintity present in "Magician among the spirits" made possible a really solid, atmospheric, fantasy surrounded (just see at the name of the own album and listen to songs like "This is it") album.

This album has songs of very different sorts. You have mesmerizing ballads like "Tranquility" or "Lousiana" (the guitar work in this last one is fantastic), rockers like "No Certainty Attached" or "Ricochet" and evocative and unusual songs like "Anaesthesia" or "Glow Worm".

We can see here that the band here has clear ideas again after a period of certain crumbling. In fact, this album set the standards for the new style now performed by The Church and which goes until their last most known effort "Forget Yourself".

Report this review (#53454)
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This CD was just released as I was about to see them live in Cleveland. I hurried to get familiar with the songs, as I assumed they would showcase this CD live. Well, I was happy to find that they played highlights from most of their earlier albums and only did "Buffalo" and "Louisiana" from this CD. That gave me a great thrill to hear my old favorites ("Lizard", "Under the Milky Way", "Grind", "Old Flame", "Ripple", "Myrrh", among many others) performed live, and this in a club environment where the band was very intimately involved with the audience.

Now on to this CD. This, as has been mentioned prior, was another pivotal release in The Church's long, illustrious career. The addition of Tim Powles on drums and production was definitely instrumental in the elevation of the band's songwriting and recording techniques taking on a new level of atmosphere and musicianship.

The very first track, "Anaesthesia", is very anthemic in a rock vein and both atmospheric in its instrumentation and urgent in the vocal delivery. This track deserves a place in Church (and rock) annals as a classic. It bears repeated listenings and wears very well.

The rest of the tracks are so outstanding as to defy comparison to previous Church-released songs. There is definitely a lofty, spiritual, otherwordly atmosphere at work underlying these tracks. The only one that seems a bit lacking is the rather dull and monotonous "This Is It". Where this song came from and what it implies are vague to me, as it hits on no chors that ring like the rest of the CD does.

There are beautifully poignant ballads here to rank among the best in any rock circles: "Louisiana", "Tranquility" and "Buffalo" are all equally brilliant and tender in their musical and lyrical renderings.

Also highly worth mentioning are standout tracks "No Certainty Attached" (a rare out-and-out rocker for The Church), "The Great Machine" (a taseful nod to Pink Floyd with its hypnotic beats and oddly tweaked sound effects), as well as "Another Earth" and "Glow-Worm". These last two work almost as love songs (love songs???) in a Church-like vein.

Overall this CD is a masterpiece which I highly recommend to fans of Pink FLoyd, The Beatles, U2 and Daivd Bowie. And this also serves as something of a first installment of a "sound trilogy" that continues with "After Everything Now This" and "Forget Yourself", which continue the vein of excellence in songwriting, musicianship, studio prowess and poetry the band embarked on.

Report this review (#130717)
Posted Sunday, July 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I don't have a great deal to add to what's already been said so well, but I'd like to mention a few things I suppose. This is one of the best albums from The Church's wonderful and rewarding discography. I think one thing that immediately sets it apart from its preceding works are the subtle atmospherics. A fellow named William Bowden is credited with mastering the album and with radiotronics which basically means there's a lot of light static and radio-tweaking on many of the songs.

Anasthesia is a typically strong opening track and is one of their best songs. Other highlights are Louisiana with its great guitar sounds, appropriately titled Tranquility, Buffalo (probably my favorite song here), and the triumphant and lovely Glow-Worm.

If you can find a copy that comes with Bastard Universe I'd recommend getting it. It may not suit all tastes, but if you're in the mood for some slightly trippy jamming it's a nice bonus.

Report this review (#162889)
Posted Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The quality of "The Church" records has been rather consistent so far: mostly good albums with some upper moments (like their debut) and downs ("Heyday", "Good Afternoon Fix").

I haven't yet found their relation with prog so far to tell the truth. But I have no problem with their new wave oriented music. Only that the new wave was quite sounding as old wave in the middle eighties or nineties.

This album is no different. A feeling of déjà vu. "Louisiana" is one example to highlight this. A borrowed romantic ballad (I can't find the name right now from the original which reminds me that song).

There are little passionate songs held on this album; it sounds pretty much the same from start to finish (but no song is weak either). At the end of the day, it is a fine rock album to listen to. Maybe too much formatted probably. The well named "Tranquility" is another fine ballad; but this album holds too many mellowish affairs to tell the truth ("Buffalo" or "This Is It" are some other ones).

The pop "Another Earth" has some more upbeat rhythm (but it wasn't difficult) and the catchy melody makes it one of the best song available together with the opener "Anaesthesia". The longer closing "Glow Worm" is also a very good song, but so much borrowed to "Doctors Of Madness".

"Hologram of Baal" is a good album; in line with most of their releases (except three or four lesser ones so far). No major changes (if any). Business as usual. But since it reminds good, there is no harm, right?

Report this review (#242638)
Posted Saturday, October 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Church's career rattled along like a sort of musical katamari, with the various styles they collided with becoming absorbed into their sound and never entirely disappearing. Take, for instance, Hologram of Baal, in which you can hear their jangle pop and dream pop roots coexisting with more recent spacey neo-psychedelic and shoegaze influences they had drawn into their sound along the way.

One of the most oft-cited properties of a hologram is that a small fragment of it contains all the information of the whole, and this is what Hologram of Baal is for the Church's music - a sort of panopticon from which you can see all the different wings of their creativity.

Report this review (#1602677)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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