Monday, September 22, 2008
Bigelf - Cheat the Gallows
Sometimes, perseverance pays off.
That certainly sums up my experience with the rock and roll carnival of doom known as Bigelf.
I've never quite had this strong of a reaction to an album before. Upon my first listen to Cheat the Gallows, I didn't like it. On second listen, I just didn't get it. On third listen, I became interested. On fourth listen, I was fascinated. By the fifth listen, I was addicted and now I can't imagine you ever prying it out of my stiff little black fingernail painted hands.
In order to make sense of all that, you have to understand a few things. One, I'd never heard of Bigelf before or their prior works of mad macabre magnificent metal mayhem (don't you love alliteration?). Second, I'm just not a huge fan of pomp rock, I tend to like things cleaner, more straight forward with bigger riffs and less filler. And if Bigelf is anything, trust me, it's pomp. This is a rolling carnival of bombastic, theatrical rock brought to you courtesy of a circus freakshow of musicians. Imagine if you dare, a perfect blending of Welcome to my Nightmare-era Alice Cooper with the big melodies and production of Sgt Pepper-era Beatles, throw in a mighty helping of a mean-spirited ELO and a smattering of the glam of Sweet, add a sprinkling of Bowie and even a pinch of Pink Floyd and you'll begin to get the picture.
This is rock like very little else you've heard recently, big and loud and proud to be blowing the shit up your skirt. And when I say big, I mean big. This is huge rock and roll, big enough to fill the whole center tent in this bizarre circus of madness. Coming at you like a soundtrack of some surreal Fellini carnival movie, where all the clowns are evil and wear too much make-up and rather than make you laugh, they laugh at you, in some sneering, sickening way that makes your sphincter tighten until you actually suck your underwear up your butt. Yeah, descriptive, I know. But that's Bigelf. Evil and doomy and big and glorious and more fun than a kid's party in a cyanide-laced cotton candy factory.
"Gravest Show on Earth," is this disc's call to action (notice the very descriptive twist on the more common, "Greatest Show on Earth," that gives you all the hint you need as to where this beast is heading.) An MC's barking, wide-armed introduction to the twisted Big Top, the bizarre trip down the rabbit hole you're about to make. But this isn't Wonderland you're going to land into. This is a swirling maelstrom of frightening sights. Remember the scene from the movie Poltergeist, where the child is scared that the nasty looking harlequin doll in his room may come to life and kill him in the middle of the night? Yeah, he's here. And he's got a cleaver in his hand. This intro is similar to Alice Cooper's call to horror as Nightmare began or his descent into hades during Goes to Hell. Big guitars, big horns, big drums and big chills. Swirling and undulating, complete with the sinister voice hearkening that he's sure "you'll have a grand old time." Only you know you won't.
"Blackball," is an amazing explosion of sound as the curtain opens on the funhouse. Riding a chugging riff, this is blasting, bombastic rock with swirls of keyboards and Damon Fox's sneering vocals. At times his voice sounds so sinister, he'd give kids the chills reading them Dr. Seuss. Yeah, he'd make that darn Horton and his Who's seem mentally disturbed. Then, just as the song is smashing in it's repetitive, one-two punch, the whole thing changes on a dime, dropping down into a fantastic jazzy organ and sax breakdown, riding across a streaming Golden Earring bass line. Suddenly, you realize that there's more than just madness afloat here. There's genius. Insane genius, no doubt, but genius nonetheless.
"Money, It's Pure Evil," may be the albums main single, in all it's Flyod-isms, but my money's on the tear-it up glam rock of "The Evils of Rock and Roll." Starting with a swirling organ and picked guitar, the bombast pours in with all the grandeur of the gates of hell opening before you, reminding you that you're still lost somewhere in the twisted horror that these guys call a funhouse. Keyboards of unexpected beauty lead the song until the minute-forty mark, when everything drops out but the most perfect charging Purple-esque guitar-riff that you've heard since "Speed King." From there on the songs a full-on charger, a masterwork of glam rock, leading to the big chorus and brilliant lead guitar break. Any fan of classic rock would tip their hat to this one.
"No Parachute," reminds me of Alice's plea of "Didn't We Meet," as he realizes he's in hell, a gentle, morbid number played over a strummed guitar. "The Game," features some excellent lead guitar as it rides more time changes than can be found in a Swiss clockmaker's studio right into the unabashed fury that is "Superstar," another scorching skewer of T-Rex/Bowie inspired glam metal. Your mad Master of Ceremonies jumps back in, charging you through a "Race With Time," before the maniacal madness of "Hydra," featuring as many changing riffs, time switches and melodies as that mythical multi-headed snake. An absolutely fierce freak-out of frenzied fictional fury (too much alliteration there?).
"Counting Sheep," acts as the show closer, a near operatic, theatrical epic eleven-minute journey through our MC's mental instability. The harlequins are closing in with damning eyes, charging amidst a flurry of carnival organs, searing guitars and synths. Terrifying things pop out at you from unexpected corners. Your world swirls in and out of chaos. Whew! At this point, as the tent door finally flaps open, allowing the sunlight back into your world of darkness, you can only thank whatever God you pray to that you survived and made it safely back home.
Or at least, you think you did. Last I checked, the CD was still sitting in your player, waiting to be spun again. And while the journey terrified you, somehow, you can't stop yourself from reaching once again for that play button as if it holds some demonic power over you. The harlequins are spinning around your head. The clowns are laughing.
It's time for the carnival to start once again.
Buy here: Cheat the Gallows