Review Summary: A weird and wonderful prog rock album made by LA wonder's Bigelf. Think Pink Floyd, King Crimson, The Beatles and Black Sabbath thrown into a blender and regurgitated and that's this album.
A band which has somehow managed to stay so submerged and underground, that you'd think they were terrible. Cheat the Gallows is the band's fourth album released in 2006.This review is track by track, to attempt to get people interested into the band. I only got into them by going to a Dream Theater concert in Manchester, and was blown away by them.
Damon Fox (vocals/keyboards)
Ace Mark (guitar)
Duffy Snowhill (bass)
The album starts off with Gravest show on Earth. Keyboards open up into straight and blunt riffs and militaristic drumming. Sounding similar to early Sabbath and King Crimson, but with much less of the techno-wankery that occasionally plagues the latter. Then the lyrics kick in, based on a circus conductor opening the 'greatest show on earth' Demon's rather unique voice powering over the music. This song sets the scene of the album, similar to 'Sgt. Pepper's lonely hearts club band' does for that album. Despite this being one of the weaker tracks on the album, along with Superstar. The songs bounces back and forth from deep riffs to synthesised lyrics and occasional chatter of the piano and organ. As this is meant to be a concert opening (in fact the song is about one) you can hear clapping which adds to the songs depth. Then it rolls onto Blackball.
A song with a name like Blackball is going to be different. Simple and straight drumming and strumming sets the song up, with the keyboards pounding along in unison. The music quietens down for the lyrics to start off. The tune is catchy and the lyrics are the same. The jazzy keyboards running over the other instruments, then the chorus hits. When the guitars takes over. It's nearly impossible to ignore the keyboards dancing during this song. The drumming is upbeat and provides a good basis for the rest of the song. Around 2:40, a breakdown hits then a small instrumentally bit, with softly spoken words 'when the motor stops, I tell myself to keep going' getting louder and louder until the keyboards arrive and a small keyboard solo before running back to the basis of the song, those guitars, solid drumming and keyboards adding depth. Nothing fancy here for the L.A band. Occasionally, towards the end, the song does tend to drag somewhat, and could probably be a minute shorter with no adverse effects. As from 5:40 onwards the song repeats itself and this should have been cut. (This song is the second longest on the album)
Money, it's pure evil, is the happy-go-lucky single of the album. Short and simple, it's a song about the dangers of money, something the song makes sure that you know by the end. The drumming is solid, the keyboards tend to act like a drum, and the guitars and rifting in the background almost constantly. Sounding similar to the famous strings of a certain David Gilmore. A Pink Floyd solo is part of the latter half of the song, and is easily it's best part. Keyboards and vocals follow you to the end of a short but sweet song.
The evils of rock and roll, is a good contender of 'best song on album'. The keyboards from Blackball are back, the drumming provides a good base, and the guitars are very cool sounding, and relaxed, at least until 1:40, when the song goes up around about 3 gears. Guitar's start off the main song section, followed by solid drumming, Demons vocals whine and moan along the length of the song, and remain a solid part, never straying out of his comfort zone, which while being odd, can be kinda boring. On certain parts, you can feel the occasional synthesiser, and the instrumental around 3:40 is an enjoyable experience, combining Pink Floyd and King Crimson, with heavier later influences. The lyrics are far from your basis boring ones, but don't compare to the ones on Metropolis pt2 by Dream Theater, this band is easily reminiscent of the 1970's. The final section is a repeat of the first part, and while cool, doesn't really add anything to the song. But it remains top dog on the album.
No Parachute is a remake of a old childhood poem of mine “The flight lieutenant tried to jump without his parachute” A slower song than the rest of the album, and one of the shorter songs, it remains one of my favourite Bigelf songs. The song remains more downbeat that other earlier songs, but the keyboards and music from 1:50 onwards are crafty, and the guitar solo from 2:15 onwards is simply sweet and very 1970's. I assume that it's about a man committing suicide, or arguing with his loved one, but with Bigelf's lyrics, it can be hard to understand exactly what they are about. The song end on a lovely little high bit which sounds much happier than the rest of the song. It's a perfect little taster of what Bigelf can do.
The Game is a odd song. A faster song than No Parachute until it's instrumental at 2:30, it remains a simple rock song, with a lack of progressiveness. The lyrics don't make an extreme amount of sense, but after 2:30, the song goes into overdrive, and the true band appear, the drums and keyboards power up and increase their tempo until roughly 3:00, when Fox whines in the guitar, which offloads a very 1970's solo, that also reminds me somehow of 'War of the Worlds in places' along with pieces from all the great 'prog' bands of the 1970's, just slightly darker and heavier. The song slows down again at about 4:30 and gets progressively slower until the end sequence, with Fox repeating 'Just when you think you lose sight of your heart and your mind'. If it wasn't for the slow and rather simple opening, the song would be much much better
Superstar is one of those songs which you don't know why a band puts on it's album. It's about selling out, similar to songs like Money and Rock and Roll Contract. But Bigelf end up with a song that sounds like a joint venture between Aerosmith and AC/DC. Apart from a decent solo at 2:20, this song fails to shine very well. The lyrics are quite repetitive and in my honest opinion, this song wears the title of 'worse Bigelf song to date'
Race with Time opens with a similar part to Pink Floyd's 'time', but imagine it as though 'time' spelt with a synthesiser and then 'Race with Time' is it's middle child son. The first half of the song feels very 1970's prog rock. Light and fluffy with keyboard overtones and light drumming. And Demon's voice powering over the track. At least until 2:29 when the guitars from the 1980's arrive and the heavy metal side to Bigelf shines through. The remainder of the song it similar to the opening, with Pink Floyd guitars and some weird percussion. Overall a very catchy and funky tune.
Hydra starts off fast and high paced. The first minute is full of Bigelf's 'Metal' the opening builds into a slower, more keyboard orientated section. As the name suggests, the song is about a Hydra I do believe, but as is the case with Bigelf, the lyrics seem odd at the least. The slower the song goes, the more keyboards come in. The music does have this feeling of power, until she breaks down at about 4 minutes. The end of the song is keyboardy and the guitars are grunty. But it remains a good song, even if it does tend to drag slightly towards the end.
Counting Sheep is the final and longest song on the album, and also the weirdest. It starts off in a similar way to first song, with keyboards building into drums and guitar. 'I'm just counting sheep, waiting to fall asleep. But I can't close my eyes' Is the chorus, to understand this song, assume that the sheep are you. (You being the mindless majority who are but simple sheep). If you are related or married to a sheep then I apologise. The song bounces from rifty guitar based bits to keyboard led parts. Fox's voice goes from strength to strength. Even if they did copy 3:30 in from Saw's theme tune, the song remains awesome. I could go on for hours about the craziness and the song's different break downs and speed ups with trapped sheep, but I won't. The organs and keyboards on this song do shine. And it's one of the best songs they have created. The last minute of the song is also a good treat.
If you ever wanted to hear King Crimson or Pink Floyd with a helping of Ozzy Osborne or some other metal head, then Bigelf is the one for you. While this band has it's bad moments, it also provides a very rare fusion of two genres, no spazmatic guitar solos that tend to plague the Progressive Metal bands are found here and they keyboards take a bigger role without showing off immensely.
The Evils of Rock and Roll