Review Summary: The second of such a significant trio of albums by one of the world's best 70's hard rock bands, 'Tyranny and Mutation' should find itself in every Hard Rock lover's collection.
Anybody who's ever listened to the first three Blue Oyster Cult albums will surely tell you that the band themselves sound so fresh and alive. And that's a fully supported fact. Fully supported by the band's extremely blues-influenced self-titled début, the more mysterious yet much faster follow up, and the almost progressive ( In comparison to the previous two albums, certainly) 'Secret Treaties'. It is with the second of these three aforementioned records, 'Tyranny and Mutation', that the band came fully into their own, and produced some truly impressive tunes. Of course, if, like me, you're slightly bemused by the album cover (which wouldn't seem out of place on an Escher painting!), you'll probably be 'expecting the unexpected' anyway.
Even though the band began writing the songs for 'Tyranny...' midway through the tour of their first album, it wasn't actually released until the tour had ended. In a year where Alice Cooper was recording their last album as an actual band, Black Sabbath was still making astoundingly heavy music, and Pink Floyd was making arguably the defining album of their entire career, it's no surprise that Blue Oyster Cult's intelligently written music was overshadowed. Certainly the band had more than just a pinch of Blues incorporated into their brand of Hard Rock, as evident on the first album, but just over six months later they were getting heavier, faster and even a little bit 'creepier'. Read the lyrics and it won't take much convincing to realise why I used that superlative.
It's obvious from the opening guitar rumble of 'The Red and the Black' (basically another version of 'I'm on the Lamb but I ain't no Sheep' from the band's first album) that the band waste no time in making their innovative music known to the world. Within mere seconds the band seem even more alive than on their predecessor, and it's not just the guitar work that seems to play its part well: The bass, drums and well rehearsed vocal talents of each member of the band. Wait a minute, every member of the band is taking part in singing each song? Yes, they certainly are. That's just how original BOC was in the 70's.
The album continues in fine fashion, of course, and most notably on the swirling, mesmerizing '7 screaming Dizbusters', with its spiralling keyboard melodies and groovy guitar solos literally dominating the song wherever they can. It's true that the band had not one, not two, but three (!) guitarists , one of which was primarily used as an expansion for the band's use of power chords and strong song introduction. Even on the slightly-more-melodic-than-usual 'Wings wetted Down', with its slow-moving atmosphere and well controlled tempos, the band exercise each of their respective instruments in fine fashion.
Yes, the band have got heavier and faster with 'Tyranny...', but that doesn't mean to say they have fully ditched the psychedelic influences that made their first album the gem it is. On such keyboard-led numbers as the groovy 'OD'd on Life itself' and the equally as mystical closer 'Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl), the band use each of their instruments to represent their idea of mysterious music, albeit music that is fully backed up with the well executed drum work, solid guitars and rumbling bass, the latter of which is very audible throughout every song indeed.
You're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned anything distinctly negative so far, and the reason for that is, well, there isn't anything negative here at all. That is, if you love the band. If you have heard the band's earlier work and not found it satisfying in any way, 'Tyranny...' may not interest you in the slightest. Some tracks are ever so slightly weaker than others, in particular the very simplistic 'Hot Rails to Hell', sporting some impressive yet predictable guitar riffs here, there and everywhere. But this is merely depending on whether you like the band or not. And let's face it, few have ever complained about the band's earlier songs ever since they hit the charts in the early 70's.
What you should take in from listening to 'Tyranny...' is the fact that the band's performance makes you feel fully invigorated and alive, as they never really let up on anything on here. The second album by Blue Oyster Cult, and indeed the second of such a significant trio of albums, 'Tyranny and Mutation' succeeds in the way that even bigger bands such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin succeeded with their respective albums. Bottom line is, if you don't already own this album and love 70's hard rock, you really should get it straight away.