Review Summary: Ladies and gentlemen, may I present you...the best Queen album. Also the only Queen album without filler.
1974 was the year for Queen. Having released their second album (Queen II) and having archieved chart success with the Seven Seas Of Rhye single in the UK, it seems like the band was finally getting some recognition. Determined to explore the techniques of recording like they had never done before, Queen entered the studio in July 1974 to record what would be their mainstream breakthrough.
This album is probably Queen's strongest release ever, and unlike the other albums that would follow up, Sheer Heart Attack doesn't rely on filler of any kind to give us a 13 song tracklist.
The album focuses a lot on guitar driven tracks, from the 5 minute opener "Brighton Rock" to the powerful "Now I'm Here". A handful of songs (like the m just mentioned two) make heavy use of guitar delays and overdubbings, adding speed and edgyness to the tracks. "Brighton Rock", for example, opens with Freddie and Roger singing some conversational verses about two lovers who can't be with each other, and then all instruments slowly start to stop for Brian May's three minute guitar solo to burst in. This solo is worth of mention, as it's a three minute drive of of Brian's Red Special overlayering and echoing itself.
This album also features some amazing piano work, with Freddie showing off his skills in tracks such as "Killer Queen" or "In The Lap Of The Gods...Revisited". Vocals on the album are virtually perfect, like in the vicious cruelty of "Flick Of The Wrist" or the twisted ending of "In The Lap Of The Gods", in wich Freddie uses studio technology to makes his voice sound lower and slower. Even Roger Taylor's vocals are sublime on his only song of the album "Tenement Funster".
The production is very meticulously crafted here, helping each song to sound unique and with life on its own. Even the short Deacon written "Misfire" gets a fine polished intro and guitar work. A lot of echo techniques and overlappings were used, for example, in "Now I'm Here", where Freddie's voice at the start of the song jumps from one speaker to the other while announcing "but you won't see me", and then on the other speaker "now i'm here", genuinely giving the effect of someone moving to different places in the same big room at a great speed.
Each song also benefits from a wide spectrum of urban sound, from the wind sounds used in "In The Lap Of The Gods" to the police sirens and traffic sounds of "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper In Stilettos)".
We get all of the genres Queen would later merge into their trademark sound: there is hard rock on "Brighton Rock" and "Now I'm Here", brutal heavy songs like "Flick Of The Wrist", slower and minimalistic piano ballads such as "Lily Of The Valley" and "Dear Friends", piano driven pop pieces such as "Killer Queen", sped-up songs like "Stone Cold Crazy", apocalyptic chorus-based song such as "In The Lap Of The Gods...Revisited" or jokey songs like "Bring Back That Leroy Brown". It must be made clear that "In The Lap Of The Gods" and "In The Lap Of The Gods...Revisited" don't share much musical characteristics.
So, to conclude, Sheer Heart Attack is without a doubt Queen's finest hour, including some hits as well as unknown wonders. Astonishing production and fierce instrument performance.
BRIGHTON ROCK: 10 / 10
KILLER QUEEN: 9 / 10
TENEMENT FUNSTER: 9 / 10
FLICK OF THE WRIST: 10 / 10
LILY OF THE VALLEY: 8 / 10
NOW I'M HERE: 9.75 / 10
IN THE LAP OF THE GODS: 9 / 10
STONE COLD CRAZY: 8.50 / 10
DEAR FRIENDS: 7 / 10
MISFIRE: 7.25 / 10
BRING BACK THAT LEROY BROWN: 8 / 10
SHE MAKES ME (STORMTROOPER IN STILETTOES): 9 / 10
IN THE LAP OF THE GODS...REVISITED: 10 / 10