Review Summary: An epic underground progressive Aussie record of the 70s
Most of us when we look for quality albums of the 70s, we search mainly the US and UK market and at a lesser degree the general European scene. What we must not forget and keep in mind is the Australian scene of the specific decade, since it was during that period that rock music started to form at that part of the world.Undeniably the 1970s are full of great albums. Most of them all already known and have gained the proper respect and recognition. However, no one should under-estimate the quality of the so-called ‘undiscovered’ ones because many of them possess that genuine sound that either will make your hair stand on end or leave you completely untouched. The former happens to be the case with Blackfeather’s ‘’At the Mountain of Madness’’, an album that if it’s not recommended to you, there is no chance you’ll hear it as long as you live. I will be honest here: it took me sometime to understand how good this album really is and maybe a lot may feel exactly the same so before rushing on conclusions give it some good listening.
The ‘ingredients’ of this prog album are the simple formula of: the average-to-low recordings, the narration by the vocalist who is trying to set the scene for a song, the catchy riffs and nice melodies, the lengthy songs (which most of the time is just jamming with guitar solos flying here and there), and the hit song that charted for a while in those days. If you like these characteristics then you should really give it a try.
The album starts with the self-titled song in which Neale Johns (vocalist) by having a gloomy atmosphere in the background tries to portray the scenery of the Mountain of Madness:
[..]''and at the edge of the forest I met an old man selling apples.
- ‘’Is it far’’" I asked. He shook his head and handed me an apple.
- ‘’Just eat this’’ he said with a smile in his eye […]
[..]‘’And suddenly I woke and everything around me had changed. I looked up, and I knew I was there, at the mountain of madness.’’
Undoubtedly, this is not the best narrative you’ve ever heard in a song but you have to realize that this is something that was tried 40 years ago, a bit innovative for those days. The narration takes up about half of the song’s time and as soon as it finishes Alex Kash makes his introduction with an up-tempo snare play just to be accompanied with Robinson’s frenzy guitar riff, continuing like this until the end of the song.
‘’On this day that I die’’ is a normal-paced tempo song with a melancholic aura accompanying it. Nice change of the pattern at an early stage, with the clean chords fitting great to the lyrics (’’I couldn’t stand it anymore’’ […]) and with the fill on the drums another sign of good musicianship is becoming apparent. The guitar’s solo is simple and loose enough to fit to the overall song’s picture.
The next song appearing is ‘’Seasons of Change’’ the epic anthem that broke into the charts where it reached #15 nationally. Having the same tempo as the previous two, the flute and the violin are the instruments that add color to the song and help it sound very melodic. However, I had found the bass lines of Leith Corbett the highlight here, while the catchy refrain and rhythmic lines make the song unforgettable.
It has to be noted that guitar has not been very active up to this point of the album. There were some good moments but nothing very special. This however changes as soon as the inaugural notes of ‘’Mangos Theme’’ unfold. It’s a creepy, eastern-sound riff by John Robinson which shows his creative abilities. Violin plays again a vital role to the whole song as it continues the melody at the point where the guitar leaves it and at a point the two merge and create an epic jamming.
‘’Long Legged Lovely’’ could easily be the second single of the album. Another powerful guitar melody starts with the song and soon after a couple of minutes of lyrics the jamming starts again. In the meantime, Johns fills the instrumental section with some mumbling, and bass plays excellently some groovy lines. Tempo is slightly increased at a point and drums play whatever is necessary only. The song ends with the opening memorable guitar melody.
Album ends with ‘’The Rat (Suite)’’ a versatile song which actually constitutes of five parts:
‘’- Main Title (The Rat)’’
‘’- The Trap’’
‘’- Spanish Blues’’
‘’- Blazwaorden (Land Of Dreams)"
‘’- Finale (The Rat)"
Full of bluesy solos and chunky riffs, the adventurous song provides the listener with some likeable moments. Tempo is changed many times and according to the phase which is in. I believe this is the song where the individual skills of the band are shown extensively.
Overall, I found the ‘’Mountain’’ a simple album with good prospects for a band that if it continued to produce albums some day they would become very big. With a very pure and raw sound they approach the songs a bit cautiously and it is understandable that the guys have some skills; they just needed to develop it more.