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(54:06 / The Laser's Edge Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Thorns Upon a Crown 6:51 2. Giant Games 5:56 3. Yesterdays Friends 7:07 4. The Well 6:16 5. Intermission: Revelation Song 1:59 6. Ageless Door 5:23 7. Iscariot 7:22 8. Sound of the Apocalypse 13:02 LINEUP: Joakim Karlsson - el. & ac. guitars; flute Nicklas Ahlund - keyboards Magnus Lundgren - vocals Anthon Johansson - bass Mike Israel - drums
Prolusion. As the press kit says, BLACK BONZO was formed in 2003 from the ashes of Gypsy Sons Of Magic, a Swedish octet who used to play Psychedelic Rock. "Sound of the Apocalypse" is a successor to the band's debut album "Lady of the Light" from 2004.
Analysis. Kansas! Don't take this as a false start: This is now the third time running that I must invoke Kansas so as to call things by their right names, but that's how things are. Okay, that's how I see them, and I appreciate this release in many ways as another testimony of the American band's influence on you know what. Black Bonzo cite a wide variety of hard rock and sympho prog outfits (whose names have been on everybody's lips since the magnificent '70s, all being exclusively from the UK) as their inspiration: too many to list here, but especially since only one of them, namely Jethro Tull, seems to be quoted noticeably. One way or another the predominant influence is IMHO Kansas, no matter that the factor is more often implicit than striking and that violin is never part of the instrumentation. Black Bonzo most of the time very successfully avoid sounding derivative, and the only time they cross over the line and appear as a complete parody is the track about to be named. Though supplied with the title of Revelation Song, this short flute-laden piece will not be a revelation to anyone, as it's a direct borrowing from Jethro Tull. The stunningly progressive Hard Rock, The Well, is another track that, instead of detailing which, I'd suggest to you to recollect Sweet's "Fanny Adams" to get an idea of it, and I believe most of you will agree with me that the approach guitarist Joakim Karlsson demonstrates here is often nearly identical to Andy Scott. Vocalist Magnus Lundgren would be the most original voice in this action as long as regards timbre, while his way of singing ranges from Steve Walsh to Ian Anderson to Trent Gardner (particularly within the bridges with 'harmony' vocals) and even Paul McCartney, such as on Yesterdays Friends. With plenty of reflective, yet always clever arrangements, this is the most delicate-sounding song, as also would've been the 13-minute title number if its mid-section hadn't been both as variegated and complicated as it is. Now it's finally the turn of what I often present to you as the album's prevalent picture and which in this particular case embraces half of the tracks present, namely Thorns Upon a Crown, Giant Games, Ageless Door and Iscariot. Featuring growling Hammond alongside Mellotron and grand piano, all courtesy of Nicklas Ahlund, the sound is strikingly retro, combining the power of Kansas (at their heaviest, like That's On My Mind from "Leftoverture" as an example) with the bombastic grandeur of Jethro Tull circa "Thick As a Brick", though the songs' construction as such reminds me of Magellan, Estadium Nacionale from "Impending Ascension" coming to mind along with the term Stadium Rock. The fact is that Black Bonzo are guided by the more vocals-oriented side of classic Symphonic Progressive, whose connection to the American branch of the genre is somewhat stronger than to the one they offer their potential listeners as being cast in stone. Several brief instrumental interludes appear on each of those four compositions, but the vocals always receive an apt support from the players, so despite some obvious repeats the music doesn't bore me even after a few successive listens.
Conclusion. This recording well reflects its makers' skilful ability to craft songs that are both accessible and very interesting. Overall, this is an excellent effort by very talented musicians that should appeal to everyone who is ready to join an army of those who're still eager to hear an honest '70s sound - aren't you one of them?
VM: October 29, 2007
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