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Bigelf: Into The Maelstrom

Much has changed in the world of Bigelf since their hailed 2008 (or depending on where in the world you reside, 2009) album Cheat The Gallows. In fact so much that many wondered if Into The Maelstrom would really be Bigelf at all. Main man Damon Fox remains, as does bassist Duffy Snowhill, while guitarist Luis Maldonado has been added to their number alongside the almost omnipresent drummer supreme Mike Portnoy. The latter it would appear being a major player in ensuring the Bigelf story continues. What hasn't changed however is the style, attack, madness and standard of what Fox and his band have created, with Into The Maelstrom continuing to marry crunching guitars, supreme melodies, and a sprinkling of psychedelic weirdness to progressive ideals. Many bands attempt this type of amalgam but few achieve the sublime blending created here.

Fox always sounds like he's veering close to lunacy and with a cleverly introspective tale of time travel through self examination of the past and the future, the opportunity to continue down that path presents itself often. It's no surprise that he doesn't refuse the invitation. Neither is it much of a shock that his musical backing can be equally unhinged, yet stunningly focused. Few bands can really site comparisons to the Beatles, King Crimson, Black Sabbath and even Hawkwind on one album; that Bigelf can do so consistently from song to song is impressive indeed.

"Incredible Time Machine" hits out in great style, stabs of keyboards underpinning stop start riffs of gigantic proportions and drumming which is equally exuberant, if less all consuming than much of Portnoy's work. However it is the manner in which this is all woven together through tempo changes and variances in intensity, which grabs the attention. "Alien Frequency" breaks out the acoustic guitar to head right back to the sixties, keyboard effects quickly jolting things into the seventies, a mighty riff reinforcing the era, if significantly altering the vibe. "Edge Of Oblivion" keeps you on the edge of your seat, never quite relaxing into what could, in less skilled hands, become straight forward, tired themes. Instead the results swirl and tear across numerous ideas, although it is the epic, multi-part "ITM" which does the best job of encapsulating the intentions behind this collection of songs, possessing slow building sections intersected with swathes of melodic release, grandiose keyboards, and guitar and bass combinations which entrance, while instilling fear in equal amounts.

Dare you venture Into The Maelstrom? It may drive you crazy but you'd mad not to!


Track Listing
1. Incredible Time Machine
2. Hypersleep
3. Already Gone
4. Alien Frequency
5. The Professor & The Madman
6. Mr. Harry McQuhae
7. Vertigod
8. Control Freak
9. High
10. Edge of Oblivion
11. Theater of Dreams
12. ITM: I. Destination Unknown / II. Harbinger Of Death / III. Memories

Added: March 22nd 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Bigelf Online
Hits: 1791
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Bigelf: Into The Maelstrom
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-03-22 08:09:24
My Score:

Hard to believe it's been roughly 5 years since we've seen a new album from the wacky Bigelf camp, but considering all the changes that have gone on with the group in that span it really shouldn't be any surprise. Here we are in 2014 and Damon Fox has emerged with a new look band, as he and returning bassist Duffy Snowhill are joined by new guitarist Luis Maldonado and drum legend Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater/ex-Adrenaline Mob/Transatlantic/Winery Dogs) for this spirited new release Into the Maelstrom.

Bigelf has long been one of the most unique acts out there, and Into the Maelstrom shows that not much has changed in that regard. Mixing influences like The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Black Sabbath, Atomic Rooster, David Bowie, Hawkwind, and King Crimson, they throw everything at the listener but the kitchen sink. "Hypersleep" pummels with heavy, doom laden riffing and ominous Mellotron, while "Incredible Time Machine" hits hard with stoner rock power chords and plenty of catchy vocal hooks. Portnoy for his part lends some real virtuoso drumming here, giving Bigelf's normally heavy bottom end even more oomph as well as added technicality. Fox as always lays down a wide array of sounds & textures with Hammond Organ, Mellotron, synths, as well as most of the rhythm guitar on the album. Other highlights include the catchy "Already Gone", the charming quirkiness of "Alien Frequency", the hook laden prog lullaby "The Professor & the Madman", the Beatles-meets-Deep Purple majesty of "Vertigod", and the haunting, epic title track, complete with some creepy Mellotron and lots of heavy riffs.

All I can really say to end this review is, welcome back guys! This is easily one of 2014's early highlights.



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