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Flaming Fire: When the High Bell Rings

Not sure what to make of this slice of weirdness. On one hand, When the High Bell Rings, the third album from New Jersey's Flaming Fire, plays like a theatrical, avant-garde rock opera, complete with a multitude of vocalists (male and female) and musicians. Upon repeated spins it comes across simply as an adventurous trip into 60's psychedelia, sort of like a bastard offspring of Arthur Brown, The Go-Go's, Meat Loaf, and Aphrodite's Child. Either way you look at it, the music here is off the wall, with not a hint of commerciality whatsover, and that alone should make this appealing to a select group of listeners. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see these guys in the near future at home with a label like ReR Megacorp, the current kings of all that is avant-garde in the world of progressive music. Silly Bird Records (how appropriate) is their current label however. Featuring many layers of female vocals, spoken and sung, and the somewhat narrative male vocals of band mastermind Patrick Hambrecht, this album is pretty vocal rich, relying more on that aspect and keeping the instrumentation sparse save for plenty of percussion, keyboard blips 'n' bleeps, and the occasional vibes and guitars. Things work best when they combine dark avant-garde with an upbeat pop vibe, as on "Fog Machine", a song that for a second almost reminded me of The Go-Go's, except that it of course was much more "out there" and experimental. The tribal sounding "Khar Shabi" is an interesesting piece, with some ominous chanting and percussion, and "The Moon" is full blown, keyboard/effects laced psychedelia. Then again, hints of Frank Zappa or Arthur Brown can be heard on the raucous "Farmer Wolf", a pretty bizarre number that somehow works in a strange way. Apparently these guys are a trip in a live setting, and I can sort of see how this music would go over better in that environment than on CD, where much of their theatricality, makeup, costumes, etc., is sort of lost. If you like avant-garde music with a psychedelic and pop vibe, give this a try, but if you like your music focused and with a sense of purpose (or perhaps melodic) better stay clear.

Track Listing

  1. High Bell
  2. Farmer Wolf
  3. Astral Traveler
  4. Dark Night
  5. Satellite
  6. The Stars That Burn
  7. 10 Days
  8. Shout
  9. Fog Machine
  10. Lemon Isis
  11. Khar Shabi
  12. The Moon

Added: December 31st 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Flaming Fire Website
Hits: 3586
Language: english

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Flaming Fire: When the High Bell Rings
Posted by Kerry Leimer, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-12-31 10:05:52
My Score:

A sort of Flying Teapot for the lord, When the High Bell Rings isn't so much genre-defying as the press release urges you to think as it is a hybrid of the whole non-genre genre that might trace all the way back to Wild Man Fischer and the GTOs (both old time Zappa protgs) the charming navete of The Shaggs, on out to the space-whispering good witch in Gong's Angels Egg with bits of the Stooges, Mothers of Invention, and a flank of Blue Oyster Cult marinated with Ensemble Nimbus. So, with frankly nothing left to defy, let's set the aside cap-g grandeur that defiance conjures and settle on the less emotional eclectic instead.

As such, the music itself is wide open to varied instrumentation, sounds, approaches and techniques, going for and sustaining an unapologetic sort of fervor in both thought and execution that improves upon the decidedly less fluid and more laid back free association right down to their still curious folk inflections of any pre-Wolf City Amon Dl II. Unlike Dl, quantity here seems key, as things remain densely voiced, frantically paced, and tirelessly urgent about something. Perhaps it's the end of the world, seemingly given its latest countdown in 10 Days, a decidedly shorter and more cataclysmic span than Bowie's now prescient Five Years. Flaming Fire is here less to observe and more to help any and all believers over the edge for a stage-show enactment of the long-awaited yet still waiting apocalypse to quote Alex in Clockwork Orange, "You are invited!"

While not even vaguely as dour, literal and self-obsessed as much faith influenced music, When the High Bell Rings exhibits something of a fight against its own tangle of impulses and ideas. The often hysterical, bellicose psychedelic posture that results will undoubtably be seen as its singular strength. Which it in fact is. (FYI: Yes, Astral Traveler, spelled both ways on the cover, is indeed a cover of the Yes song).

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