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Black Bonzo: Sound of the Apocalypse

Nothing here you haven't heard before––this Swedish quintet treads paths paved by the likes of Gentle Giant, Genesis and Yes round about the time that Freddie Mercury was strutting the boards with unparalleled flamboyance. But there's a difference between merely treading the path and respecting the earth upon which it was paved and the latter proves something that these cats exceed at, along with aligning themselves with the Good Vibes, radiating positive love junk and all that hippie jazz. The opening "Thorns Upon A Crown" features a retro organ freak out that will have you racing for your ELP and Uriah Heep records faster than you can say Magician's Birthday. The aptly-titled "Giant Games" and "Ageless Door" offer up more of the same, though the latter sees the quintet departing from charted terrain with a boogie so bodacious you have no choice but to feel the breeze of the Allmans at the Fillmore or Deep Purple at its zenith with its arms entwined with Queen. (Also dig the lead guitar work on the penultimate "Iscariot.") The closing epic, titular cut demonstrates that Black Bonzo has done its collective homework and if we're all really good girls and (more likely) boys, the lads from the land of the Midnight Sun will continue to be good to us for a long, long time to come. Believe the hype.

Track Listing
1. Thorns Upon A Crown
2. Giant Games
3. Yesterday's Friends
4. The Well
5. Intermission: Revelation Song
6. Ageless Door
7. Iscariot
8. Sound of the Apocalypse

Added: October 13th 2007
Reviewer: Jedd Beaudoin
Related Link: The Laser's Edge
Hits: 3379
Language: english

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Black Bonzo: Sound of the Apocalypse
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-10-13 10:52:37
My Score:

I have not heard Black Bonzo's debut album Lady of the Light, but what I've read about it indicates their new record, released on Laser's Edge, expands on the same style, blending lots of vintage keyboard work with 70's hard rock and expressive vocal melodies.

Provided that you don't expect anything original, Sound of the Apocalypse is a very strong effort. It immediately brings to mind the great bands of the 70's, such as Deep Purple, ELP, Yes, and Uriah Heep to name a few, and proves that the members of Black Bonzo are big fans of the genre. After playing this album through several times, I was reminded of Presto Ballet a bit, except that this disc rests more on the hard rock spectrum while Presto Ballet is slightly more prog rock-oriented. With a heavy use of Mellotron, Hammond, and Moog sounds, the first track "Thorns Upon a Crown" could immediately be associated with Uriah Heep, especially because of Nicklas Ahlund's searing keyboard solo and the more rhythm-conscious guitar work.

The vocal melody of "Giant Games" seems like it was inspired by Alice Cooper's early 70's releases, much the same way as Savatage incorporated some of that influence on their mid-90's releases as well as Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Vocalist Magnus Lindgren has a very fitting tone to the music, and occasionally recalls vocal gods like Peter Gabriel and Jon Anderson, though more in the way he sings than tonally. It may be his theatrical style of singing why I liken him to Alice Cooper in that respect.

Guitarist Joakim Karlsson's work sounds terrific, especially on the Beatles-flavoured "Yesterday's Friends", which has a great guitar theme in its intro. It is somewhat Floydian-sounding in that is comprised of stretched notes that lend it a slightly pyschedelic feel, but as the wonderfully melodic chorus kicks in the song transforms into its more comfortable rock sound. "The Well" bridges the band's two leanings in a single composition: its first half is a nod to classic rock with the occasional sizzling keyboards behind the poppy vocals, while the second half sees them building a thick thread of vintage prog rock a la Norway's Magic Pie -- the keyboard work here is stunning yielding a dense atmosphere.

Folky flute and mandolin-like acoustic guitar sounds abound on the very short "Intermission - Revelation Song", which strangely reminds me of the material heard on Pallas' most recent album. From here on, the band shift into heavier territory with "Ageless Door", a fast-paced Deep Purple-tinged rock song that boasts plenty of analogue synths and a cool bluesy guitar solo at the end. This one comes as a surprise considering most of the guitar and keyboard work generates a more riff-based texture through the album, as tracks like "Iscariot" and the opening track will highlight best.

The title track is over twelve minutes, and the album's most atmospheric statement in that it touches on a plethora of styles from early Genesis' laidback moments to Gentle Giant's idiosyncratic arrangements and Uriah Heep's more rock-flavoured progressive side.

This is a remarkable piece of work that embodies the strongest aspects of the 70's with cool progressive elements. Don't look for anything new when listening to Sound of the Apocalypse and you won't be disappointed.

Black Bonzo: Sound of the Apocalypse
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-07-23 07:15:02
My Score:

Sweden's Black Bonzo return with their follow-up to the excellent Lady of the Light with the equally stunning Sound of the Apocalypse. This go 'round though the band concentrates a little bit more on the prog element and tones down the hard rock/Uriah Heep influence just a tad. Here, we see the Swede's reminding us what was so great about bands like Gentle Giant ("Giant Games"), Yes ("Thorns Upon a Crown"), England ("Yesterday's Friends), as well as Deep Purple & Uriah Heep ("Ageless Door"). As opposed to their debut, the sound here is less reliant on the 70's, as more modern prog touches start to creep in, but don't get to distressed, there's plenty of wonderful Mellotron, Hammond, & Moog stuff flying around to keep all you retro heads happy. Magnus Lindgren's vocals are awesome yet again-his passionate yet mysterious delivery on "Yesterdays Friends" floats around the mix, cutting through the haze of Melllotron and nimble guitar lines from Joakim Karlsson. Though you can begin to hear a certain Flower Kings aura on some of these tracks, there's no denying that these guys still adore their Uriah Heep/Deep Purple/Iron Butterfly/Atomic Rooster/Vanilla Fudge tricks, most evident on "The Wall" and the hard rocker "Ageless Door", and they even throw a little Jethro Tull at you on "Intermission-Revelation Song". Plenty of wild keyboard flavors are present on the surging Gentle Giant influenced "Iscariot", while the 13 minute title track is a lush, symphonic affair that recalls early Genesis in its first half, then morphs into a wild Gentle Giant meets Uriah Heep rocker with plenty of venom.

In short, this is a band that seemingly can do no wrong, and are one of the few modern prog bands keeping alive some of the beloved sounds of the 70's scene that many of us miss so much. Highly recommended!

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