HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

On Earth As It Is In Heaven (Lovember)

Angel's third album, in CD form, has been quite the collectible over the years, and here it is freshly reissued on an upstart of an LA label that has also addressed Spread Eagle's excellent and cocksure debut album. The distortion and lack of bass of my original (frankly, probably worn out) vinyl has been Lovemberingly corrected, but there's not much one can do with the rest of the controversial noise that characterized Eddie Kramer's eccentric knob-job on this 1977 semi-classic. Semi? Well, the short perspective, Angel and Helluva band were flat-out landmark records, and now Angel was writing shorter, less proggy, poppier songs. Still, what chemistry and performances and yes, production (weird as it is), and there are essentially four proto-metal slammers here. Missing is the cool poster that played up the idea of the ingenious invertible logo (read exactly the same upside-down), but to make up for it, the booklet is info-packed, beginning with an essay by noted metal journo Dave Reynolds, then track by track notes by vocalist and spokesman to this day, Frank Dimino, followed by photos courtesy of Rich Galbraith, whose archive of similar era shots is legion (Want more? My Ye Olde Metal: 1977 book includes a 22 page chapter on this album - plus more of Rich's work). In conclusion, yeah, glorious, opulent album cover, but as we unwrapped 'er as 14-year-olds, considerable disappointment. And now? I love the thing, because the pop we hated then now plays more like syrupy Sweet crossed with Queen.
Rating 8.5

Cheat The Gallows (Custard)

Big Elf are one of those bands that never quite operated in the metal mainstream, or any standard biz model for that matter. And fact is, they are too bold, too great, too hugely under-rated, and just too, too much with the talent shooting off like fireworks for most to deal with. From the past, you might call upon that strangely hyped and cult band Jellyfish for a comparative, or Nudeswirl, I Love You, Liquid Jesus, Jane's Addiction, King's X, The Big F (!), Enuff Znuff, Masters Of Reality, Saigon Kick, The Tea Party... man, and only bits of those (OK, lots of I Love You). In the here and now, they have most in common with Hammers Of Misfortune in freakfest "slake of the Gods' chalice" style, and with Opeth and Porcupine Tree in skill, creativity and importance. Loosely, imagine if Sabbath circa '73 and '75 drew in a huge Queen influence and Roy Thomas Baker, and then Ozzy convinced the rest of the guys to let fly with the band's (well, mostly his) love of Beatles melodies. It's sick, the idea of giving this thing a 10, but it can't be faulted anywhere on any count. The production (and the texturing inside it) is one of the best and most complicated you will ever hear. The songs are hugely ambitious but not at all proggy, if that's possible, although Pink Floyd trippiness is part and parcel of the band's vibe. I dunno, incredibly, Big Elf have been like this for a few albums now, but against Cheat The Gallows, I can only think of one other album that evokes the same sense of an insanely impassioned record making session with one mission in mind, to make the greatest rock album ever, and that would be Queen toiling away on their similarly monumental first.
Rating 10

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