- Rock, Progressive Rock
- Buy the CD
Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez
The quartet’s Cheat the Gallows might be their new release, but its potent mix of Big Muff-kissed guitars, reverb-drenched vocals, and Ian Pace-like organs screams 1971. When an analog-rich track like “The Evils of Rock and Roll” comes blaring out of your speakers, your first instinct is to start air guitar or drumming; whatever your virtual weapon of choice might be. Frontman Damon Fox has a powerful enough voice, but his keyboard work is the revelation here. Fox’s organ runs on songs like “Superstar” and “Hydra” add an earthiness that is sorely missed in most current rock releases. The carnival-styled introduction to the album on opener “Gravest Show On Earth” sets the tone, and from that point on, it’s a powerful union between Fox’s keyboards and Ace Mark’s muscular guitar riffs.
In a perfect world, the album’s leadoff single, “Money, It’s Pure Evil,” would be playlisted right alongside the Black Crowes and Cream on classic rock radio one day. The expansive track channels the honeyed vocal harmonies of Dark Side of the Moon-era Pink Floyd into the type of anthem tailor-made for arena-sized crowds. There’s a timeless touch to the song; even among the rest of the excellent tunes, it stands out a little more. Hopefully it can be included in a future edition of “Guitar Hero,” because it’s doubtful the track will otherwise get to reach the huge crowds it deserves.
With so much revisionism going on, it would have been easy for Bigelf to get lost in the motions. But they never sacrifice their songwriting smarts for the obvious and kitschy posturing many of their similarly ‘70s-obsessed peers do (Cathedral, I’m looking right at you). Whatever the formula is, Bigelf have it down. Every single song has a gigantic chorus and there are enough surprising nuances to keep even the most attention-deficient listener engaged. If Cheat the Gallows had a Harvest Records logo stamped on the back of its jacket and this was 30 years ago, the band would have a hit in its hands. Sadly, they’ll have to settle for underground buzz for now.