Friday, January 14, 2011

Primevil "Smokin' Bats at Campton's"

So after writing the previous Truth and Janey review, I decided that I'd continue on this little tour of the "Old Heavy" of the American Midwest and talk a little about this very obscure little monster called Primevil.   These Midwestern stoners hailed from Indiana and put out "Smokin' Bats at Campton's" in 1974 as a limited edition private pressing.  I see that it has now been rereleased on Radio-Active records and is available on cd.   Don't know much about these guys, but they definitely seemed to have a sense of humor.  On the album cover underneath Primevil, it says  "baddest band what am" and Dave Campton is credited with Vocals as well as Electric Chair.

Musically, after starting off like a late 60's acoustic hippy psyche trip, things start to rock with tight fully modern 70's riffing, sounding kind of southern rockish fueled with a couple shots of Leafhound.
By the second song, "Progress", we're undeniably kickin' it 70's style with high octane bluesy grooves.
Things lag a bit with "Fantasies" which is a lightweight instrumental ballad that I tend to skip over despite the nice guitar soloing.  "Pretty Woman" ratchets things back up, sounding like a southern rock version of Buffalo,  Campton's vocals reminding me especially of Dave Tice.   In fact a lot of this is record brings to mind "Only Want You For Your Body"-era Buffalo.


The high and tight riffing continues for 3 of the 4 remaining songs.  "Tell Me If You Can"  rocking mightily into  a stoned space out jam in the middle.  "Hey Lover" and "High Steppin' Stomper" both showcasing the bands wacky sense of humor.  The former sounding like a twisted atonal Doobie Brothers as done by Buffalo (it is actually a very cool tune, even though my description maybe doesn't make it sound like it).  And "High Steppin' Stomper" utilizing actual stomping to help drive it through the verse.  The album closes with "Your Blues," which is exactly what you might think it is - a straight ahead slow blues.  This one's a little too far into "blues jam"-land for me.  It's pretty tame and really is a bit pedestrian.  If they had taken it up a notch, like Taste's "Catfish Blues," then it would've been greatness.  But alas...

In the end, you've got 6 of 8 solid rockers, with 4 of those fueled by genuine first class riffage.  That's as good a percentage as you get on a lot of records from the 70's.

Riff Density- 7
Riff Caliber- 8
Post Blues Factor- 8
Groove Factor- 8
Dig It-8

Truth and Janey "Erupts" 1976

This obscure smoldering slab of molten rock came hurtling through the 70's worm hole from the great American Midwest, Iowa, to be exact, thanks to the Rock and Roll archaeology of Monster Records, who released this live recording for the first time in 2004.  Truth and Janey, one of a handful of heavy rock shoulda beens from the Midwest (Granicus, Energy and Primevil to name a few others),  were a short lived power trio consisting of Billy Janey on guitar,  Steve Bock, bass, and Denis Bunce on the drums.  They released a couple of singles and a self-financed limited pressing of the full length LP studio recording "No Rest For The Wicked", all of which has since been rereleased on Monster Records. Erupts is a recording of a blistering live performance of the band recorded April 8, 1976 at the Col Ballroom in Davenport, Iowa.

Sweet Firebird, Billy!

"Birth to the Heart"

This is unapologetic, long-haired, Dashiki-wearin' rock and roll that is equal parts Hendrix, Robin Trower and Cactus mixed with a bit of Prog and a bit of 70's FM radio rock.  Sonically, for a low budget live recording, this sounds pretty good.  There are some spots where the guitar disappears, but overall, it's a very urgent and exciting recording with a slammin' overdriven Ampeg bass sound that powers this entire beast from below (I don't think he's actually playing through an Ampeg based on what I can see in pictures, but it's got that type of sound).    Like Grand Funk but nastier.  The guitar sounds are also beautifully fuzzy and filthy, with nary a clean guitar to be found.  This record sounds like they were just absolutely cranked live.  Must've been like that old Memorex (or was it Maxell) ad where your hair is blown back by the sheer weight of the sound if you were standing in front of the stage for this gig.  Musically, the songs are quite complex structurally, with lots of changes and different sections.  A lot of the grooves are of the funkier Robin Trower or Energy/Tommy Bolin vibe. Often the verse/chorus sections linger in the pop rock world and then they bust into some heavier instrumental sections.  One of my favorite things about this record is the tendency on most songs to break down into a hard-as-nails vamp section, a la ZZ Top, for Billy Janey to unleash some guitar wizardry over.

The album starts with a dark, menacing guitar cadenza that breaks into the chugging, churning "No Rest for the Wicked."  "Birth to the Heart," the second song is one of the best jams of the set.  It's got a slow, funky groove, kind of Energy/Trower-ish that eventually leads to one of the aformentioned breakdown/vamp sections with some bitchin' soloing.  This song, like many Truth and Janey songs, has extended sections where they're just grooving on a string of riffs.  "Universal Light" fluctuates between heavy riffing and radio friendly "deep cuts" rock before devolving into an elephantine bass groove/guitar solo ending.  This pretty much remains the modus operandi for the rest of the record - alternation of some pretty heavy riffing, FM rock verses/choruses, and monstrous vamps.  So, basically, if you're not digging the poppy verses, hang with it, because the bottom'll drop out and you'll soon find yourself immersed in high voltage fuzzy goodness.
The eight minute "Tunnel of Tomorrow" is another of my faves, detouring into Budgie-like greasy bass vamp-land a couple minutes in and staying there for  a long time before breaking into a proto-NWOBHM gallop to finish it off.  Also worthy of mention is the ZZ Top boogie of "White Bread", complete with, you guessed it, a ZZ Top style solo vamp.  The fiery version the Mississippi John Hurt song "Ain't No Tellin" is the only cover song on the album.

The playing of all three guys is wicked and the communication between them perfect.  Clearly they're used to lots of jamming together.  There are loads of intense, fanatical Cactus-like moments throughout with powerful drumming and Bogert-Geezer bass gymnastics underneath.  

There are some times where the vocals aren't quite making it, which must be forgiven in a live recording, but can be distracting from the greatness.  Both Janey and Steve Bock handle lead vocal duties.  I'm not sure who is singing what, but on some of the bluesier songs, the vocals are more of a Leslie West style and sound killer.  The songs that more melodically complex are the songs that don't quite hang vocally with everything else that's going on.  Small complaint though.
If you dig the old heavy, then you will dig this.

Riff Density- 8 (could be a 10 except for the poppy sections of some songs)
Riff Caliber- 8
Post Blues Factor- 10
Groove Factor- 10
Dig It-8

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tommy Bolin "Energy" and "Live at the Tulagi" 1972

I got this as a 2 cd set a few years ago. I'm not sure that it's still available packaged this way because the releases put together by the Tommy Bolin Archives seem to be somewhat haphazard and constantly changing, but they make a great pair. This, in my opinion, is the golden period of Tommy Bolin. This is when he was playing with his Colorado-based band Energy; before he played with the James Gang, Deep Purple and Billy Cobham. Before his disappointing solo albums that I think were both tainted by the desires of major record label execs and the pall of heroin usage. Before he had the pressure of filling the shoes of Joe Walsh or Ritchie Blackmore - which was ridiculous that he was pressured into trying fill either of their shoes instead of just being Tommy Bolin. Playing with Energy was when Tommy seemed the most at ease, the most himself and the freest.
Energy was a smokin' band of great musicians that were not only not afraid to stretch out and jam, but that also had the chops to do it right. Energy was a band that incorporated many of the great things about 70's music: hard bluesy riffs, long extended instrumental jams, hammond organ, congas a la Santana, echoplex guitar freakouts, spaced out trippiness, etc. This is especially true with the live recordings, which is the majority of what's available from this band.


The first cd of this 2 cd set is their only studio recording, which, I believe, was never actually released at the time. This album, on it's own, doesn't have the same rockin' factor that the Live at Tulagi cd has, simply because about half of it is either ballads or softer 70's pop rock, closer to what you would find on Private Eyes or Teaser. But the songs that rock, rock mightily. Red Skies starts things out with a soft spacey intro that breaks into a strutting, chugging rocker with some sweet Bolin licks. Heartlight, one of my favorites of Bolin, is a killer song that could have easily become one of THE classic 70's rock songs had it received any airplay at the time. It's a hard riffin' ride that reminds me a little of Deep Purple's Stormbringer. Tommy should have resurrected this song for the Come Taste the Band album instead of Lady Luck. Deep Purple would've torn it up on this tune. The other 2 songs on the studio album of note are both instrumental jams. Hoka Hey is a hardcore fusion trip and Naked Edge, one of my favorite Bolin tunes, is 14 minutes of Pink Floydian excellence similar to the funkier jam in the middle of Pink Floyd's Echoes

Cd number 2,  "Live at Tulagi" is where things get really interesting.  Sadly, as is the case with most of the live recordings of Energy(which is all there is except disc one of this set), the mix is not great.  Once you here the greatness contained herein, though, you will be willing to listen past the flaws of the recording. The majority of the songs on this cd are covers, but Energy chews 'em up and spits 'em out like they wrote the songs themselves. The originals are "Red Skies" and "Hoka Hey," which both appear in their studio versions on disc one. As for the rest, there are two pretty straight ahead blues tunes, one being maybe the most covered blues tune of the early 70's, "Rock me Baby," which has some burnin' Bolin soloing, and the other is Energy's take on the Free song "I'm a Mover," which was on Free's preeminent Tons of Sobs album. In some ways, I like Free's version a little better just because of some of the licks that are part of the arrangement, but Bolin's soloing is masterful on this, and the band is slamming. 

Now this is where my curiosity about this band is piqued. The name, Energy, supposedly was inspired by the album Energy that jazz flutist Jeremy Steig put out in 1970.  This album is a funky, fusion album that floats around between 60's boogaloo Sidewinder funk, swampy bluesy grooves, future fusion, and hardcore jazz, all with Steig's breathy flute over top.  Playing electric piano(Rhodes or Wurlitzer) is Jan Hammer, of the mythic Mahavishnu Orchestra.  This is a hard album to find, because I don't think it was ever reissued on cd, but I was thrilled to stumble across it at the used record store. Anyway, two of the songs that Energy plays are covers of songs from this album, Give Me Some and Downstretch.  Both are deeply bluesy, groovin' riffs that could easily be pummeling,sunbaked desert rock jams. Energy definitely ramps up the rock factor on these tunes over the Steig/Hammer versions. Give Me Some is a slow, simmering, hard ass, Fender Rhodes-driven riff that just builds into a monster, complete with gong smashing.  Downstretch, similarly, starts with a bluesy desert-style riff on the Fender Rhodes and proceeds to rock hugely, before tripping out into a spaced freakout jazz section in the middle. Now, back to why this intrigues me so:  Clearly, Tommy Bolin and the rest of Energy really dug this obscure Jeremy Steig album, that included Jan Hammer.  I wonder if, maybe, Jeremy Steig and Jan Hammer played a gig in Denver(which is where Energy was based) maybe with Energy, which turned them all on to each other.  Did Jan Hammer hear Bolin play with Energy, which led to Hammer's recommendation that Bolin play on Billy Cobham's 1973 Stratus album, which Hammer played on as well?  Also, even though the Steig Energy album is very cool, it doesn't necessarily seem like something that would obviously be translatable into something much more rock oriented, like what Bolin and the rest of the band did, much less have the importance to Energy (the Band) as it did unless maybe they saw Steig/Hammer/Gomez/Alias et al play live.   Who knows the real story, this is all conjecture on my part, but it does seem logical.  At least to me.  

And, as long as fusion is on the brain, let's talk about another quasi-cover song on the album: Ostinada, which materializes after a 4 minute drum solo, which I tend to skip over(thankfully it's it's own track),  is a slightly altered version of Ostinato which appeared on Herbie Hancock's 1970 album Mwandishi, which, interestingly had Ronnie Montrose laying down a very understated, yet funky wah wah guitar part.   It is a repetitive (thus the title Ostinato) riff that serves as a foundation for soloing, in Energy's case, a sweet organ solo from Tom Stephenson and of course some killer guitar from Bolin. 

Side note: The Herbie Hancock albums from 1970-1972(Mwandishi, Crossings, and Sextant) that have what was known as the Mwandishi band are awe-inspiring, tripped out, space-fusion affairs that require more than a few listens to even allow an attempt a comprehension.

Rounding out the rest of the album is the 15 minute track that is simply titled Guitar Solo. This starts off with 5 minutes or so of Bolin by himself conjuring his 6 string wizardry, that then turns into a very pedestrian, run of the mill blues shuffle.  There is some great soloing, but after the transcendence of the blues that has occurred earlier in the set, this seems somehow mundane.

So, how to rate these 2 cd's. Hmm...

Riff Density- 5 (a bit low because of the not-so-rockin' tunes on the studio album)
Riff Caliber- 9 (I made this pretty high because when the riffing is happening, it is happ-ah-ning)
Post Blues Factor- 8 (this is an 8 because, aside from the outright blues songs, the other rockers are very forward thinking)
Groove Factor- 10
Dig It-10 (this, of course, is referring to the rockin' parts of the albums. I made a compilation of the best of these 2 cd's that is a 70+ minute, full cd of heavy duty rock and roll, which is how I listen to these albums)

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Fuzz Lab is open

With my band Wo Fat, I design and hand screenprint all of the T Shirts that we sell. After learning how to do this and getting some experience with screen printing, I decided that I wanted to make some cool shirts of some of my favorite 70's band for myself. Then I thought, why not sell them. And thus, The Fuzz Lab.
I'm starting out with only a handful of designs, but I'll be adding more soon. The shirts are all high quality 100% cotton, 6.1 ounce Hanes or Gildan shirts.
Some possible future designs in development are Mahogany Rush, Leafhound and a really cool Pink Floyd design. In the meantime, go check 'em out:  The Fuzz Lab

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hairy Chapter "Can't Get Through" 1971


     1970 and early '71 was such an interesting time.  Rock had found a heaviness never before heard, thanks to Black Sabbath and others, but things hadn't quite solidified yet.  The music hadn't become formulaic,  thus giving rise to unique and original interpretations of the new heaviness by bands like Sir Lord Baltimore and Germany's own Hairy Chapter.    This is one of those albums that often pops up on the obscure 70's holy grails lists, as it should, but it certainly didn't turn out to be quite what I expected.  I don't know what I expected - maybe some straight ahead bluesy riff rock, I don't know. This is definitely not that.  Hairy Chapter's "Can't Get Through,"  much like Sir Lord Baltimore's "Kingdom Come,"  is one maniacal,  wheels-off affair. 
"Can't Get Through," released in 1971 on the German Bacillus label, was the third album from the tripped out, acid-blown, neanderthal-intellectual quartet.  I haven't heard the first, "Electric Sounds For Dancing," but the second, 1970's "Eyes," despite occasional glimpses of the alien beasts gestating within and waiting to rip out of their Hairy chests, is primarily bluesish 60's psych.  
  November 1970:  enter the great Dieter Dierks (producer of Orange Peel, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream and who would later engineer the rise of the Scorpions).  Producer and Vision Quest guide, Dierks simultaneously unleashed the psychedelic beast and reined it in enough to help Hairy Chapter  realize the post modern rock and roll heights of madness that is "Can't Get Through."  The mix is urgent, electric and feels live:  guitars upfront, angry and heavy, overdriven bass,  Mitch Mitchell-esque drumming and desperate, pained vocals.  While it's not an album full of heavy guitar riffs,  it does have it's share and it's full of out of control guitar solos and cool dark grooves with lots of unexpected changes of direction. 
    Comprising only 5 songs, "There's a Kind of Nothing" opens the album with some innocent enough bass/guitar vamping with a lighthearted Allman Brothers-ish guitar lick.  The vamp continues, guitar fills becoming darker as Harry Unte attempts to belt out his vocals over the roiling rhythm section, all the while, the repetition  building to some unknown climax that never comes.  Then suddenly it stops, and we're at scarborough fair for a brief dreamy medieval interlude before being transported back to the menacing vamp.  We realize very quickly that this is not conventional song composition.  
The apex of the album is the next 2 songs, "Can't Get Through" and "It Must be an Officer's Daughter," both of which are epic sonic landscapes stretching over 8 minutes each.  "Can't Get Through" starts with an intro that's like a cross between Yes and Sabbath.  After a couple of hard rockin' verses, we're into a smoldering groove for a harmonica solo followed by Harry Titlbach's guitar workout over Rudolf Oldenburg's Jack Bruce-infused bass playing. Then suddenly a wacky slide guitar interlude comes out of know where, leading to a Led Zeppelin-ish riff that devolves into a slowly dissolving swing feel topped with dazed and confused guitar freakouts, Titlbach suffering from a momentary loss of sanity until finally it all crashes back to Earth with the Zep riff again. Like I said, not conventional songwriting.
     "It Must Be an Officer's Daughter" continues on the road to the mountains of electrified post-blues madness with 8 more minutes of erratic groove changes,  demented stalker lyrics like "I want to hold your luscious breasts in my hand" sung over a dark Sabbath-like riff,  and a heaping helping of on-the-edge guitar solos over wicked drum/bass vamps.  
   The only song that doesn't rock pretty hard is "As We Crosssed Over."  For this one we've got acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, mariachi trumpet (yes you read that right) off in the distance and haunting, trippy choir vocals swirling around in the background.  It sounds almost like Radiohead in an odd way.  Strange, melancholy little tune here.
    The album closes with "You've Got To Follow This Masquerade."  The Cro-Magnon prog motif is revived for this one.  Evil Sabbath riffs alternated with straighter Zeppelin and proggy sections that just come to an abrupt halt after 4 minutes or so, leaving you wandering what the...? 
   This is a great record, but something that you definitely must be in the mood for.  It's somewhat enigmatic and unapproachable and took me a couple of listens to really start digging it. Who knows what was going through these Krautrocker's off center brains to create a monster like this?  Post modern, proto metal, bluesish, Cro-Magnon Man Prog rock.
Second Battle has reissued this album along with the second album "Eyes" on 1 cd.

And here's my rating:
Riff Density- 7
Riff Caliber- 7
Post Blues Factor- 10
Groove Factor- 10
Dig It-7(This number is a little low only because I don't end up listening to this very often even though I dig it very much)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sir Lord Baltimore "Kingdom Come" 1970

Kingdom Come, Brooklyn-bred Sir Lord Baltimore's debut album from 1970, was one of the first heavy 70's obscurities that I found (and a sweet vinyl copy in an awesome gatefold at that) when I was first embarking on this quest for ancient riffage a number of years back, and it is a beast. It is a relic from the early freewheeling days of heavy rock, before the formula had been defined, refined and distilled. Home brewed white lightning. This record is a crazed, hungry, foaming-at-the-mouth Hell Hound, not satisfied with Robert Johnson's long ago ingested soul, but looking for new, fresh, unguarded souls to devour. So keep your hands inside the vehicle, lest you lose them. I take no responsibility for injuries incurred from listening to this album.
It's heavy alright, but not in a Black Sabbath or Bedemon way. Kingdom Come is a chaotic, cyclonic, neanderthal-driven ride through a twisted amphetamine-fueled, post-blues, proto-punk, jungle of riffs. Even though SLB is often called the first American Heavy Metal band, musically, they lean more toward a very loose version Cactus with a dash of Hendrix and The Stooges thrown in than the monolithic, controlled heaviness of Sabbath and the metal that was yet to come. Interestingly, Randy Palmer of Bedemon/Pentagram said his favorite bands were Black Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore and in fact originally met Geoff O'Keefe (Bedemon/Pentagram) because Geoff bought the copy of Sir Lord Baltimore's record that the record store was holding for Randy. I assume that it must have been the 2nd self titled SLB album.

Sir Lord Baltimore was John Garner-vox and drums, Louis Dambra - guitar, and Gary Justin - bass.
The frantic, frenzied pummeling begins with a Lemmy-esque distorted bass that introduces us to "Master Heartache", which was masterfully covered by Church of Misery on their Houses of the Unholy album. This song sets the status quo for the entire album: a freight train of blues infused riffs melting into unhinged guitar fills and solos over delirious, unpredictable Mitch Mitchell-ish drumming with Garner's Ronnie James Dio a la Adam Sandler caterwauling vocals leading the charge through a seemingly random maze of a mix where guitars pan back and forth, materialize and disappear, and tempos ebb and flow like the tides. This lurching, swaying, runaway train is held on the tracks, just barely, by the gravity of the heavily distorted bass that chugs along underneath. "Master Heartache" has a classic loping riff for the verse that leads to a mean, mean breakdown part. "Hard Rain Fallin'" is a driving Led Zep machine with a cool twin lead guitar section. "Lady of Fire" starts with a sick proto stoner rock riff. The verse groove is a little weak, but the rest of the tune still rocks hard. I think Deep Purple lifted part of this tune for "Woman From Tokyo." You'll know exactly what I mean when you hear it.

The only time the pace drops below berserk is the 4th song, "Lake Isle of Innersfree," which is coincidentally(or not) the only song not penned by Dambra, but instead foisted upon them by producers Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos in there misguided attempt to reach a wider audience.(?) It is a rather weak harpsichord driven Renaissance Fair song that should be immediately skipped and promptly forgotten.
Then it's pedal to the metal again with "Pumped Up." More howling vocals and angry blues riffing that lead to a nasty dual guitar lick and a crazed guitar solo. The brakes are applied for the proto metal title track, "Kingdom Come." This song is the most restrained (aside from the ridiculous Renny fair "Innisfree"), or maybe I should say controlled, and at the same time, maybe the most metal(ish) song on the album, looking to the future, with Garner sounding more Ian Gillan/Dio-like (and less like a possessed Adam Sandler)with a big late 70's metal vibrato and medieval tinged lyrics. The water has cooled slightly to a simmer here, but, fret not, it will soon be back to a rolling boil.
"I Got a Woman" is a backwards looking, 60's London Blues Explosion kind of tune, with tinges of 60's psych. A bit dated, but still cool. We're back on track (or is it off the rails) with "Hell Hound": savage guitar soloing/riffing over Garner's undulating drumming. Enter "Helium Head" (what a cool title); wicked flowing riffage and an awesome vamp at the end that should have gone on much longer -Fist smacks hand- "Damn that Mike Appel and his radio single aesthetic!" The album ends with more of the same on the uptempo "Ain't Got Hung on You."
This album, really, is somewhat unapproachable. It's almost like you need sunglasses to tone down the glare so you can really see what's going on through all of the chaos and tumult. The playing is pretty loose and the tempos fluctuate, but look deeper into the pandemonium and you'll see the wickedly cool riffs and the wheels off, hair-on-fire greatness of this album. When it's all said and done, you feel windblown and worn. Like you drove 100 miles in a convertible with the top down. Garner, Dambra and Justin are just going for it, full on; the only way they know how: over the top and with reckless abandon, the imperfections actually adding to the overall devastating effect of this record. There's loads of punk rock attitude coupled with primo pentatonic riffs and songs with lots of different sections and motif changes. Nine out of ten songs unapologetically bringing the Rock. Not many other albums from 1970 can say that.
I have to also say that I dig the spooky Flying Dutchman front cover, the groovy font used for Sir Lord Baltimore, and the cool modernist painting on the inside cover (see the picture above).
My rating is:
Riff Density 8
Riff Caliber 9
Post Blues Factor 8
Groove Factor 10
Dig It 8 (used to be lower, but I continue to appreciate it more and more)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bedemon "Child of Darkness" 1973-79

Aah, the fabled Bedemon. This album, released by Black Widow Records of Italy with a massive booklet of great liner notes, is a compilation of recordings made in the 70's by the "band" Bedemon. Bedemon was not an actual gigging, playing band, but was the instrument used by Pentagram guitarista Randy Palmer to document some of his musical ideas. It's pretty amazing really that these private, self-made recordings firstly, have become the stuff of myth and legend that they are, and secondly, that they, in many ways, actually do live up to the hype.

The back story: Prior to joining the equally fabled Pentagram, Randy Palmer enlisted his friend and Pentagram drummer Geof O'Keefe, Pentagram vocalist Bobby Liebling, and high school friend Mike Matthews (bass) to help him record some of his musical ideas. These recordings were made using a Roberts 771X 1/4" reel-to-reel tape deck in Pentagram's rehearsal space and Randy's living room. The sonic quality is pretty rough and varies wildly, but considering they had 2 tracks to work with and were bouncing tracks(and therefore also mixing on the fly as they went) back and forth to add extra tracks Sgt Pepper style, it turned out fairly well. In fact, on some songs it enhances the grittiness and hardcore nature of the music.
Randy Palmer reconnected with Mike and Geof and in 2001 work was underway on new Bedemon material, but sadly, Randy Palmer was killed in 2002 from injuries sustained in a traffic accident.

The music:
It took me a few a listens to really start digging this album, but now I'm sold on it. For the most part, Bedemon is unapologetically heavy, dark and doomy, sounding like St Vitus or even the Blood Farmers at times, but with Bobby Liebling from Pentagram singing. I would say it's heavier and more modern metal than most of the Pentagram of the same time period. The guitar sounds are heavier (interestingly, an Electro Harmonix Mike Matthews Freedom Amp was used for the Bedemon recordings; don't know what was used for Pentagram) and the riffage/songs are heavier. Some of the contemporary Pentagram sounds stuck in the 60's at times as far as the songwriting goes. The Bedemon guitar solos, contributed by Randy Palmer, Geof O'Keefe and Mike Matthews are all very cool, and O'Keefe's drumming is slamming.
One of the only problems I have with this album is Bobby Liebling's performance. His delivery is pretty flat (I'm not referring to pitch, but energy). He kind of sounds like Iggy Pop (don't get me wrong, I love Iggy) combined with a heroin-infused Velvet Underground Lou Reed. He sounds much better on Pentagram's First Daze Here, so I'm not sure if he just didn't give it his all because it wasn't his project or what, but I think this is partly why it took me a while to get into the record. Get past the lackluster Liebling and you've got some of the heaviest rock of the early 70's.
The albums kicks you in the gut right from the start, the first three songs, Child of Darkness, Enslaver of Humanity, and Frozen Fear being devastating, plodding, doomy behemoths driven by mammoth Sabbathathian tritone blues riffs and sweet Iommi-esque soloing. Opener Child of Darkness takes us down creepy unmarked riff-roads later mapped out by the Blood Farmers and Electric Wizard, just not quite as psychedelic. I was initially not so into Frozen Fear because the vocal melody is lifted exactly from Black Sabbath (I can't for the life of me think of which song right now - help me out here...), but everything else about the song kills, so who cares. Besides, how many great blues songs utilize the same melody with different lyrics? A wicked howling banshee feedback guitar introduces Enslaver of Humanity which lumbers along big and heavy, Vitus style. One Way Road is a bit more uptempo, but only slightly, feeling a bit like a Buffalo jam. The ham-fisted riffing and bludgeoning guitar solos continue. Serpent Venom starts out promising, but then kind of lags a bit. The riffage here doesn't carry the same weight as the previous 4 tunes. Still not bad though. There is a cool Dave Chandler-ish guitar solo on this one - again with the St. Vitus comparisons.
Last Call, a melancholy ballad, is followed by Drive Me to the Grave, which sounds like a Sabbath Vol. 4 era song. Into the Grave is another minor ballad, but it's got a better groove than Last Call and some nice soloing. Unfortunately one track of lead guitar is buried in the mix. Skinned, which is introduced with a blood curdling scream, is an uptempo rocker which, at times, makes me think of early Fu Manchu.?. Hmm. Touch the Sky is another Vol. 4 trip.
Tracks 1-12 were all from '73-74, while the three songs that close the album are from '79, after Palmer's tenure with Pentagram and definitely have a different feel to them.
Time Bomb is a total Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power vibe. Nighttime Killers has a NWOBHM gallop to it with a proggy solo section. Axe to Grind is actually Geof O'Keefe's composition. It is a cool prog-metal instrumental that very much sounds like 1979 with twin harmony guitar melodies. Very different from the earlier Bedemon, but a rockin' jam nonetheless with some smokin' leads.

The album kind of falls into three sections. The first 1/3 is the heaviest and doomiest with the best riffage, and the most St Vitus-ish. The middle 1/3 kind of sags a little, but still has rockin' moments. The last 1/3 picks up the pace again, but in a less doomy, more late 70's metal kind of way. Like I said earlier, I dig it more than Pentagram First Daze Here, and again, if Liebling would've delivered more passionate performances, it would have sent this album into the territory of greatness.

My rating is:
Riff Density 9
Riff Caliber 9
Post Blues Factor 10
Groove Factor 8
Dig It 8