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TRACK LIST: 1. Blues from Hellah 0:40 2. Come Drug Me Babe 3:07 3. Mire 4:21 4. Armworth 5:00 5. Old in Eden 3:55 6. Za Za Banshee 5:21 7. Lucilla Has Gone 3:27 8. When the Crossword Is Done 5:01 9. Leave & Let Leave 6:54 10. Sleeping House 3:20 All tracks: by Engen, except 1: Koch / Engen, & 4: Captain Beefheart. All arrangements: by Koch. LINE-UP: Thore Engen - guitars Jon Ruder - vocals Kikkan Fossum - keyboards Frank Marstokk - drums Igor Kill - bass Morten Seyfarth - flute Dagfinn Koch - viola With: Violin quartet Einar Bruu - bass Dag Stenseng - flute Kai Frilseth - percussion &: Jon Rydningen - mellotron (2) Brass quartet (7) Produced & engineered by R Kjernet.
Prolusion. I've heard of the Norwegian group LUCIFER WAS, but haven't heard their music until now. "Blues from Hellah" is their third album, and the previous are "Underground & Beyond" (1997) and "In Anadi's Bower" (2001).
Synopsis. There is the note in the CD press kit that the influences of the Blues and Jethro Tull are widespread on the new Lucifer Was recording. Indeed, the music has Blues in its basis, but the latter remark, in my honest opinion, corresponds to reality only in part. Only Jethro Tull's debut has a pronounced bluesy feel to it, and nevertheless, there is little in common between "Blues from Hellah" and "This Was", too. Some of the flute solos resemble those by Ian Anderson, but these are rarely at the helm of the arrangements unlike Jethro Tull. Black Sabbath's main man, Tony Iommi, who was for some time a member of Jethro Tull in 1968, is originally a blues guitarist. The music that he and his fellows played as The Polka Tulk Blues Band and Earth, i.e. before they 'become' Black Sabbath, is, in my view, closer to that of Lucifer Was than anything else. Iommi's bluesy roots have become really apparent to the general audience only on 1986's "Seventh Star", which was primarily intended as Tony's first solo album, and it's enough to listen to Heart Like a Wheel from there to agree with my version of Lucifer Was' stylistic cognates, etc, at least partly. The Wizard from the eponymous Black Sabbath album can also be taken into account in this respect, but Heart Like a Wheel and some other songs from "Seventh Star" and "Eighth Star" (1996, another product of collaboration between Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes, which, though, is still a bootleg CD) are, still, more striking examples. Well, while Blues Rock is the central archetype of the music on "Blues from Hellah", Cathedral Rock, the paternal genre of which is Doom Metal discovered by Black Sabbath, and Symphonic Progressive are also important components of it. The profusion of passages of various violins on most of the tracks not only makes the sound of the album lush and rich in symphonic colors, but also vastly distinguishes it from those of any other 'brothers in style' of the band. Besides, many songs here feature some highly complex and eccentric parts performed jointly by the band and a violin quartet. What's most important, however, is that everything here, including the only straightforward number Come Drug Me Babe (2), is filled with tastefulness, raised to the power of high attractiveness. The dense and diverse in tempo Lucilla Has Gone, Mire, Armworth, Sleeping House, and Leave & Let Leave (7, 3, 4, 10, & 9 respectively), the first of which features a brass quartet, and the latter is largely instrumental, would probably be the best from a progressive standpoint. But I wouldn't say that the slow, pronouncedly bluesy Old in Eden, Za Za Banshee, and When the Crossword Is Done (5, 6, & 8) are less impressive. By the way, the album's title track (1), which is the only instrumental here, has nothing to do with Blues! Consisting of complex interplay between passages of violin and solos of flute, it lies somewhere between the Classical and Avant-garde kinds of academic music. What's interesting, the bits of the latter form can be found on some other tracks, too.
Conclusion. If you, like me, believe the best Hard Rock (in a general sense) of the '70s was also a revelation, as well as, probably, the most important stage on the way to comprehending Progressive, you are well familiar with a sense when music's energy runs through every cell, compelling a heart beating thumping. Here is just the case to recall all those wonderful feelings. "Blues from Hellah" possesses everything necessary to be loved by you. This album is a superb masterpiece, at least in its genre category.
VM: July 6, 2004
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