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Album Review: BIGELF Into The Maelstrom

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With most bands I listen to, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I discovered them. There is a connection to a time, or a place, or an emotion, or something. However, there must be something in Bigelf’s psychedelic progressive rock that has mind altering effects on me, because I have no idea how they popped up on my radar. All I know is that one day Hex showed up in my hands and my life's been better ever since. Regardless of the insane, Tool-like wait between records, Bigelf delivers once again.

Since we last heard the top hat-clad madman Damon Fox and his band of merry bearded men, half of Bigelf has been replaced. As of last year, Luis Maldonado has taken over on guitar duty and some young upstart by the name Mike Portnoy is handling the drums. The ex-Dream Theater percussionist is credited on various sources as a guest drummer, but his style will be a tricky one to emulate should the band take their "Gravest Show On Earth" (old song reference, check) on the road.


Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the band releases the same album each time, but fans of Bigelf know what they’re going to get with each new Bigelf record. This is a collection of well stylized classic rock/metal-inspired psychedelic songs that pays equal homage to Black Sabbath and The Beatles, with a dash of Deep Purple thrown in.

“Already Gone” begins like something from the druggiest period of fab-four before breaking off into a guitar driven section that is akin to lesser know cuts from Sabbath’s Vol. 4. Hell, “The Professor & The Madman” starts with a sitar and a multipart harmony, then just before you question if this is a cover of a George Harrison joint, the song has a Hammond organ freak-out.

I’ve always been rather fond to Bigelf’s lengthier tracks that seem to get a little lost in themselves, so “High” is a favorite of mine. Musically, it comes off as a crazy jam that some fuzzed-out stoner band would leave instrumental. Damon’s voice over the top makes this one of the greatest songs the band has released. Similar accolades could be given to the band’s most ambitious song to date, which closes the album: “ITM.”

Another favorite, “Edge of Oblivion,” is perhaps the most chaotic and two-faced song on the album. It travels swiftly back and forth between the bombastic side and the lurching, heavy, almost sludge side of the band. After a five-minute or so musical battle with itself, the song concludes in the best guitar solo on the disc which runs concurrent with a drum solo of sorts by the aforementioned drum virtuoso Mr. Portnoy.

Not everything is unbelievable though. “Theater of Dreams” is a fair song, but it suffers from Bigelf being Bigelf just a little too well. It really could get lost on any release the band has put out dating all the way back to their first EP, Closer To Doom, released in 1995. Other songs have moments of this problem like “Hypersleep,” and “Vertigod,” but these ultimately meander to an interesting place saving the songs.

The release of this album was a surprise. I had sort of forgotten about the possibility of Bigelf dropping new music after year five or so, so this wound up being a pleasant arrival. The songs I love make this an early contender for one of my favorite albums of the year. I’m very happy to have the band back in my mind, regardless of the fact that they snuck in there without me knowing in the first place.

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