Bigelf - Cheating The Gallows
Powerage Records
Classic/Progressive Rock
10 songs (56:48)
Release year: 2009
Bigelf, Powerage Records
Reviewed by Goat

It’ll take you at least four or five listens to determine whether or not Bigelf are a serious band, and to be honest I’m still not 100% certain now. The LA-based four-piece were formed in 1991 and have only recently come into proper focus from the music world after being selected by Mike Portnoy to support Dream Theater in the Progressive Nation 2009 tour. They play a form of music that takes the most overblown, bombastic rock of the 70s and mashes it together into a tremendously catchy sound of their own. You’ll hear influence from pretty much everyone in Cheat The Gallows; Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, T. Rex, Slade, everything from Glam to Classic to Prog Rock is in there, and what makes this band so genius and has earned it the accolades of said drummer supreme is the fact that they are really good at it. Bigelf, quite simply, understand what gave those bands that killer mojo that still gives their records (well, all but Slade) a special quality that modern bands just don’t have. The 70s for me were the high point of music as a whole, and although in subsequent years the underground has spat forth awesome bands too many to mention, music from the earlier decade has a warm friendliness to it that subsequent decades lost as the keyboard rose as an instrument like a mushroom cloud in the east, and drumming went electronic. A good retro band amidst my usual promotional intake is like a ray of sun in a cloudy English day; enough to raise a smile and lighten the mood whatever the occasion.

Bigelf certainly lighten the mood, that’s for sure. They’re clearly having fun with the music, and each and every song takes a different path towards putting a smile on your face. From the keyboard-driven wig-out of Hydra, hitting the epic button and pushing the band into the beyond, to the catchy riffage of opening blast Gravest Show On Earth (the guitars just a tad too heavy for the supposed era, but damn, do they make it work!) which also includes cheering crowds, lyrical references to Hiroshima and a circus-like atmosphere which kicks off the album perfectly - Bigelf can do it all. The smoothness of Blackball’s keyboard solo alone is amazing, exactly the sort of thing that smooth cats can sit and nod their heads to whilst snapping their fingers and eyeing up the lay-days, and whilst first single Money, It’s Pure Evil rips off Pink Floyd something awful, it’s done so well and with such a loving tone that you can’t help but enjoy it. If you’re familiar with the music that Bigelf are so clearly influenced by, then chances are you’ll recognise most of the references, but the more I listen to Bigelf the more I’m convinced that this is a celebration rather than a mockery. The Evils Of Rock & Roll is far too tight and focused to be a piss-take, for example, with a wonderfully ominous finale, and the psychedelic gorgeousness of No Parachute simply couldn’t have come from the turgid minds of the likes of The Darkness.

There are too many highlights to really sum up here, but the album as a whole is a rollercoaster of delights. From the singalong chorus of Superstar to the eleven-minute finale of Counting Sheep, the lullaby-esque opening soon turning amusingly bonkers, going on a prog quest that’ll have devotees of the genre in raptures. Ultimately, Cheat The Gallows is a perfect balance between retro-rock and prog flamboyance, and should be required listening for anyone who pines for better days. It’s certainly better than Muse’s latest effort, and as such deserves all the attention and acclaim that the Brits get – here’s hoping Bigelf are launched ever higher in the future thanks to Mike Portnoy’s fandom, but for the moment this is the perfect accompaniment to your 70s rock collection.

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Killing Songs :
Gravest Show On Earth, Blackball, The Evils Of Rock & Roll, No Parachutes, Hydra, Counting Sheep
Goat quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Bigelf that we have reviewed:
Bigelf - Bigelf - Hex reviewed by Crash and quoted 80 / 100
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