VÁgtÁzÓ HalottkÉmek - Naptánc
Neurot Recordings
12 songs (72:44)
Release year: 2000
Neurot Recordings
Reviewed by Misha

Mogwai once said “this is our punk-rock”, about their post-rock. So if punk is defined by an attitude, namely radicalism, we’re dealing with punk in all its purity here. Yet might one try to shove this masterpiece down the throat of the nearest high-school punk-rocker, results will be frown-related. The Hungarian sextet that is Vágtázó Halottkémek had to play in fear of their physical freedom in their early years, in fear of the oppressive Hungarian government. Their music is a protest against all our goalless societies and against the obstruction of the creative energy within the mind. Formed in 1975, their first eight shows were interrupted by the authorities, and the group was banished for eleven years. Nevertheless, the blacklisted group was able to play as guests or under false names, and as such, was able to collect several awards on alternative festivals. In 1986, the Dutch Queen Beatrix, being a big fan of gypsy music and Hungarian folk, personally intervened with the Hungarian authorities to make sure that Vágtázó Halottkémek were allowed to play in Amsterdam. Similar actions were taken by Fred Sinowatz, an Austrian chancellor who had to interact with the Hungarian Ministry of Culture to allow a guest-performance in 1987.

It might take a while to notice, but this is actually a live album. Vágtázó Halottkémek is said to be of extreme quality live, and has stunned and scared many with the hypnotic effect they have on their audience. Their music is not always written, it’s often a higher form of improvising, where songs are born on stage. The group recorded a lot of their material live, and this is no exception: a live album born during a gig with Neurosis, featuring only new songs that have not appeared in album format before, or after. This turns out to be their last album, before an end was put to their twenty-five year lasting career, and I dare say that they quit with an album that is better than anything they had done before, and that’s quite something. Naptánc is its name, a Sundance.

Vágtázó Halottkémek, Galloping Coroners in translation, are a group (for some reason the word “band” seems to be insulting) that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before, or like everything. The only vague way to describe them would be a handful of gifted shamans playing Hawkwind songs keyboard-less, yet with more energy than ever before. The group is fronted by Dr. Attila Grandpierre, a noted astrophysicist that handles the greater part of the vocal duties. Aside singing, there is screaming, chanting and howling to be heard, full of cathartic energy and passion. Conceded, Attila’s vocals could be an acquired taste, but they’ll directly find a way to the heart once allowed to. However characterizing the vocals are, the drum department as a branding iron has pressed an even more evident mark into the music’s flesh. While it is already awkward for a group of artists of this calibre to have a percussionist operating kettledrums next to one on a drum kit, the rhythms that drive VHK’s music are out of this world. Seemingly based on ancient totem music and tribal as much as Hungarian and African ethnic, shamanic and often continuously accelerating patterns are engorged that keep elaborating, pass themselves by, collapse under their own speed, and pick themselves up again. As is tradition in gypsy folk, songs often turn into noise as a result of speeding up, yet it seems that the sextet tries many more different ideas this time, rather than being pinned onto one way of ending a song. Beefed up by powerful yet dreamy guitar riffs and the spacey Hawkwind-like soloing, the music drifts into territory that is not that spacey at all. It is a void though, namely that of the heart, and this kind of music origins directly from the heart, into the heart. Especially on their last albums, the Galloping Coroners hail every force at their disposal, xylophone, violin, didgeridoo, kalimba, trumpet and a lot of acoustic guitars. The effect is that this album sounds very diverse, yet still in one very uniform style. Some songs might be louder, using primitive rhythms, while others are more relaxed and dreamlike. One thing they all have in common: the ecstasy! There is magic at work here, the shear level of hypnotism and energy is bewildering, it’s relatively easy to start listening to this music, but a lot harder to let go of it.

The artists at work crafted a unique form of music, and a unique way of playing that completely overwhelms any sense of time. Naptánc is a telepathic bond with the creative forces at work in the inner world of every member. For those open-minded enough and looking for a highly original album without conventional song-structures, yet with overwhelmingly trance-indulging psychedelic freak-outs, catch up with the Galloping Coroners!

Samples available here.

Note: In time this link will likely becoming outdated.

Killing Songs :
Quite so.
Misha quoted no quote
Other albums by VÁgtÁzÓ HalottkÉmek that we have reviewed:
VÁgtÁzÓ HalottkÉmek - Bite the Stars! reviewed by Alex and quoted 65 / 100
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