Bigelf - Bigelf - Hex
Warner Music
Progressive Rock/Metal
13 songs (1:00:48)
Release year: 2005
Bigelf, Warner Music
Reviewed by Crash
Archive review

If 2008’s Cheat the Gallows taught me anything, it’s that Bigelf are an awesome band. Like many others, I was introduced to this musical clusterfuck by Mike Portnoy. Their supporting slot on the Progressive Nation tour might not have made them a household name, but it gave them enough exposure that prog fags like myself could find much to love. While not being a full on heavy metal band, Bigelf are drenched in the seventies. Not the lame Airbourne or Lenny Kravitz seventies, but the Sabbathy seventies, the Floydy seventies, and the uh…. Beatley sixties…

Ok, so maybe it isn’t that simple. It would be incredibly easy to just smack the retro label on the band and be done with it. But there is a spark there… a spark of actual influence rather than nostalgic wankery! To my surprise, Cheat the Gallows was not a hip new debut album from a hip new band. Bigelf have been around fifteen years but only recently achieved the ever so slight recognition that they deserve. Being such a fan of that album, I had to have more. The first of their back catalogue I discovered was that album’s predecessor Hex. But would it hold up? Would it be a lost gem or would it be a very obvious explanation for the band’s lack of popularity?

The answer is kinda a mix of both. Hex has plenty to offer fans of old school rock and metal but fails to form into a cohesive album with its own sense of identity. That could describe it in full. Everything is here, but the pieces are in the wrong order.

The sound is essentially the same. Big bombastic organs are almost always in the front, matched by a guitar tone chunky enough to make beards grow on children. A better example can’t be had than album opener Madhatter. Wasting no time, the song mixes the equal parts Master of Reality and Alice in Wonderland. Fiery vocals and sludgy riffage makes this mid tempo rocker not only a great opener, but one of the true highlights of the album.

With Black Sabbath out of the way, it’s on to Pink Floyd. Bats in the Belfry II is an homage to Welcome to the Machine in every way. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would be nice for the influence riding to not be quite as obvious. Regardless, the track is fun to listen to with enough of its own personality to be worth the ride.

The perverse nature of the record industry is a big theme in the band’s lyrics. Rock and Roll Contract is not subtle in its demonization of the record industry. This lack of compromise could be a perfect explanation for the lack of label support Bigelf has always had to deal with. But like The Evils of Rock and Roll off of Gallows, the message is delivered with piss and vinegar. The bitterness does not come off as petty, but as an attack on the glorification of the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll mantra that has always been the norm. Oh yeah, it also sounds a lot like The Beatles

The band wears many hats. Unfortunately, the tendency to switch from song to song is not nearly as effective as when they really go for it and wear all their hats at once. Sunshine Suicide begins as a filler song until it blasts in with some of the most exciting musical passages on the album. The guitars and keys really blend together and anyone that found Blackball to be a favorite will know exactly what to look for. Black Moth carries this on with great soloing and some fantastic prog melodies. This is the stuff great prog is made of. Even better, I am not instantly reminded of another band in my collection, but am really reminded that Bigelf are more than capable of having their own identity. Bats in the Belfry I is the album closer. Not only is the second part first part more ambitious than its earlier uh….. sequel prequel? But it also takes those melodies and lets them play a more ambitious role in the songwriting. The spacey keys give off the same spacey Floyd and ELP vibe, but without switching hats in between sections. Actually, parts sound an awful lot like Karn Evil 9 but I am more than willing to forgive that fault by not being thirty minutes long. It is a strong closer and really sets the stage for what would be a much better album. If you stick around long enough, you can even hear snippets of that album.

I know it sounds like I am taking a massive dump on an album that I’ve already stated I like, but with the awesomeness of Cheat the Gallows it sounds like Bigelf were way ahead of me. Listen to this if you want a good’n’dirty retro prog album. But don’t expect this to change your life, it certainly didn’t change the band’s.

B -

Killing Songs :
Madhatter, Black Moth, Bats in the Belfry I
Crash quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Bigelf that we have reviewed:
Bigelf - Cheating The Gallows reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
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