Lucifer’s Records 2019
A glorious rise of heavy prog veterans who locate their lawful place in the sky to ride into eternity.
There’s always an element of chance in recapturing old magic, yet this ensemble labored rather valiantly to deliver an album which is on par with their classic ’70s oeuvre, and that’s no mean feat for the band’s three founding fathers – each aged 72 when “Black Moon” arrived. If 2016’s "Too Late To Hate" was more about finding erstwhile chemistry and the physical power of singer John Lawton, guitarist Peter Hesslein and bassist Dieter Horns to face the blaze of burning ships and look into the future for what could be the last time, its follow-up proves to be a triumph composition-wise. Epic, energetic and effusive in equal measure, the group’s latter-day set doesn’t offer a sensory feat like “Banquet” did – albeit pieces such as “Palace Of Fools” emerge full of heavy, riff-encrusted grandeur – but the brass-brandishing sway of the record’s title track should establish a shamanic pattern of prog-stricken menace given a new gravity by the feeling of living on borrowed time.
Explicitly or not, all of the new songs deal with the concepts of time and mortality, and still the thought of becoming indolent bystanders wouldn’t cross the collective’s mind. As a result, the steaming organ of “Passengers” asserts their desire to actively keep our world away from any disaster, whereas “Taking It To The Edge” is a dramatic declaration of the artists’ own resolve to push the stupid and the cheaters over the brink and stay on to confront the mystery of life. This is why, while “Rolling The Stone” may suggest a Sisyphus-esque futility of the effort, it’s rocking hard enough, with swagger to the fore, before “Behind The Smile” bares the band’s vulnerability – something well-hidden in the streamlined bravery of “Call The Captain” that will find the same panache piling, yet crumbling, in the most spiritual way – and “Little Man” turns retro fatigue into a ballad-styled defiance.
Which is whence the Latin-tinged “Freedom” springs, propelled by the ensemble’s handclaps and Stephan Eggert’s tribal drums to rapturous heights and electrified by violin solo, leaving “Glory Days” to bask in the golden sunset that the veterans are finally ready to embrace. “Take the highway till you reach the end and cross that line”: this lyric from “Black Moon” can be a motto for their exit. A spectacular farewell.