Bacillus 1974-1975 / MiG Music 2022
Reaching for horizon, Hungarian progressive heroes unsheathe their sharpened sensibilities.
It was all about visions of the future. Thrown to the forefront of Eastern European rock in 1974 with their second English album, which brought the Hungarian ensemble into the focus of Western listeners, this collective didn’t waste time and, after only a few months’ wait, followed the confoundingly titled "III" with a new record and then another one – both boldly looking forward at fantastic possibilities that could open once freedom reigned across the land. Not surprisingly, the original version of “200 Years After The Last War” worried Budapest censors so much as to ordering the finished tapes to be shelved, yet the band found a workaround for the banned platter to see the light of day – first in Magyar and then in the language of Shakespeare, although the latter variant shared but a single, titular piece with the former. After all, peaceful message mattered most in the Cold War era.
The quintet might deceptively display certain reservations, however, as the interstellar, relentless if mellifluous, assault of “Help To Find Me” and the insistent jive of “You Don’t Know” that surround the acoustically tinctured, slider-rolling title track seem to suggest; still, getting to the final nervous knot requires sailing through the side-long pseudo-orchestral drama of “Suite” which doesn’t try and conceal the influence on OMEGA of “Salisbury” and other URIAH HEEP classics that left their apparent imprint, up to melodic passages and nuances of arrangement, all over this record. As Lásló Benkö’s cosmic ivories – from heavy, solemn organ to valorous, spacey synthesizers – lull and propel Janos Kóbor’s voice towards the rage of György Molnár’s guitar licks, to a place where Tamas Mihaly’s muscular bass and Ferenc Debreceni’s dynamics-shifting drums often reveal a tangible groove and tranquil joie de vivre, a different world is evoked, conjuring compellingly naïve, tunefully riveting, tentative vistas of tomorrow.
This is why there’s perfect logic in the next album beginning with the piano-rippled, arresting pop-baroque panorama of “Movin’ World” and landing on the belligerently sweet here-and-now of “20th Century Town Dweller” that unfold effervescent aural perspectives for time-travelers to enjoy, while the balladry of its principal composition, “The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky” – at less than tree minutes, the shortest cut here – shimmers in a Mellotron-abetted, mesmeric, mirage-like manner. Unexpectedly for such a context, “One Man Land” offers an ebullient festival swirl in which six-string twang and percussive pulse conspire to rock and sway in style until the triumphant fairy tale “Magician” flaunts a robust riff in the face of gloomy adversity – but the scintillating mini-epic “Never Feel The Shame” brings on a dance-inducing adventure, a purely continental trip around the mirror-ball, a guilty pleasure of the highest standard, with vocals ablaze and instruments on fire.
The brilliant brace of the platter’s two last numbers, alone worth the price admission, also signposts the ensemble’s future: quasi-ethereal but tangibly, firmly rooted in sci-fi prog rock that would find fans all over tomorrow’s world just a little bit further down the line.