OMEGA – Gammapolis & Live At Kisstadion

Bacillus 1979 / MiG Music 2022

Gammapolis & Live At Kisstadion

Rounding off their halcyon decade, Budapest band reach for celestial city and land in the glory-lit arena.

Having reached their apex and then plateau with, respectively, "Time Robber" and "Skyrover" that sculpted this Hungarian team’s now-particular style, the collective decided to accelerate the creative momentum and turn in their next platter as soon as possible, within the same year as the latter record. However, giving the album a similarly urban concept, the quintet finally found a way not only to reflect it in sonic terms but also to take the narrative on-stage and forever secure their status as the most futuristic Eastern European ensemble. Perhaps, not as progressive as their previous oeuvre, yet scintillating in a tinseltown sort of fashion, the group’s late ’70s escapades proved to be fascinating too.

The reason for this was the sense of freedom spreading over the band once they ceased to burden their music with notions of genre demand, and dashed into such streamlined pieces as the riff-driven “Rush Hour” and the piano-rippled “Silver Rain” to transport the listener of 1978’s “Gammapolis” to the cinematic landscape. It’s set in “Dawn In The City” whose vistas, where electric pulses propel spoken word towards neon-lit boulevards, flesh out an initial flute-flaunting pastorale with a wondrously synthesized atmosphere before solemn vocals crystallize the image to bring on the passionate “Lady Of The Summer Night” that offers a different, pop-slanted kind of cosmic enchantment. Still, while György Molnár’s guitar and Tamás Mihály’s bass weave a smooth thread throughout the record’s frequently baroque-tinctured surface and even fill the effervescent “Start” with Philly sound to let László Benkő’s ivories and Ferenc Debreceni’s drums shine ever so brightly from under János Kóbor’s voice, the album’s two-part titular epic unfold a magnificently lucent panorama of purely progressive scope, in which a folk-informed instrumental lace and anthemic singing shape a spiritual experience. But the quintet provide no escape route for non-dreamers “guarding like a dragon the gate of empty space” – people derided in “The Man Without A Face” via the collective’s vaudevillian delivery – beyond the playful finale.

The outlet for it all would appear in 1979 when the band released the immense “Live At Kisstadion” – a double-LP document of their homecoming concert that presented to the Budapest fans the material dating back to "200 Years After The Last War" and including the best numbers from “Gammapolis” yet omitted “Pearls In Her Hair” and other early classics. More so, their label unfortunately chose to give the Western audience English versions of several cuts which had to acquire studio overdubs with the choir of the Pécs crowd added; as a result, supplanted in places by artificiality, authenticity suffered, and some of the original energy got lost. The remaining cuts in Magyar, impressively nuanced “Time Robber” and “Silver Rain” among those, exude vigor in spades, though, and solo passages are riveting in every track on display – from the introductory flight of “Vostok” to the majestic performance of “Late Night Show” and the glittery encore of “Metamorphosis I” – but there’s no denying the exquisitely steamrolling appeal of “Help To Find Me” where organs rage or the filigreed allure of “Russian Winter.” And After the fantastically extended “High On The Starway” and “Rush Hour” increase the degree of rock ‘n’ roll rapture, guitars ablaze and dynamics reined in, the hymnal uplift of “Metamorphosis II” where elastic bass and cymbals reign and the Bach-influenced “Final” lead the show to the climactic end for the ecstatic spectators to hail their heroes.

That arguably was OMEGA’s zenith. The group carried on working until János Kóbor’s passing in 2021 – a year after László Benkő and Tamás Mihály had died – and amassed a glorious catalogue, yet they would never recapture the ’70s’ magic.


November 29, 2022

Category(s): Reissues
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