Sound: What do you get when you combine The Beatles, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple? Well, if you also add in a touch of twisted carnival music, then you get Los Angeles band Bigelf's latest album Cheat The Gallows. If you revel in the rock anthems of the 1970s but don't mind a bit of experimental soloing in the mix (even more than what was done in that era), it's likely that Bigelf will be a godsend for you. Cheat The Gallows does have it's wacky moments, but it stands out from most of the bulk of music out there today. Bigelf has been deemed psychedelic/progressive rock, and that's a pretty accurate assessment. So long story short, you're in for a bit of a ride on Cheat The Gallows.
Things get off to a colorful start with Gravest Show On Earth, which does give the effect of a ringmaster calling in the crowds. Everything is big in this number, guitars and horns exploding throughout. There is even what sounds like a sitar (although it's likely synth or a guitar effects), and later there is sampled applause to give the effect of an eager audience. It's the perfect song to transition into Blackball, which nearly goes into Mr. Bungle territory with it's organ-driven carnival music touch.
While most of the songs are reminiscent of a big Deep Purple number, there is a little Beatles action in The Game. It's the vocals that really set the tone, and they are definitely a nod to anything from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's a mid-tempo, fairly psychedelic track that is really brought to life with the amazing guitar work. About halfway through there's a large buildup to the guitar solo, which is unbelievably bluesy and quite retrained in comparison to some of the tracks.
Given the fact that pretty much every song on Cheat The Gallows could be described as grand, it's not necessarily a huge shock that the closing number is somewhat of an epic number running about 11 minutes. After a rather loud and unusual intro, Counting Sheep transitions quickly into a mellow, Pink Floydish section. Periodically a darker, distorted section takes over, which sounds all the cooler with the layered horns on top of it all. Some might think it goes on too long, but there's enough happening instrumentally to keep things fresh throughout. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrical aspect of Cheat The Gallows smartly reflects what is happening musically. Rather than a lot of talk about emotions, Bigelf creates almost a cinematic experience with their lyrics. They might not seem like much on paper, but each line does seem to be a perfect hit for whatever might be happening with the instruments accompanying it. Whether that be a line like Now I'm sinking, sinking (during the trippy The Evils of Rock & Roll) or Witness for yourself the crime; I'm sure you'll have a grand old time (sung over the circus-themed Gravest Show On Earth), you sense the band is taking you on a specific journey. // 9
Overall Impression: While there is tons of experimentation going on within Cheat The Gallows, there is also a heavy dose of the classic rock sound. Tracks like Superstar and Hydra could easily be products of the 1970s rock scene, and they rely on killer riffs alone. Bigelf might be considered unusual in some respects because of their tendency to put several, varying musical sections in one song, but they prove enough on Cheat The Gallows that underneath all of the effects, horns, and synth are many songs that could hold their own among some of the best classic rock bands' material. // 9