Review: Bigelf - Cheat the Gallows
Label: Custard Records
Released: August 12, 2008
Make a list of all the grandiose artists and albums in rock n roll history and you probably have a map of the influences on Cheat the Gallows. Bigelf manages to seamlessly move from one of rock's big ideas to the next, making an impressive sound for themselves in the process. It's scary territory and in a sense, it's the train wreck that didn't actually wreck.
Take a song like "The Evils of Rock n Roll." Over the course of six and half minutes, it goes from Sabbath to Budgie to the MC5 to Deep Purple to Sweet, not in a haphazard manner, but so smoothly that you'll miss it if you aren't paying attention. The whole album works this way. "Counting Sheep," the album's finalé, is Dark Side-era Pink Floyd and then before you know what happens, it's dabbling in the dark, heavy riffs of Black Sabbath only to finish up like an old vaudeville show. They borrow from several Pink Floyd eras actually, hitting up Syd Barrett on "No Parachute" and then borrowing the grand theatrics of the trial from The Wall on "Blackball." At other times, they help themselves to Aerosmith's early swing, Bowie's outrageous flamboyance and Queen's bombastic showmanship. In short, they aren't shy. In fact, other than a few of the bands they incorporate into their sound, almost no one has been able to go this far over the top and survive. Instead, they thrive on a sense of theatrics and an underlying soul that keeps Cheat the Gallows, with its ironic skepticism about fame and fortune, from being a regurgitation.
Nothing is entirely original. Nothing appears out of thin air. Everything has influences, but there is a popular misconception that if those influences are discernible, the band is not as original as if they're hidden deep under the covers. Bigelf proves that a band can wear its influences on its sleeve and be on its own trip nonetheless. Cheat the Gallows has liberal helpings of everything big and bombastic about rock n roll in its pot, but the stew it cooks up is fresh and new and downright exhilarating.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.
For another take on the album, check out the Heavy Metal Time Machine