There’s nothing ordinary about the fabled Los Angeles quartet Bigelf. In fact, even the extraordinary are crushed in the wake of a heroic bombast so brilliant, you can’t help but be swept adrift by the doomed mist of infectious melodies and chilling harmonies that collide with an otherworldly embrace of the psychedelic on “Cheat the Gallows,” the band’s debut release for Linda Perry’s Custard Records.
The epic album is the soundtrack for new world disorder. We’re talking about a pop-cultural phenomenon shaped by the muse of Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Queen and The Beatles. Bigelf are massive in stature, muscular in tone and beautifully diabolic, oozing with the credibility of artistic savant and ironclad integrity.
“Our genetic codes are from the great ones, the great acts and rock groups of the past,” says frontman Damon Fox. “We’ve been exploring taboo grounds for a long time, and the oxygen is really thin up here. It’s a very high mentality, and there’s very little room for error. When you get into those psychedelic and progressive rock categories, you’re battling some of the greatest shit that ever existed, so you’re either going to be great, or you’re going to suck.”
Bigelf are great.
Fox loves sprinkling conversations about his band’s music with the word “progressive,” but let’s make something perfectly clear: Bigelf don’t create music, they craft orchestrations. Bigelf aren’t progressive like a bunch of guitar school students trying to outplay each other and see who can set their strings on fire first, they’re progressive in the sense that they truly take hard rock into the future, embracing the genre’s rich cultural past and reinterpreting it with a slant and skew that gives the new millennium a sound it’s been waiting far too long for: “Strawberry Fields” tossed with the acid-wash of mushroom caps, “The Wizard” taken to whole new heights of paranoia, “Dream Police” with souped-up squad cars, and a more divine “Karn Evil No. 9.”
“The creativity of psychedelic rock and the limitless horizons of prog rock are totally gone today. There are too many formulas, too many rules, and everybody is just too bogged down with singles, sales, and their MySpace pages… We still care about pressing boundaries,” says the frontman.
From the hyperkinetic zeitgeist and manic sideshow glee of opening colossus “Gravest Show on Earth,” to the cinematic sound explosion of closing track “Counting Sheep,” the run-of-the-mill gets run through the mill on “Cheat the Gallows,” as Fox, guitarist Ace Mark, bassist Duffy Snowhill and drummer Froth dare modern rock and roll to try and keep pace. They pillage the tired and thought-to-be-true with a brazenly aggressive approach to guitar driven histrionics, haughty Hammond organ and majestic Mellotron tapestries, and a bottom end that spins, swirls and a surrounds the senses with penetrating bass lines and an upright backbone of drums that pave the defiant pace.
At the forefront of the musical melee is lead single “Money It’s Pure Evil,” a master class in marrying blues-based, classic rock tendencies with today’s more mainstream fancies for minimalist rock and roll missives. “I wrote that song when I was 21 years-old, and it’s straight from the John Lennon playbook,” says Fox, who admits that the song has fragmented over the course of the past decade-plus, but still rings truer than ever. “The video is fantastic and inspiring, about Hollywood and the darkness of fame and what happens to people caught in its web. The train’s off the track, but people are too busy looking at it to do anything about it…”
“Gravest Show on Earth” is the quintessential opening track, a twisted joyride of marching drums, sinister vocals that will make Robin Zander squirm with pride, and a sonic smorgasbord of Sgt. Pepper-worthy salutations that beckon you in with a long, twisted finger and set the tone for the album’s ensuing cuts. “Blackball” is a heavy, down-tuned swash of melodic rapture saturated in a lyrical escape from the corporate stranglehold, while “The Evils of Rock and Roll” features the band’s signature maniacal vocals atop a Tony Iommi-inspired guitar assault. Throughout, Bigelf embrace their unwavering affinity for not only honing a pop aesthetic, but honoring it throughout the song. “No Parachute” and “Race with Time” shift into demented shades of Pink Floyd-fashioned hypnotic psychosis, “Superstar” submits to the saucy seduction of a rock and roll sellout, and “Hydra” is a frenzied rush of steel-toed swagger that drips with chaotic power and is drenched in hallucinatory Bigelf dynamics.
One of Fox’s favorite reviews of his band hailed that Bigelf are “30 years behind and five years ahead of what’s happening.” It’s a line the frontman is proud of, and loves to repeat. “The concept behind Bigelf has been to take strong, classic melodies and dark, neurotic songwriting, and synthesize them with demonic guitar riffs and analog keyboard wizardry. There were few bands that did both, so there wasn’t a template or blueprint to follow… The Beatles and Black Sabbath, at the same time, is what has always come natural to us, and that has always been the genesis of it all.”
With the release of their “Closer to Doom” EP in 1995, Bigelf established themselves as founding fathers of the psychedelic doom movement that spawned the Los Angeles stoner-rock scene. In the 13 years since, they’ve released two full-length albums and attained cult phenomenon status overseas, most notably in Europe and the Scandinavian homeland of Ace Mark and Duffy Snowhill. Both those albums were met by major-label recording contracts that promised worldwide success, but instead resulted in the corporate backwash that has defined the modern music industry.
But that is the past, and the future is here. Bigelf have cheated the gallows and come out stronger for the wear. Now it’s time for the world to pay the piper at the gates of dawn…
The reign of Bigelf is upon us.
“At the corner of Sabbath Street and Pink Floyd Boulevard sits the hairy group of retro rockers known as Bigelf.”- Flavorpill
“Their M.O. is simple: Look to ‘60s and ‘70s giants for inspiration- especially Black Sabbath, the Beatles, Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd- combine apparently disparate elements with calculated abandon and make the results as f**king huge and twisted as possible.”- Decibel
“The most carnivalesque release from a quite carnivalesque band, the fifth album from L.A.’s Bigelf…swaggers woozily through kaleidoscopic soundscapes like the soundtrack to Something Wicked This Way Comes.- LA CityBeat
“"...overflowing with strings of guitar lines that Slash himself would nod approval to....alternates between layers of haunting keys, pulsing chimes and Houses Of The Holy power chords.”- CMJ
“Los Angeles’ own Bigelf have got a supreme retro-ness (as in retro-metal, retro-prog, retro-pop, retro-AOR) that caricatures several awesome ’60s and ’70s acts (some say ELP and ELO, but I offer up the Nice and Roy Wood’s Wizard).”- LA Weekly
“Forget about all the retro rocker wannabes, Bigelf is the real deal, and Cheat The Gallows is an album for the ages. You get horns, organs, vintage guitars, and heartfelt melodies that aren’t just catchy, they’re classic and classy. 9 out of 10.”- Outburn Magazine
“Rock hard riffs, psychedelic keyboard runs, ultra-melodic vocal harmonies and operatic breakdowns that would make Freddy Mercury proud.”- Hartford Courant
“With crisp ‘70s-style production, loads of hooks, and Damon Fox’s high-pitched vocals, these hirsute rockers carve out their own distinctive sound.”- Metal Edge
“With all of its haunted-hayride shenanigans, Cheat The Gallows may seem like a ghastly downer, but this was last year’s best legal high and is worth hitting now.”- Ft. Worth Weekly
“One of the top ten albums of 2009.”- Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam)
“Bigelf’s ‘Cheat The Gallows’ is hands down my pick for the best album of the past year. They’re like all my favorite bands in one.”- Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)
“For the last 17 years Bigelf have been on a mission to revive beards, bell-bottoms, Mellotrons and psychedelic hard rock”- Classic Rock Magazine