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Bigelf
Into the Maelstrom

Company: Inside Out
Release: 2014
Genre: Hard Rock
Reviewer: Vinaya

  • A greater sense of purpose



  • When these eccentric, semi-progressive, semi-metal merchants first came to my attention via England's Classic Rock magazine, I was definitely not sold on them. Frontman Damon Fox was one of those guys who, in just about every photo of them I saw, just gave off the overwhelming impression that the music played second fiddle in his world to his fairly ridiculous top hat-centered image. Samplings of the band's music I heard at the time didn't help to dispel that prejudice either, with my impression being that the band were musically competent but ultimately pretty unremarkable. The fact that half of the band's last lineup has been replaced, with displaced Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy joining on a session basis, seemed like it could be a mixed blessing. But for whatever reason, I'm liking this album much more than past Bigelf material I've heard.

    Not sure what did the trick, but I'm finding much of this album a pleasant surprise. Opener "The Incredible Time Machine" sports a rather cheesy title and ridiculously dramatized repetition of the title words (and little else) on the chorus, but even that somehow doesn't bother me all that much. Fox still sounds a bit pretentious in places, with his somewhat nasal falsetto being used in a slightly annoying fashion on songs like "Alien Frequency," and everything still has a touch of the ridiculous that has always seemed to be a key element of this band. This time, however, I get this vague sense of there being a greater sense of purpose to the theatricality, nasal vocals and other eccentricities of the band--they come across as something with substance, rather than mere gimmicks.

    With a monster percussion technician like Portnoy on board, listeners could understandably come to expect this album to boast a greater amount of musical flare and flash. And while it's far from math metal territory, there does seem to be a little more verve to the music--not necessarily increased technicality, but rather a subtle but significant upping of the ante in terms of composition and the amount of effort that seems to have been put into the songs and the playing. I mean, "Mr. Harry McQuhae" definitely has more Bowie than Black Clouds and Silver Linings, but there is a bit of melodic exoticism in the song's middle section that reminds me of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."

    Overall, the addition of Portnoy (and new guitarist Luis Maldonato) doesn't seem to have changed Bigelf's musical agenda, but something, perhaps one or both of these personnel changes, seems to have added new creative life to an act that previously struck me as something of a novelty. Maybe it's just the fact that I didn't have a favorable first impression of the band, but this album does seem to show something of a rejuvenation, perhaps driven by a new-found sense of purpose. (Possibly relevant note: Fox had apparently considered calling it quits until talking to Portnoy, who had recently undergone a very public and dramatic split with Dream Theater.)



    About this Writer:
    Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.

    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: BIGELF
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Into the MaelstromBigelf
    2014
    Vinaya Saksena5/12/2014


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