...Preposterous sci-fi/fantasy-influenced lyrical posturing resolutely to the fore...
Chris White 2007
Formed in 1969 and initially heralded as potential U.S. rivals to Ozzy Osbourne’s legendary Black Sabbath, Long Island’s Blue Oyster Cult’s early releases delivered the kind of ear-splittingly intense combination of tight, frenetic guitar noise and apocalyptic lyrical imagery guaranteed to delight heavy metal diehards everywhere. The band’s fiery, occult-influenced stage presence and hedonistic lifestyle quickly helped them build a devoted following, although (strongly refuted) allegations of neo-Naziism were hardly conducive to more mainstream acceptance.
Fast-forward to1977, and the Cult’s sixth album Spectres, while hardly pastoral folk, palpably lacks the raw-boned fury of the five-piece’s hell raising youth. The previous year’s Agents of Fortune, with a hit single, '‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’', which featured on the soundtrack of John Carpenter’s classic horror flick Halloween, had brought the group widespread success for the first time, and this seemed to encourage them to soften their sound into something approaching radio-friendly adult rock.
Reissued in 2007 with four bonus tracks, Spectres keeps singer Eric Bloom’s preposterous sci-fi/fantasy-influenced lyrical posturing resolutely to the fore, but the musical backing mixes trademark power-riffing with slower, psychedelic passages and slick vocal harmonies which bring to mind vintage King Crimson, or even Pink Floyd, at their best and the likes of Chicago and REO Speedwagon at their worst. The highlight is original album closer ‘'Nosferatu'’, a brooding slice of epic progressive rock which marries the band’s sinister roots to their newfound melodic sensibilities with winning effect. Unfortunately, heavier numbers such as ‘'Godzilla'’ and the lamentable ‘'R.U. Ready to Rock'’ are no more subtle than their titles suggest, displaying the kind of asinine self-parody on which The Darkness later built an entire (and, it now appears, mercifully brief) career, and the additional songs, including a gut-wrenchingly awful version of The Ronettes’ ‘'Be My Baby'’ will appeal to nobody bar the most obsessive completists.
1978’s live opus Some Enchanted Evening is a greatest hits collection in all but name, with Bloom and his cohorts on typically overblown form as they blast their way through established Cult favourites such as '‘Astronomy'’ and the aforementioned ‘'(Don’t Fear) The Reaper'’. Though sometimes shamelessly self-indulgent, the band’s quality of musicianship is evident throughout the set, and fans will enjoy bonus versions of ‘'Summer of Love'’ and Steppenwolf’s ‘'Born To Be Wild'’. This legacy edition also includes a live DVD, and overall offers a better-value package and a more accurate representation of Blue Oyster Cult’s appeal than the polished but safe Spectres.