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Black Bonzo, Sweden


The band check in on Facebook once in a while, but it doesn't appear to be an active concern as I update this post in August of 2016. I haven't heard their third album Guillotine Drama, though I understand it moved into more accessible realms, so that didn't inspire me to rush out and buy it.

Black Bonzo – s/t. 2004 B&B (CD); 2004 Rock Symphony (Brazil CD); 2009 Argus (Japan CD); 2009 B&B (CD)
Black Bonzo - Sound of the Apocalypse. 2007 B&B (CD); 2007 Laser's Edge (USA CD); 2007 Primal Vinyl (UK LP); 2009 Argus (Japan CD)
Black Bonzo - Guillotine Drama. 2009 B&B (CD); 2009 Argus (Japan CD)

----Black Bonzo

Haven't heard this title since I wrote my review for Gnosis in the summer of 2006. Today's listen didn't change my opinion - a very good album if you like retro 70s progressive / hard rock. And I do!

Here's the original review: New Swedish band who play an early 70’s influenced hard rock progressive sound. Think Uriah Heep mixed with some Caravan and early KC maybe? Definitely more of the former, warts and all. Opening track ‘Lady of the Light’ has the fat Hammond, driving rhythms, fuzz guitar, some progressive changes. Vocalist Magnus Lindgren even manages to nail that super cool voice that screams David Byron. Nicklas Ahlund plays an arsenal of analog keys including the aforementioned Hammond, mellotron, Moog and various other synths. ‘Brave Young Soldier’ sets a haunting tone, before breaking into a cool wah-wah bass, mellotron and Moog sequence. The vocals here even have a Pye Hastings touch and thus the Caravan connection is made. On ‘These Are Days of Sorrow’, guitarist Joachim Karlsson obtains some great wah-wah guitar sounds. ‘Sirens’ opens in heavy mellotron/organ mode, and comparisons to Anglagard are inevitable. And first era King Crimson also rings a bell. ‘New Day’ and ‘Freedom’ have more of a 70’s rock and roll feel as does ‘Jailbait’ though with a heavier, almost metallic sound. Tracks like ‘Fantasyworld’ and ‘Leave Your Burdens’ strike a balance between straight ahead rock and progressive breaks with moody acoustic guitar and the usual heavy analog ivory dose. Mellotron laced ‘Where the River Meets the Sea’ is an apt, if not melancholic, closer. Once again, the ghost of classic 70’s Uriah Heep is called for one more encore. It’s easy to do some band spotting throughout as each track has different influences, but the cool thing is they don’t really sound like anyone exactly - so they manage to open a new door. Certainly one of the best retro rockers I’ve heard. Proves there’s plenty of oil left in that well. It’s not a stoner thing either, or a tribute band. Just exploring a genre they like. I’d prefer more emphasis on their progressive tendencies, where the instrumentation and creative ideas explode with reckless abandon. Still a winning album that shows even more potential. Exciting.

----Sound of the Apocalypse

Following on my review of the first album, here is Black Bonzo's highly anticipated second album. While the debut represented the early 70s UK sound - anywhere from the heavy rock of Uriah Heep to the gentler tones of Caravan - Black Bonzo's second album Sound of the Apocalypse shows the band moving to top billing on the arena stage. This album has what I would call a BIG sound. Mellotrons and organ, fat bass, loud guitars, and crashing drums. From the dynamic moments of King Crimson and Yes, to the more progressive sounds of Kansas and Styx is where you'll find the music of Black Bonzo's second album. So in effect, Black Bonzo moved the needle of the time machine from 1971 to 1976. And perhaps also they sailed from England to America. I find the album lacks a distinct personality, but it's hard to root against it. This is hardball progressive rock.

Last update: August 29, 2016


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