This year Frontiers Music srl label releases two live albums and one reissue of legendary Blue Öyster Cult. Live albums are Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014 and Agent Of Fortune performed entirely live in 2016 (40 years anniversary of the album, by the way!). I don’t like live albums so much but I’ll gladly write about reissue of 1998 album Heaven Forbid.
Let’s get back to the end of 80s for a moment. In 1988 Blue Öyster Cult release Imaginos album, which got some good reviews but the sales weren’t so good. After some time Columbia Records was bought by Sony, changed its name for Sony Music Entertainment and stopped its cooperation with the band. As a consequence, Blue Öyster Cult toured next ten years without recording or releasing a new album. The only exception is two songs for “Bad Channels” movie in 1992 and Cult Classic compilation in 1994 with re-recorded versions of their main hits. In the end of 90s the band signs a deal with CMC Records (Sanctuary Records later) and releases the long-awaited comeback Heaven Forbid in 1998 and the last studio album until now, Curse of the Hidden Mirror in 2001.
It can’t be said that critics (their opinion mean something back in the days) received the album warmly: Heaven Forbid was blamed for excessive heaviness, lack of Progressive parts, “poppy sound” (compared to Progressive Rock, of course; for some critics Alice Cooper was also poppy artist accordingly) and too much radio-friendly song – I dug through some archives purposely, just to read what was said about this album then. But is it so bad indeed, especially in today’s world? Let’s check it out!
The album opens with “See You In Black” with bluesy intro and heavy riff, which reminds George Thorogood‘s “Bad To The Bone” and a little bit Mötorhead in the same time. Solo guitar here also isn’t Prog but rather something similar to Diamond Head. “Still Burnin'” also has a quite heavy riff that sounds more like American Heavy Metal (“Man On A Silver Mountain”, for example). The second guitar actually goes more bluesy and it doesn’t allow to this heaviness fully reveal itself.
“Harvest Moon” has much more light sound, still melancholic and very atmospheric, taking the listener somewhere to Occult and Art Rock; it is understandable where the roots of Ghost are. Three various guitar solos are making this song interesting and diverse. Almost the same can be said about “Live For Me”, though it has a little less diversity.
The most outstanding songs here are “X-Ray Eyes” and “Real World”. They are stylistically different but in the same way they stand out compared to the whole album. “X-Ray Eyes” starts in a quite simple way and sounds easy but the great bass line and the drums make the song real Progressive. The lyrics are also quite Blue Öyster Cult‘ish and I can’t really understand why critics were so upset 22 years ago. In its turn, “Real World” is a Southern Blues Rock with simple and catchy riff, which will not allow you to sit still. It’ll be also quite hard to get this song out of your head and you will need to listen to it again and again.
The album ends with “In Thee” from 1979 album Mirrors, played live. It’s a very qualitative record by the way. Seem like Blue Öyster Cult wanted to connect Heaven Forbid with their previous albums with this track but it’s only my assumption.
To sum up, I can say that even by 2020 standards with all the quantity and diversity of the music that we have today Heaven Forbid sounds really interesting. Maybe there aren’t some unambiguous hits like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” or “Astronomy” (thanks, Metallica) but there are “Real World”, “Damaged”, “See You In Black” and other interesting songs.
Heaven Forbid‘s reissue will be released on March, 6via Frontiers Music srl.
Remastered by Alessandro Del Vecchio at Ivorytears Music Works.
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