To think founder and principal player Damon Fox was going to throw in the towel, give up on Bigelf, after taking a hiatus beginning in 2010. But drummer Mike Portnoy convinced him otherwise and even agreed to pitch in with his skills for the new album, Into The Maelstrom. Returning also is bass player Duffy Snowhill, with Luis Maldonado replacing Steve Frothingham.
Most aficionados of the genre recognize prog when they hear it and, surely, Bigelf is progressive rock, leaning to metal. But Fox's music is much more with elements of classic rock, Seventies psychedelic rock, space rock, and even some melodic doom swirling around his Mellotron. It's fun, trippy, stuff that often reminds me of Yellow Submarine washed through everything from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd, King Crimson to Caravan to Portnoy's beloved Dream Theater.
But, this time around, Into The Maelstrom is mostly Fox's vocals and his abundance of keyboards at the forefront, with the other players backing him up. That's not meant to be dismissive of Portnoy and the others, merely to say that Bigelf is Fox's band. Alternatively, On a song like Edge of Oblivion, bass, drums, and guitar drive the composition more than his keyboards (and the song has the strange Sabbath feel). Also in the closing moments of High, the lead guitar over Portnoy's drums comes into focus.
Conversely, on songs like Incredible Time Machine, Hypersleep, The Professor & The Madman, and Alien Frequency, Fox's keyboards are the focus, overwhelming and dense. Although on that last song, Portnoy's drums are quite stirring and significant giving Fox a run for his money. Another notable characteristic of the album is it's inherent heaviness, with bottom end being thick and thumping at times, especially in the bass line as within The Professor & The Madman or Edge of Oblivion, by example. While Cheating The Gallows was quite masterful by Bigelf standards, and received with hearty kudos from fans, those same fans will find Into The Maelstrom quite satisfying and a welcome return to form for Fox and company. Recommended.
Into The Maelstrom welcomes the return of Damon Fox and Bigelf, and it's a fine and satisfying return to their trippy, whirling, progressive rock.
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