While Deep Purple and Black Sabbath were reigning as the frontrunners of the British proto-metal scene, there was one American band that was merging the melodic intensity of Purple and the heavy riffs of Sabbath across the Atlantic. That band is Blue Öyster Cult. While Deep Purple and Black Sabbath were disintegrating both as a group (due to lineup changes) and status wise (due to the rise of punk), the same band's beautifully terrifying (Don't Fear) The Reaper was becoming a cult classic and the Öyster boys were at their peak.
It's 1996, and Blue Öyster Cult are still swimming in the seas of Rock and Metal. They have been a profound influence on many bands today and there's a new compilation out, containing some of their best recordings. Workshop of the Telescopes contains 32 digitally remastered tracks that enables Blue Öyster Cult to lay claim to being one of the pioneering proto-metal bands. Radio favourites such as (Don't Fear) The Reaper, Godzilla, and Burnin' For You are all here, along with some all time greats like Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll, The Red and the Black, and the title track. This is an interesting collection in that when you listen to it, it becomes more clear who Blue Öyster were influenced by and who they influenced. This is evident not only from their aggressive cover of Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild, but also from the doomy Sabbath-type riffs in Cities on Flame and the punkish feel present in Kick out the Jams and Dominance and Submission. Conversely, This Ain't the Summer of Love brings to mind Midnight Oil, Veteran of the Psychic Wars reminds me of a cross between Styx and Queen (not just for the drum beat), and Mike Watt (formerly of fIREHOSE) has made it clear on record that Blue Öyster Cult have had an impact on his music. Veteran of the Psychic Wars was also featured in the cult (no pun intended) movie Heavy Metal, which, incidentally at time of writing, has been released in a "louder and nastier" version. It looks like the same thing has been happening with Blue Öyster Cult, and I can't wait for their next studio release!
The album contains three non-standard tracks (Workshop of the Telescopes, The Red and the Black, and Born to be Wild), and is definitely worth getting if you want to have a complete Blue Öyster Cult collection of music, or as a starter if you want to hear more of their music.
Blue Öyster Cult are finally back with new material after a ten year absence. Heaven Forbid is the band's long-awaited album that really rocks. Many of the tracks on the album have a sound that connects to elements in Blue Öyster Cult's past. See You in Black starts with classic guitar work of Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser followed by some hard-hitting drumming by Chuck Burgi. This, along with Harvest Moon are very typical tunes for Blue Öyster Cult: powerful, catchy, and elegant. Power Underneath Despair is more reminiscent of the direction that the band took with Veteran of the Psychic Wars from the Heavy Metal sound track (though the chorus is a bit disappointing). Hammer Back, Cold Gray Light of Dawn, Live For Me are similar to the stuff that they did in the very beginning. In Thee, originally from the Mirrors album, is one of the coolest tunes on the album. The only weak track on the album is X-Ray Eyes.
The production is great, and Buck Dharma's guitar tone is terrific, but I think Allan Lanier's keyboards should have been more pronounced in the mix. I had heard a few of these songs the last few times I had seen Blue Öyster Cult, and they're really much better live. That makes sense since these songs were worked on during their constant touring schedule and therefore sound better live. Blue Öyster Cult are one of the greatest bands in Rock 'n' Roll history and this album continues to demonstrate why that is the case. I highly recommend getting this release and checking them out live.