To understand Blue Oyster Cult you have to start at the beginning. As with any great mystery you have to collect clues, interview suspects, and view the scene of the crime. And you'll have a hard time finding a more intriguing, enigmatic mystery to spend your life unraveling than the music of BOC.
Recorded in 1971, the cast of characters on the band's eponymous first album would still scare the hell out of parents today. Satanic bikers obsessed with bringing the antichrist into the world, leering addicts passing pills orally, a vain rock star taken with a false sense of his own immortality … these are the kinds of characters usually reserved for fiction, not the darkly quaint boogiemen that ordinarily populate heavy metal.
The lyrics are poetry of riddles and nothing is ever exactly as it appears. Transmaniacon MC, a sinister tribute to the slaying at the Rolling Stones Altamont concert in the '60s, kicks the album off with a hellish bang, "We're pain/ we're steel/ a plot of knives" singer Eric Bloom wails, frightening threats amidst the pabulum of 1970s sugar rock. That any band would even think about writing and recording this kind of song in 1972 is astonishing. Rock had taken a decidedly nasty turn around the time Jim Morrison died, and death was an acknowledged specter always waiting in the wings, but the threats of these leather clad neo-fascist vampires leveled at their audience was different. Money didn't seem to be a motive. Neither did fame, if the lyrics to Stairway to the Stars is any sign ("Stairway to the stars/we've got better things to do"). Black Sabbath, the big bang of metal, were going to have to work overtime to keep pace with the sinister cynicism and deft musicianship the oyster boys touted across stages.
Sabbath might have set the stage for metal (and established many of the themes), but their limited, drunken imaginations didn't see the true potential in the medium. Drummer/songwriter Albert Bouchard recognized the possibilities with his music on the song Cities On Flame, the lead riff of which Bouchard readily admits was copped from Sabbath. But BOC believed in taking things farther ... more music, deeper lyrics, and an excess the likes of which wouldn't be seen again until modern speed metal.
The muddy sound quality of the album might be the one detraction for new listeners, but even the album's poor sound has it's nostalgic value. Low production values didn't slow them down much: overdubs, multiple guitars and keyboards, and layered vocals managed to create was one the biggest sounds to ever come out of an 8-track recorder.
Much of what metal is recognized for today (which is both good and bad) was first perpetuated by BOC. While the band moved on to lighter sounds and subject matter (hell, this shit even disturbed the band) many fans still cling to the Cult's murky past. It had a nasty style you can't explain without soundinglike a psycopath, but it was magnetic nonetheless.
Then Came the Last Days of May
Stairway to the Stars
Before the Kiss: A Redcap
Cities On Flame
Click here to jump ahead 26 years to BOC's latest release Heaven Forbid!
Other Blue Oyster Cult Links
Blue Oyster Cult OnlineThe Nexus of the Crisis
The BOC FAQThe BÖC information clearance house.
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