Big Elf – Cheat the Gallows – Review

bigelf200Big Elf

Cheat the Gallows (Custard)
By Martin Popoff

Big Elf are one of those bands that never quite operated in the metal mainstream, or any standard biz model, for that matter. And fact is, they’re too bold, too great, too hugely under-rated, and just too, too much with the talent shooting off like fireworks for most to deal with. From the past, you might call upon that strangely hyped and cult band Jellyfish for a comparative, or Nudeswirl, I Love You, Liquid Jesus, Jane’s Addiction, King’s X, The Big F (!), Enuff Znuff, Masters of Reality, Saigon Kick, The Tea Party… man, and only bits of those (OK, lots of I Love You). In the here and now, they have most in common with Hammers of Misfortune in freakfest “slake of the Gods’ chalice” style, and with Opeth and Porcupine Tree in skill, creativity and importance. Loosely, imagine if Sabbath circa ’73 and ’75 drew in a huge Queen influence and Roy Thomas Baker, and then Ozzy convinced the rest of the guys to let fly with the band’s (well, mostly his) love of Beatles’ melodies. It’s sick, the idea of giving this thing a 10, but it can’t be faulted anywhere on any count. The production (and the texturing inside it) is one of the best and most complicated you’ll ever hear. The songs are hugely ambitious but not at all proggy, if that’s possible, although Pink Floyd trippiness is part and parcel of the band’s vibe. I dunno, incredibly, Big Elf have been like this for a few albums now, but against Cheat the Gallows, I can only think of one other album that evokes the same sense of an insanely impassioned recordmaking session with one mission in mind, to make the greatest rock album ever, and that would be Queen toiling away on their similarly monumental first.