Heaven Forbid

Blue Oyster Cult

CMC International Records, 1998

http://www.blueoystercult.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/17/1998

Blue Oyster Cult could be the comeback story of the year. Their last studio album was the "so-awful-it-makes-you-puke" Imaginos, after which the band seemed to disappear off the face of the earth.

Now, Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and crew have come back with a surprisingly powerful tour de force, Heaven Forbid, an album so strong it just might make you forget that the band didn't make it onto the Godzilla soundtrack. (If you don't get the reference, you need to do some musical homework - just like the filmmakers better do.)

Things get started on a harder note really quick on "See You In Black," a number which at first sounds pure evil, but ends up representing evil with a purpose. In a sense, one wishes that Blue Oyster Cult would drop the whole satanic schtick - songs like "Power Underneath Dispair" (sic) might be good numbers, but other bands have done the demonic act a whole lot better.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the Blue Oyster Cult of old returns with a vengeance on songs like "Harvest Moon" and "Damaged". The key lineup of Roeser, Eric Bloom, Allen Lanier, Danny Miranda and Chuck Burgi sounds tighter than any other incarnation of Blue Oyster Cult ever did, and the songwriting has definitely shown signs of growing during their extended absence.

You want proof of this? Check out the acoustic rendition of "In Thee" (where this one was recorded isn't listed in the credits, but it is a live track). Back in 1980, I don't think people would have taken to Roeser and crew making such a bold musical statement. But, here's the rub, kids... this sound works for the band much better than one would have ever expected. Frankly, I wouldn't mind hearing the band do an acoustic album if the songs were as good as "In Thee".

Not that Heaven Forbid's rockers are anything to be ashamed of, mind you. Once you get past the repetitiveness of the chorus on "X-Ray Eyes," the song turns out to be quite good. And while other songs like "Hammer Back" and "Cold Grey Light Of Dawn" might not be as powerful, they're still enjoyable to listen to.

The only drawback I have - and this will prove I haven't dusted the Blue Oyster Cult section of the Pierce Archives for some time - is it's hard to tell who's handling the vocals. There is a definite difference between tracks like "See You In Black" and "X-Ray Eyes," but I can't make a guess who handles which track. (Anyone willing to educate me on this, I'm willing to listen.)

Heaven Forbid shocked me because of its high quality. It's not perfect, but it is a definite return to form for Blue Oyster Cult, and it right now tops my list as one of the best surprises of 1998.

Rating: B

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.