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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gothic Rock forefathers pt.II (Blue Oyster Cult)

Here’s one that will probably be my most controversial article so far…

Last summer I started the "Gothic Rock Forefathers series” where we spotted and remembered all those, essentially ‘60s and '70s bands, that "prepared" mostly aesthetically the ground for the original gothic rock era of the '80s. We started with Black Sabbath and now I’ll claim that Blue Oyster Cult had an important  and significant amount of elements that justifies a Forefathers of Goth title.

An obscure little band by the name of Soft White Underbelly evolved into BOC (I’ll use the abbreviation ) in NY city in 1971. They went down music history as a “clever hard rock” outfit and were one of the first to use the term “heavy metal” when it was still hip and cool and deprived of too much nonsense…

From their early days and in all their releases they displayed a strange symbol along with the (in some cases Gothic) band lettering, whose origin and meaning remained unexplained by the band for several years. They later on revealed that it was a modified version of the astrological and alchemical symbol for Saturn (Cronus).

Several of their sleeve covers had references to occult elements and images that conveyed a sense of mystery. See a sample...

An outlandish mood and a galore of symbols for "Fire of Unknown Origin" LP in 1981...
Note the appearance of this odd circle on the back of this same album. That was years before a certain Mc Coy made magic circles trendy and, nowadays, a must for similarly sounding young bands…

Check the use of dry black backgrounds and typographically styled lyrics excerpts in 1973...

Cathedrals and arches in 1975...

Black and white and oh, so many symbols in 1983...

If this ain't goth... 1988

Most important though it's their music and sound. That’s what it (should be) all about. BOC played a very particular and sometimes weird version of early metal that often used dissonant parts and sudden changes. Their sound was alternating straight strong chords and riffs with dark and moody parts. Diversity and doing the unexpected was in their agenda all too often. They could at will get miles away from the classic rock sound of their contemporaries.
Just listen to songs like Astronomy (a masterpiece!), The Revenge of Vera Gemini (co-written with Patti Smith who collaborated with them for a period), Don’t Fear The Reaper (the ultra classic covered much later by HIM), Unknown Tongue, Veteran of the Psychic Wars ( co-written with legendary sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock), Joan Crawford (who has risen from her grave!) and tell me if the mood we seek in goth rock isn’t already there…

To conclude let’s check some of their lyrics too…

"Workshop Of The Telescopes"- Blue Oyster Cult, 1972
By silverfish imperetrix, whose incorrupted eye
Sees through the charms of doctors and their wives
By salamander, drake, and the power that was undine
Rise to claim Saturn, ring and sky
By those who see with their eyes close
They know me by my black telescope

"Subhuman"- Secret Treaties,1974
I am becalmed, lost to nothing
Warm weather and a holocaust
Left to die by two good friends
Abandoned me and put to sleep
Left to die by two good friends
Tears of god flow as I bleed

"Flaming Telepaths"- Secret Treaties,1974
Experiments that failed too many times
Transformations that were too hard to find
Poison's in my bloodstream, poison's in my pride
I'm after rebellion, I'll settle for lies
Yes I know the secrets of the iron and mind
They're trinity acts a mineral fire
Yes I know the secrets of the circuitry mind
It's a flaming wonder telepath

"Divine winds"- Cultosaurus Erectus, 1980
Anxious lovers, bums in the street
Jackals in waistcoats, men in sheets
Purple mountains, waves of grain
Grace of God, thy will be done
If he really thinks we're the devil, then let's send 'em to hell

"Lips In The Hills"- Cultosaurus Erectus, 1980
Up in the sky, beyond the chasm
My eyes behold, a rare phantasm
The godless night, the night that I saw [repeat as above]
I am gripped, by what I cannot tell
Have I slipped or have I merely fell
I've been tricked, my senses telling lies
I've been (stiffened?) by serpent's soundless cries

"The Siege And Investiture Of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle At Weisseria"- Imaginos, 1988
On the terminal point
Of the cul-de-sac
Patients are dying
The horses are dazed
From the glare of stars
The starry wisdom
Owned by the Baron
And he's got the cure
A drug by the name of World Without End

1 comment:

  1. Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a bizarre gothic modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...
    truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through
    Vanguard Cinema (, and is currently
    debuting on Cable Video On Demand. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal
    World Film Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring
    Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and
    Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the
    Glam/Punk songs "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst", "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire" and a
    dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.


    ***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
    before..." Film Threat
    "A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
    "Consistently stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
    version of David Lynch. " IFC News
    "Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
    "Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque