Aug 19, 2012
Bedemon – "Symphony of Shadows"...
There has been some discussion recently on the Doommantia Forum on how good are these obscure acts from the 70's and do they deserve all the praise they are currently getting from doomsters. It is true that in the case of Bedemon their 70's recordings were thin sounding and lacked anything truly remarkable to stand up against Black Sabbath, Purple, Zeppelin and other 70's heavy rock monsters. Now almost 10 years in the making there is a new release and any doubts that might have existed about the song-writing qualities of Randy Palmer should be put it rest. It is easy to get emotional when you think of Randy Palmer's tragic death especially if you think he finally put together the album he always wanted but is no longer around to see it happen. The story of the band is a well-known one now. The band was the idea of Randy Palmer, who was closely aligned with the members of Pentagram which is really the only reason the 70's material is so sought after by collectors. Palmer played for several years with Pentagram, and Pentagram‘s Bobby Liebling and Geof O’Keefe in-turn spent time in Bedemon. Even though the band recorded a bunch of rough and raw demos, there was nothing officially released until the 2005 demo compilation, Child of Darkness.
After Palmer's death, drummer O’Keefe (who also plays 80% of the guitar solos), bassist Mike Matthews and new vocalist Craig Junghandel decided to complete the album and I for one am glad they did because this exceeds all possible expectations. To be honest I didn't have high hopes for this, I thought it was too little, too late but with the sad demise of Randy Palmer it is fitting that the album got a serious release regardless of the quality or strength of the material. The big bonus here is the quality of these songs go way beyond what I was expecting. 'Symphony of Shadows' sounds like a collection of songs that have been kept in a 70's time-capsule but have gained strength over the decades. The truth is though these songs were written by Palmer in the last 10 years and not the 70's at all but they still capture the essence of what was 70's Bedemon. When listening to this, you can't help but think of early Pentagram as the sound, style and general atmosphere is very close to the original Pentagram material with one exception, this seems far doomier and has a Wino/Saint Vitus kind of edge to some of it.
The other difference is while Pentagram kept most of their songs to shorter, more concise playing times, a lot of the songs here are long, sprawling, meandering doom pieces......some of which are up around the 10 minute mark. Kicking off with 'Saviour' it is pretty clear from the get-go that this album was not going to be some kind of throwaway project of Palmer's. These songs are well-written tunes that show the life-time experience that Randy Palmer had. It also doesn't sound "too retro" or at least not as retro as you might think. The songs can proudly sit alongside other modern doom acts such as Hour of 13 and they sound fresh and not just a collection of left-over ideas from the 70's era. As the album plays on, songs like 'Lord of Desolation' and 'Son of Darkness' do have a predictable vibe about them but the songs are still damn good. There is a ominous feel to songs like 'The Plague' that can send chills up the spine but they all carry infectious gloomy grooves that are impossible to get out of your head.
There are passages that seem over-extended, 'D.E.D' is one such song. Pushing almost 8 minutes long, the song virtually runs out of steam at about 4 minutes and it stretched-out with a repetitive chorus that gets pretty dull by the end of it. Those kinds of needless padding are rare though as most of this hour-long album flows beautifully. 'Kill You Now' is short and sweet and an instant classic for Bedemon fans while 'Godless' is my personal favorite track on the album. 'Godless' is a marriage of proggy sabbathian rock and pure Saint Vitus styled plodding doom and it is jam-packed full of irresistible groove and wonderfully tasteful and emotional guitar work and it is that which makes this as good as it is. The solos are dramatic, emotional and it is not just mindless doom shredding. The playing on this album is raw one minute and then beautiful and tasteful the next and the blend is potent. The closing epic duo of 'Hopeless' and 'Eternally Unhuman' are a bit overly expanded for their own good, both songs have a tendency to drag on a little but there is so much spark to the playing that it is impossible to turn it off without sitting through the entire 59 minutes.
As a way of honoring Randy Palmer’s legacy, 'Symphony of Shadows' is near-perfect. If you ignore the emotional element it is still a near-perfect release. There are slight detours and moments where the album seem to be just treading water and fleshing out songs just for the sake of it but those passages are rare and there is certainly not a weak track on the album. If you want to compare it with the original Bedemon material, then this is a worlds apart and a big step up from the original tunes. It also carries the pure 70's production values which compliment these songs perfectly and if you want to hear above-average riffing, this is an album you must hear. A special mention must also go out to vocalist Craig Junghandel who delivers a stellar performance. All in all, this is all you could want from a Bedemon album and more and of course we must thank Randy Palmer for making these songs possible.....9/10.
Words: Ed Barnard & Sally Bethhall.
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