THE NEW ALBUM
A Storm of Years
After all these years
soflly came the rain
to fall on all the seeds of hopeful dreaming
After the completion of the Koolray album in 1998, the trans-continentally dispersed Avengers quite literally went their separate ways.
As the 90s turned into the new century, only a one-off gig in their hometown in early January 2001 brought them together onstage in a joyous live reunion, with themselves and their fans.
And yet, all the while, Karl's songbook continued to grow, promising the Avengers a bridge back to the dynamic musical hedonism of their imperial years.
A spark flickered in 2010, when the band reunited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of B.U.M.S. Magazine (Brisbane Underground Music Scene) - the alternative music omnibus which catalogued all that was good, bad and unique about the Brisbane music scene. During this period, bands such as Powderfinger, Regurgitator and Custard were - together with the Purple Avengers - signing record deals and breaking out of the local cubic construct.
Finally, following the release of the magnificent compilation A Brilliant Light on the Edge of Madness, the Avengers got together in 2012 to play a show at the Red Room in their old stomping ground, the University of Queensland. Such a good time was had that the first stirrings of a new record were soon to be detected.
With Richard now in the US and Garth in Melbourne, a period of intense and creative rehearsal sessions began. This culminated in a few days in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland north of Brisbane recording what was to become the album A Storm of Years.
The long awaited new Avenger album is a gloriously diverse work, revelling in everything from the ravenous rythmns of Logic Fails to the intergalatic auditory glow that is a 1,000 Years & Rising. Jam-packed with rock maestro musicianship - exhibits A and B, Your Honour, the guitar and organ led tubthumpers Cheese and Liberties and Miranda - the album also contains wistful and evocative delights like Feeds Birds and Billy and his Chest of Dreams.
Personally though, how could you go past the truly wondrous Between the Silver Rails, with the acres of luxurious and laconic space created by the best bass and guitar melody this side of the Mariana Trench.
After all these years indeed......
A Brilliant Light on the Edge of Madness
A Brilliant Light on the Edge of Madness
Prepare to be ambushed by magnificence.
This was/is ultra-tripped-out progressive psychedelia of the highest order indeed, packed full of melody at every turn, most times with relentless pounding and thundering rhythms,
Hypnotic keyboards and wailing lead guitar solo-ing, mixed up with Ash Ra Tempel style, gently building but mindbending Krautrock excursions ("Starlight's Journey Home")...plus wah-wah intro'd heavy psych ("Mirror Maze" - in fact, some of the wah pedal usage on this reminds of Ron Asheton's furious outbursts on the first Stooges album)...the stunning near 9-minute "Dragged Up The Mountain Of Love" remains their most tripped-out heavy psychedelic track (it builds and builds to a mighty crescendo full of killer screaming guitar...and is utterly awesome live!).
Other lengthy tracks include "Lettuce Sin" (8 minutes of hypnotic Middle-Eastern-influenced psych beginning with some mind-bending guitar and keyboard interplay, a freaky rambling acid-trip in the middle, and a ferocious final fret-burning crescendo yet again), "Rikkety Raga" (nearly 8 mins. of pure intensity, laden with stabbing and swirling keyboards, summer-of-love flute meanderings, and ending with monstrous screaming wah-wah guitar - some of the best guitar-solo-ing you will EVER hear, short of no-one!) - the following track, the afore-mentioned 5 minute "Mirror Maze" is more of the same, with ultra-heavy guitar solo-ing...look, the truth is, I'm all out of superlatives - I'm exhausted by the sheer MASSIVE brilliance of what I'm listening to as I write.
The further truth is, there are bugger-all of these CDs in existence....do what's necessary to get one now....coz you SERIOUSLY do not know what delights await within. And if you found out...after missing out...your near-impossible mission would be convincing someone to get rid of their copy - probably not gonna happen - this IS a freaking treasure.
Don't misunderstand any of this ramble, by the way - as stoned/trippy/psychedelic as it may be, none of this is stoner-rock (as much as I love that as well)...and there's not an ounce of gruff doom-i-ness here...this is a blend of pure heavy progressive and psych stuff - like as if 1971 happened in 1967, but under NO circumstances is this retrogressive, or dated - it's as utterly NOW today as it was when recorded - big, and loud, and vital...and bursting out of the speakers at you.
Following the release of the Dragonfly EP in early 1995 things began to get just a little strange (even more than normal) in Avengerworld. Drummer Garth Cooke relocated to more southerly climes to begin some serious commuting and the Avengers' usually busy live agenda started to slowly taper off. Following some bigger showcases with the likes of Dick Dale and a slot at the odd festival, the band had some down time while various members got a life and/or saw the world.
A year later and it was time to make some noise again. The Avengers locked themselves up in the practice room to begin piecing together their most ambitious, and by far their largest, project ever - a much-delayed second album to be called Koolray. As the number of potential tracks to choose from continued to grow, so did the amount of false starts - and it was the beginning of 1998 before the band arrived at OPM studios in the sleepy hills west of Brisbane to commence recording.
With twenty new songs of various shapes and sizes ready to go, the sessions started with a frantic burst of collective energy but quickly slid back into a more individualistic mode that was to dominate the remainder of the Koolray recording process. A combination of geographic dispersion, and a heavy reliance on progressive overdubbing of completed rhythm tracks, meant that from very early on there was rarely more than one Avenger in the studio at any one time.
The 'solo project' approach notwithstanding, the finished product is undoubtedly a winner. The Avengers (as usual) played over the top of each other with great aplomb and the whole thing is vibrant with complexity and atmosphere. There is also a harder, more urgent, edge apparent throughout which is light years away from the lyrical and musical innocence that coloured some of the band's early efforts (the beautiful Pincushion is but one example). With a style range encompassing the lethal riff-centrist groove of Count Me In to the sublime, entrancing bookender Dragonfly (and a very welcome return stop at wigoutsville for Kandy Kane along the way) Koolray represents the most diverse and accessible collection of the Avengers' work so far. If of all of that wasn't enough, the album also contains the band's one and only recorded foray into the world of cover versions with an effortless rendering of the Bowie classic Space Oddity.
Released in July 1998, Koolray broke a three year release drought for the Avengers and for those true believers who've been hanging on patiently for another instalment. It was definitely worth the wait.
Starlights Journey Home
The genesis of what was to eventually become the Avengers' critically acclaimed debut long-player can be found in the (endlessly) long, happy, hazy nights the band spent in the practice room prior to finally deciding it might be nice if someone other than late night security guards, chinese restaurant waitresses and the occasional stoned pigeon heard what the hell it was they were doing.
All those many hours of dedicated musical hedonism in a disused Brisbane department store were to pay off big time, however, as Starlight's Journey Home is (without a doubt) a startlingly brilliant first record - steeped in all the best elements of retro psychedelic frippery, and topped off with (mostly) just the right amount of instrumental self-indulgence. It was also the release that essentially launched the band's erratic but always interesting rock n roll career, with Sydney independent company Phantom Records catching on and signing up to handle the Avengers' future musical output. But more of that later........
Meantime back at Brisbane's Broken Toys studio in 1991 the band commenced recording with Leroy "Bubble" Bath as engineer (who had commanded the Avengers' first and only 7" When will the World Stop Spinning? Blues the year before). The Long instrumental-based tunes like Rikkety Raga and Dragged up the Mountain of Love which formed the core of the album were recorded live late at night in the time honoured Chocolate Watchband method. Strangest Daybring was written during the recording and hints at the heavy sonics so much a part of the live sound that is otherwise hidden on the polished prog rock wig out.
The finished product was released (initially independently) by the band in October 1992 with a slightly different running order and radically cheaper artwork. Phantom subsequently remastered and repackaged the Avengers' masterpiece in 1995 and it is this version of the record that is now the definitive one. After a slow start, Starlight's Journey Home gradually gained momentum in the local indie rock scene, surprising music critics and audiences alike. Bands putting together 90 minutes sets and getting through only 10 songs were thin on the ground at that stage and the Avengers' soon had a reputation as a very trippy group to go and see.
Over two decades on Starlight's Journey Home remains an exciting and vibrant recording - one of the best psychedelic releases in recent memory. It also one that the band themselves are reputed to favour over perhaps all of their subsequent work. Like any good record should it captures a time and a place special to the listener. If you don't believe me then try a nicely rolled joint at dawn on a brilliant winter morning with the long languid build-up of Dragged up the Mountain of Love soaking up the background. It will be the start of something beautiful...........I promise...........