Arzachel (1969)


Is it Uriel or Egg? I’ve read a ton of different breakdowns of what the members of this band and its offshoots that I no longer care how it all fits together so, for the sake of convenience and brevity we’re going with the name on the sleeve and the liner notes and referring to this fantastic record as Arzachel.

When it came to making this list I thought it might be tricky to conjure up 31 different albums. Now that we’re nearing the end it is evident that there are more that I could have added as today’s inclusion was going head-to-head with Comus’ First Utterance. The reason I chose Arzachel was due to it’s heavier reliance on Lovecraftian references and the heavy reliance on the organ, for those who have read my Gehenna post you will know that it all comes down to the organ.

At first, this album sounds very similar to some of it’s contemporaries, specifically Iron Butterfly and Blue Cheer. It doesn’t take long before things take a trip towards the strange on the opening track, Garden Of Earthly Delights. The album opens with a verse not entirely dissimilar to other Rock bands at the time but where it shifts is in the eerie organ bridges where the music takes a break from following a rigid structure to become a lot more loose and experimental.

The title track and Queen St. Gang are similarly bizarre and eventful, particularly the former with it’s extended stretches of ethereal, ambient sections. The latter provides the first recognizable groove heavily rooted in Blues music and is probably the most straightforward of all the songs present here before the surprise, brief ending that devolves into a fantastic slurry of discordant feedback and organic effects.

Leg is another bluesy number accompanied by a sinister sounding organ performing long, disjointed chords in the background. The entire album walks the line of traditional, organized compositions and complete, utter chaos brilliantly. It is a shame that this was the first and only album released under this moniker, though there is also something very special that it exists as a one-off. What occurs at the halfway point in the song Leg is particularly noteworthy as it breaks into a heavy jam session that gives way to the long, psychedelic closing tracks.

Clean Innocent Fun and Metempsychosis end the album in an absolutely horrific way and are the main reasons this was the album I chose over Comus for this list. First Utterance is a terrific album but it is one that is simply strange whereas Arzachel tap into the creepy Halloween mood significantly more. Clean Innocent Fun opens with strange string plucks and discordant sounds before giving way to a brash cacophony of noises that might sound at home on an early Sonic Youth album. The entire record has led us to this final pairing of songs that have finally done away with the facade of normality to completely embrace the chaos.

Unfortunately, Arzachel is not an easy physical release to acquire but it is luckily one that can be downloaded from a number of different sources or heard on YouTube entirely. I’d urge anyone with an interest in unique, wonderfully performed music to give it a shot, particularly at this time of year with the lights low and the fireplace roaring. It is a real treat and I’m just glad it hasn’t been lost to the ether, hopefully it never will.