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Electric Funeral : The Wild Performance (Reissue)

Raw, underground Swiss proto-Doom unearthed from 1970 - a rough diamond well ahead of its time.

Live albums are a mixed bag. Largely, it comes down to personal preference. Some of the best albums by top tier artists have been live albums, though, such as Iron Maiden's 'Live After Death', Judas Priest's 'Unleashed in the East', and Black Sabbath's 'Live at Last'. With albums such as these, fans are given a glimpse into how their favorite artists sounded in arenas of old. Often, these live tracks show a heavier side of the band as the members let loose playing faster and more aggressively than in the strict environment established by stringent studio lords.

Obviously, over the years, the art of recording has developed into an even more exacting science. If one looks back to 1970, though, things were much more open ended. Enter Switzerland's Electric Funeral. The band formed in the late '60s pulling their influences together in a cathartic sound that acts very much like a militant curb kick to the flower power fluff of that day. Unfortunately, because of being a bit ahead of their time, label reps were frightened as they found the band to be too rowdy and raucous to offer them a contract. Lucky for connoisseurs of Metal history, the band have released an album titled 'The Wild Performance'. A collection of private live and rehearsal recordings, the album is the quintessence of a diamond in the rough. Collectors, music historians, and Metal completionists will be sure to jump at the opportunity to possess a copy of this as it is a glimpse into another band, like our heroes from Birmingham, with the courage to combine a bombastic sound with intelligent dynamics and the vitality of sheer and primal aggression.

One distinct detraction from this release is that because of not being familiar already with the material, it is doubly difficult to immediately embrace it. There is an inherent learning curve so to speak. The recording being so very raw does not aid in its easy digestion. After a few spins, though, a rapport was developed with the music allowing closer examination and a more intimate bonding with the music.

The album begins with the short and sweet track, 'People'. The sound is established with a heavily distorted guitar soloing over a basic, though mesmerizing and rocking, twelve-bar blues line perpetuated by the tightly locked bass and drums. Soon, things break open with a furious, albeit a bit sloppy, palm-muted main rhythm. A fastly fleeting number, the song perfectly sets up the following track, 'War Funeral Song'. Of all the tracks included, this is the most closely related to Black Sabbath as it has that similar dirge-type Doom they so superbly perfected. When one considers that the recording was taken from 1970, the same year Sabbath released their first two albums, it is hard to determine how much influence was taken from the progenitors of Heavy Metal. Perhaps they caught them on one of their European tours, but I digress. The song begins with a Doom-type minor chord progression. The verse section is largely led by the bass over which the guitar plays some clean flourishes and the vocals attempt to appeal to the melodic side of things. Because the recording is so very rough around the edges, one of the initial primary hang-ups is being able to settle in with the singer. The vocals are not "bad" per se but largely have a sound akin to what one would hear from a bar band stumbled upon any given Saturday night where original bands are still allowed to showcase their wares.

As the album flows along, one becomes more accustomed to the raw performance as if the ears have had ample time to adjust to the quality of the recording. When contemplating the fact that this was taken from 1970, it is hard not to be impressed by the sheer lethal ingenuity on display here - warts and all. Though there were other bands in the underground carving similar swaths into Heavy Metal territory such as Lucifer's Friend and Sir Lord Baltimore, there were only three bands playing heavy stuff that came anywhere near radio play: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. This is a fact to add to the appreciation of this best kept secret of the Swiss.

'To Be One', the fifth track, is led by a flowing megalithic bass line and catapulted by an early, blood curdling scream. With an almost mantra-like feel, a spiraling sound of psychedelia and rage is established. At just under seven and a half minutes, it is a long affair but certainly worth one's time as it is quite inventive and prolific when yet again considering the time period from which it is taken. During the following track, 'We're Gonna Change the World', the bass, in true Geezer fashion, takes the lead after about one minute of run time. A powerful chromatic solo section that serves as the ideal segue between sections is created. Parts such as these prove the charm of Electric Funeral with their unrestrained creativity and proclivity for invention. One is really given the urge to want to time travel in order to be a firsthand witness.

The eighth track, 'My Destiny,' is perhaps the most epic. Just shy of nine minutes, it is definitely the longest song included, but it is also one of the most forward-thinking. This is largely due to the vocals. The singer dons a very rough brogue, one that almost seems to point to the future, directly at Death Metal growling, in fact. No other band from this period has purposely gruff, almost-growled vocals as such. In an auspicious if not clairvoyant manner, it is as if the band were premeditating the future course of heavy music.

After eleven tracks have elapsed, it is quite clear that 'The Wild Performance' is something truly special. To say Electric Funeral were ahead of their time is a vast understatement. With an out-of-the-box approach to their music, the band successfully earned their place in the annals of Metal history. Those dedicated to the evolution of Heavy Metal will find this to be a most welcome addition to their collection.

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Reviewer's rating: 9.5/10


Tracklist :
1. People
2. War Funeral Song
3. Black Pages
4. Rock Ba Rock
5. To Be One
6. We're Gonna Change The World
7. Fly Away
8. My Destiny
9. I Dont Know
10. You Can Help
11. To Be One (Alternate)

Duration : Approx. 65 minutes

Visit the Electric Funeral bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-11-11 by Chris Hawkins
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