Originally published June 13, 2009. I'm going to move this post forward to the current date, since we now have a CD reissue! I listened to the CD this past week, and the album still continues to blow me away after all these years. I almost found myself in Oblivion, so to speak.
CD reissue: 2015 Guerssen (Spain)
LP reissue: 2015 Guerssen (Spain)
Originally published in Gnosis, April 2, 2001 and slightly altered here.
For hardcore collectors of progressive rock
music, the obscure megabuck private pressing almost always ends up
being somewhat of a disappointment. The hit ratio of great quality
obscurities is quite low. There are many reasons for this including low
budgets, amateur musicians, lack of direction and so on. So when a pure
gem like Avalanche is found while wading through the chaff, there is
some real cause to take notice and celebrate.
On the mostly
instrumental Perseverance Kills Our Game, Avalanche achieves all that
makes a low-budget production endearing. First of all, the playing is
true to the heart - an intangible that is subtle though very
recognizable for those who hear these type of recordings on a regular
basis. The musicianship here is superb though hardly symphony orchestra
quality. And there is a real intimacy that surrounds the atmosphere - as
if you're in the room while they're recording. And perhaps the fact
that Avalanche have six full-time members helps keep the album from the
one-dimensional nature of most private releases.
Side one is
primarily a folk rock affair with wonderful acoustic guitar, piano,
bass, drums and sparse (one track), but well done vocals. The real
highlights, though, have to be the gorgeous flutes (various types) and
the soaring and spiritual electric guitar work. For pure haunting folk,
'Cola-tik' is the embodiment of melancholy whereas the progressive folk
rock number 'Maiden Voyage' displays the band's talent with extended
While the opening side is excellent, there is no
foreshadowing of the brilliance to be found on the flip side. It moves
beyond folk rock to a more complex prog rock sound and climaxing at the
end of the album with a psychedelic space rock sequence not found since
the glory days of Krautrock and bands like Ash Ra Tempel.
'Transcendence' starts this side with serene piano and is augmented by
bombarde and flute. Then a powerful electric guitar enters to play the
same beautiful melody. The tone gets noticeably louder until there's a
dramatic break. Here, Avalanche display a ferocity that is a complete
contrast to the delicate and mellow nature displayed so far. A soft,
two-minute acoustic ballad is inserted to calm the nerves before the
massively powerful 'Oblivion enters. This 11-minute plus opus is the
high water mark for folk rock. As on 'Transcendence', the composition
opens softly with a stunning acoustic guitar melody which is then offset
by some dire sounding flutes followed by harmonium. It's just
unbelievably pretty yet somehow very sad. Just when you're ready to cry,
the electric rhythm guitar begins a simple, jazzy pattern. The bass and
drums follow shortly thereafter creating a head-moving groove. Entering
unannounced is a twin guitar attack which begins to pulverize your
senses. The sound is heavy and acidic like that of Manuel Göttsching,
and the playing has the same soul the Ash Ra guitarist has. The solo
contains a number of original melodies within that add to the special
quality. And this goes on for close to seven minutes to solidify one of
the most intense and beautiful guitar solos in rock history. The album
ends at the peak of the solo; one almost wishes for another 15 minutes
to be found from the same tape. What a trip through the emotions!
The original LP comes in a very plain single sleeve cover, similar to many a
rare private press American album. Originals have always been rare and
expensive. My first encounter of this album was via a cassette
tape from a well known Dutch dealer back in the early 90s. He sold dubs
of rare albums for a reasonable price (after all - it did take time to
do + cassettes weren't free either), and this was long before the
internet and Youtube. Ah, you kids have it so easy... :-D Anyway, I
bought a few rare items from him (again, on cassette), and this was my
favorite. I couldn't afford the album back then (not even close). It was
fitting, then, that I did buy the original LP from the same gentleman
(by this time, more of a personal friend) about 7 years ago or so. All
the while hoping and pleading for a CD reissue. The main issue had been
the band didn't want to go forward with a reissue because the master
tapes were lost. But another old acquaintance of ours, Guerssen, must
have said the right words - and with modern technology - has created a
wonderful sounding reissue. There are no bonus tracks, but there are
great historical notes from Richard Allen as well as some nice photos. A
fine package overall.
Last update: July 27, 2016
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