BANG — Bang (review)

BANG — Bang album cover Album · 1971 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Black Sabbath has become hailed as the fathers or grandfathers of heavy metal. Time has left their debut album as the starting point of the genre. And yet I wondered for a long time why, if Sabbath had truly invented a whole new genre on their own, weren’t their immediately dozens of bands to follow in those same musical footsteps. It seems to me now that what was happening around 1969 and formalized into a new style, if not in ’69 then surely by 1970, was not a local and isolated phenomenon as many music documentaries would have us believe. By 1970 there was a globally spread interest in playing this new style of rock. Black Sabbath may have set a new precedence but most bands were too busy developing their own styles to pay much attention. The influence of the boys from Birmingham would have to come a generation later. Or would it?

As it seems to have occurred, even as early as 1970 there were bands who heard the Sabbath sound and adapted it to their music. Bands in Scotland, Peru, Japan, and other countries were composing songs that moved away from the traditional blues-based hard rock sound and were going for a doomier, heavy sound. Take for example the Philadelphia-born band, Bang. In 1971, they recorded a conceptual album of late heavy psychedelic, slightly progressive guitar rock which their record company, Capitol Records, shelved because they said such an album would not be a commercially viable debut. The band went ahead to record a new album’s worth of material, this time less upbeat and with less emphasis on vocal harmonies and guitar melodies. Instead the music turned toward this new heavy riff rock guitar and the vocals transformed into a rawer style to suit the music. Capitol were pleased enough to release the album and one of the songs was released as a single that managed to crack the Billboard Hot 100.

Bang’s official debut, self-titled, is yet another fine example of how the newly-born musical genre of metal was establishing its criteria. This is not a hard boogie rock or heavy blues album. Most of the songs feature some slow and heavy riffing and the instrumentation is simplified down to guitars, bass, and drums with a second guitar track added in. Being an American band, the American style of rock and hard rock can be heard in some tracks but for this album especially, Bang went all out to create a heavy guitar album. Their follow-up “Mother / Bow to the King” would maintain the heavy guitar style mostly but begin to lean towards a less doomy sound, and the next album “Music” would steer completely clear of metal concentrate on typical American-style rock with some country influences, similar ironically to a lot of Humble Pie’s early material.

The eight tracks that make up Bang’s official debut are as follows: “Lions, Christians”. A song about early Christians which mentions fear, pain, death, and screams so it sounds like a pretty good metal topic. The song begins a little more like heavy rock but soon introduces heavy Sabbath-like chords. Vocalist Frank Ferrara comes across as a blend of Ozzy Osbourne and a lower register version of mid-70’s Geddy Lee.

“The Queen”. No not Her Majesty but the madam at a brothel who meets her king when a man requesting “service so bizarre” can only be satisfied by the madam herself. It’s a power chord-based number that is slow and heavy but picks up pace a little in places. There are some excellent riffs here that truly capture the Black Sabbath influence.

“Last Will and Testament”. Many early 70’s album will knock your socks off with the first two songs and then give you a nice sappy ballad for the third track. Here we indeed hear some acoustic guitar but it’s not a love song and though not really heavy, the electric guitar comes in with an almost late Beatles sound. Overall the song reminds me of a cross between Nazareth and “Caress of Steel” Rush.

“Come with Me” returns us to another Sabbath-inspired riff rocker. The chorus is more upbeat, however, and I’m reminded of heavy Sweet or early Stray. The song is about environmental destruction in the U.S. and lyrically is similar to Kansas’ “Song for America”.

“Future Shock”. A song title later to be used by Gillan, this is another slow and heavy song with a beat that certainly could bring to mind a metal works factory. There’s an echo effect on the drums where the echo actually seems to precede the drum strike by a fraction of a second. It’s a bit weird but considering the name of the song I can imagine it was intentional (i.e. we sense the drum beat, the future, before it happens).

“Questions” was the hit single from the album and as you can imagine it is lighter with more emphasis on melody. It’s still based on rock guitar but with less emphasis on power chords. Musically like Nazareth and vocally like Stray.

“Redman”. Yes, a song about the plight of Native Americans if you hadn’t guessed. More of that Sweet/Stray vocal style with music like Black Sabbath meets Nazareth.

As a heavy guitar album this one is pretty consistent. It certainly makes a good candidate for the first generation of heavy metal. It’s less progressive than other proto-metal bands of the time, the music even less complex than Black Sabbath. It’s also not as aggressive as Grand Funk Railroad’s early albums or Sir Lord Baltimore. Bang seem to have focused more on being slow and heavy with some killer riffs for this album and they pulled it off very well.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
A friend of mine is all ga ga over Bang and i have heard the first two albums. This one is definately the better of the two but i think i totally agree with your critique and rating

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