FIRE — Could You Understand Me (review)

FIRE — Could You Understand Me album cover Album · 1973 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Originating all the way from the obscure underground of early 70s Yugoslavia, now considered the independent country of Croatia, the power trio FIRE was famous for turning up the fuzz factor to the max in the vein of early heavy psych acts such as Blue Cheer only with a more Led Zeppelin blues induced fix as heard on Led Zep’s debut. Coming from the small town of Čakovec, the band found that they were a little too exotic and eccentric for their home country at the time as they were going fully international with English lyrics and Hendrix, Zeppelin and Cream as their engine of influence therefore the band found themselves relocating to the Netherlands in order to garner a larger following. The band consisted of Jura Havidič on guitars and vocals, Milenko Balič on bass and Emil Vugrinec on percussion and vocals. Together they released their one obscure album COULD YOU UNDERSTAND ME in 1973 however in reality this album seems more like a remnant from the heavy psych world of 1967 / 68 rather than anything that was being released that far into the 70s. But it should be emphasized that coming from behind the Iron Curtain meant that they were only exposed to Western influences in trickles rather than in torrents which was occurring in more open countries.

Heavy bluesy psych rock is the name of FIRE’s game and their one and only album is chock full of fuzz-fueled heavy riffs that rock the house with more tomentum than a Georgia peach plantation. FIRE turned up the heat to maximum overload and managed to score a record deal on the private Killroy label from the reputation as a hard hitting live act despite having been somewhat decadally challenged since their influences cover the spectrum of Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Steppenwolf, early bluesy Led Zeppelin and of course the distortion noisy pioneers Blue Cheer. Understanding COULD YOU UNDERSTAND ME is simply to recognize all those influences and mix and mingle various aspects of all those bands that went into the pot, however despite all the Western pioneers finding their influence in recognizable chunks, FIRE did successfully manage to change it up and develop their own sound sufficiently to make this album a very decent listen. Despite the over-the-top fuzz effect, the other noticeable trait is the hyper-developed drumming traits of Vugrinec as he delivers some sophisticated percussive drives along with jazzy chops for a mere blues rock band. Also unexpected are the occasional progressive time signature oddities that pop up randomly throughout the album.

Speaking of progressive attributes, the winner in this department surely goes to the nine minute closer “Flames (Fire)” which is the highlight of the entire album utilizing all the FIRE signature sounds in one massive attack that never outstays its welcome. The track turns the fuzz up to the most satisfying levels even leaving Blue Cheer in the dust. The bass line is somewhat remnant of “Radar Love” by Golden Earring but there is a completely different bluesy melodic parade of riffs and guitar licks all souped up with all the effects afforded for the day. It rambles on with fuzz-laden riff after riff building to a satisfying crescendo and ushering out the album with grace. I’ve actually never heard anything this heavy and distorted from this early time period which is exactly why this album has surfaced from the abyss and gained a cult following in the modern day. Unfortunately despite the grandiose efforts of pyroclastic fuzz flows, sinewy riffing and vigorous percussive drive, FIRE failed to catch on to a larger audience perhaps due to the anachronistic feel of their music that would have sailed to the top of the charts a mere five years prior. Despite the pitfalls of FIRE’s approach to their one and only release, this is quite the competent slice of first generation heavy metal. The only gripe i really have is the lackluster vocal performances which get the job done but are far too ordinary to get excited about. As for the musical performances, this is top notch with extra kudos to the nine minute closer.
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