Now things are getting interesting.
It feels like only yesterday that I was writing about Sinatra and bossa nova albums, so my first listen to this album was an exciting moment. “Vincebus Eruptum” has been described by some as the first heavy metal album, and while I’ll take some issue with that description (more later), it was certainly a welcome arrival on my playlist.
Let’s get one thing clear first. Blue Cheer rocked. They were famous for being terrifyingly, insanely loud (the urban legend goes that a dog sat on one of their Marshall amps exploded), and this is an album that you get the most of when your subwoofers are shaking loose of your speakers. It kicks off with a blindingly awesome cover of “Summertime Blues”, a song that I’ve always had a soft spot for since I heard the Eddie Cochran version. This version is caustic, angry, epic and overwhelming in a way that only the rock greats can achieve. It’s followed fast by an insane reinterpretation of BB King’s “Rock Me Baby”, made all the sweeter by how much they sound like Led Zeppelin in parts.
When they move beyond these two covers into their own stuff, it gets slightly more patchy – “Doctor Please” sounds incredible, “Out of Focus” more derivative and pedestrian. As we get to the last quarter of the album, they really get their rock pants on, not just with proper rock n’ roller “Parchment Farm” (imagine Jack White duetting with Eddie Van Halen), but with the dirty, grinding, acid-tinged (literally) stomper “Second Time Around”. This six-minute sacrament to the Gods of rock channels everything from epic psychedelic guitar to Delta blues riffs to a truly magnificent orgy of guitar and drum that challenges even the might of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” for percussive glory.
While the energy and the power chords are there though, it’s misleading to call this a heavy metal album. Think of it more as a howling, delirious and GODDAMN LOUD rock epiphany that would pave the way for Black Sabbath, Zeppelin and the Stooges. Heavy metal was still in the womb when this album came out, but you can feel it kicking when you listen to it. And like me, you’ll be wishing you’d got to see them live, even if you’d probably have needed medical attention afterwards.