Hologram Of Baal
By: Eric G.
After Gold Afternoon Fix in 1990, The Church all but disappeared from the public’s consciousness. Original drummer Richard Ploog left the band, which then released the dispassionate Priest = Aura before slipping wholly into obscurity. Another key member, guitarist Peter Koppes, dropped out leaving bassist/vocalist Steve Kilbey and lead-guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper to trudge aimlessly through the uneven Sometime Anywhere album in 1994. The band lost its major label support and has remained utterly silent in this country until two weeks ago with the release of Hologram of Baal- a welcome return to form harking back to pre-Starfish era Church. Peter Koppes has rejoined the band along with Sometime Anywhere drummer Tim Powles for a familiar excursion into the cerebral, netherworld only The Church can summon.
Hologram of Baal, despite its pretentious title (‘Baal’ loosely translated means ‘Allah’), is a surprisingly tight and energetic statement from a band that one would assume had left its best days far behind if not for more than a look at the picture inside the CD booklet. Steve Kilbey’s completely off the wall lyrics, abstruse sense of melody, and sing/speak vocal style remain the central force behind these songs along with Wilson-Piper’s chiming, textured guitars and Koppes’ carefully controlled melodies that tread above the wash of music. The production is layered in waves of reverb and delay, and it lends itself well to the mystical feel of the album. “Ricochet” is a galloping, almost angry chant that has a sense of immediacy and intensity the band hasn’t mustered in years. “Louisiana” shimmers and sways like a distant cousin of “Metropolis” off Gold Afternoon Fix, and sounds like, God forbid, a single. The Church has always integrated elements of that sixties psychedelia inherent in The Byrds’ music with aspects of early David Bowie minus the affectations, and this album stands as a testament to all those who had written the band off.
*Limited editions of the CD feature a bonus disc entitled Bastard Universe, which presents the band in an improvisational setting fleshing out the sounds that would eventually lead to Hologram of Baal.