The debut album by one of the most dramatic and certainly the most visionary of all the British prog bands saddled with the epithet jazz-rock opens with little care for any of that. Taking a deep draught from the King Crimson/Van Der Graaf Generator book of sonic brutality, the opening "Naked Death" is a hard-riffing, thunderous clatter of apocalyptic imagery which -- if Crimson hadn't already dropped the same bomb with "21st Century Schizoid Man" -- might have proved as lethal as the weaponry it discusses. The same taste for Armageddon permeates the remainder of the album. Some spectacular moments drift through the carnage; Robert Calvert's sax and Graham Wilson's guitar might be most comfortable in full bludgeoning mode, but they can show restraint as well. Unfortunately, vocalist Anna Meek is allowed no such luxury, coming across in places like an extremely bad-tempered Sonja Kristina and in others like a dehumanized version of Lydia Lunch. But if the first three tracks, clocking in at 15, four, and six minutes, respectively, leave you feeling battered, bruised, and maybe not inclined to walk this way again, 24 minutes of the closing "Embryonic Fusion" place Catapilla firmly back on course. A solid, sax-driven suite, of course it has its share of death, doom, and destruction-type lyrics and enough moments of spine-chilling chaos to remind you that Van Der Graaf's similarly side-long "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" was fresh on the racks as this album came together. Unfortunately, such comparisons -- though valid -- are also unhelpful. No matter how influenced one band might be by another, it takes a lot more than a Xerox mind to pull off a piece of music this long this successfully. The fact is, Catapilla not only completes the marathon, they also leave you wondering how 24 minutes passed so quickly.
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