(All Album Reviews by Ivan_Melgar_M)
Progressive Rock fans usually are unfair with talented musicians as Demis Roussos and Evengelio Odyssey Pappathanassiou (Vangelis), is true that Demis solo career is mostly based in soft pop but people forget he was a very talented bassist with a great vocal range and Vangelis is remembered for his new age boring albums or commercial soundtracks instead of progressive masterpieces as Heaven & Hell or even his albums with Jon Anderson, which are not among my favorites but must recognize as quality music.
It’s also a important to remember Aphrodite's Child was not only formed by the mentioned musicians because Anargyros (Silver) Koulouris who had returned from his military Service to record this album is a very good guitar player and Lucas Sideras is a very capable drummer, this two members had a direct participation in the album.
Because of the complexity of 666 they recruited also a good number of Greek artists to complement the band as the multi talented and brilliant actress Irene Papas, Harris Chalkitis and Michel Ripoche for the winds, a great lyricist, movie director, book author and member of the European Film Academy, Costas Ferris to take care of the lyrics and even the well known artist Yannis Tsarouchis for the Greek text. In other words, the album was carefully planned.
The concept of the album is about the most complex and controversial book of the Bible, “Saint John’s Book of Revelations” also known as “The Apocalypse”, a really hard task even today, but harder in 1970 when there was no experience with conceptual albums, it’s important to notice that 666 is considered the first properly concept album, because before it were only released some rock operas which are part of a different sub-genre.
When 666 was recorded the problems inside the band were leading to the inevitable split, mostly because Roussos and Sideras wanted to continue doing commercial music as in their previous albums and Vangelis was decided to take a more complex path, so 666 was really their last attempt to maintain the classic formation of the band allowing Vangelis to compose a real progressive and complex album, but it was too late for the band, and 666 was their last album, an excellent way to close the short story of Aphrodite's Child.
It’s hard to describe the music because there’s not other band that had a similar sound or style, the Greek influence is also different than the usual, don’t expect something catchy or folksy as Zorba the Greek, because the band uses darker religious music, it’s important to remember that Greece is the country where the Orthodox Catholic Church is based, and this influence helps to create a Biblical and mysterious atmosphere.
The greatest achievement of the band is the way they blend this liturgical music with more western influences like pop and of course symphonic prog. But they do something even more adventurous, they include some tracks that sound like prayers by monks, with traces of Gregorian Chants and even complex sounds, they were ahead of their time in many aspects.
It’s hard to describe the tracks searching for a favorite or high point, because the album is very faithful to “The Book of Revelations” and any attempt of separating a song takes it from it’s natural context and breaks the atmosphere so carefully created by Aphrodite's Child.
For example the track Infinity (sign that can’t be reproduced with a PC keyboard) outside of the album means nothing except a woman having an orgasm, but in the context of the album makes sense because the Book of Revelation makes various references to the prostitute that tempted the kings. It may be a good interpretation by Irene Papas but don’t place out loud in the CD player of your car unless you have the windows closed because it may be embarrassing.
Disk 1 has many important songs after the weird “The System” which sounds as a strange prayer.
“Babylon” is a rock song with an outstanding guitar work, even though is a studio track, the band created the sound of a crowd to symbolize multitudes on the biblical capital of the world, very good song even if not progressive.
“Loud, Loud, Loud” is a narration of a paragraph of the Bible surrounded by a beautiful piano, for this song the band used the voice of the son of a Greek Diplomat, very atmospheric track.
“The Four Horsemen” is a terrifying song that starts with a scary narration in the form of a sung prayer, talks about the moment The Lamb (Christ) opens the seals to free the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, followed by the band leaded by Lucas Sideras and his accurate drums, really scares me very much.
“The Lamb” is an instrumental with a very Greek sound; the entire band is perfect and well supported by a chorus that adds some dramatics. Almost in the same vein but softer and darker comes “The Seventh Seal” which announces more terrible moments for humanity, the phrase “And when the Lamb opened the Seventh Seal, Silence above the Skies” resumes the terrible message.
“Aegian Seal” has an introduction that you could expect from any Vangelis later album but followed by explosions of music and narrations.
The rest of the first CD is full of laments, tribulations and Greek style music blended perfectly with progressive rock, maybe except for “The Beast” which I supposed would be the darker song but paradoxically is the only poppy track of the album with a guitar that reminds of Clapton’s slow hand.
Disk 2 is even better than the first one (if this is possible) “Seven Trumpets” is a 30 seconds track that literally announces the next song “Altamont” which is very atmospheric and elaborate and shows the great skills of Vangelis as keyboardist, who without the wonderful excesses of Wakeman or Emerson does a very precise work, the background voice is very disturbing and scary, as anyone could expect from an album that describes the end of the world.
“The Wedding of the Lamb” is a strange song that mixes Gregorian Chants with Greek Liturgical music, supported by percussion, other typical Greek instruments and the whole band, confusing but very good track. The next song “The Capture of the Beast” is a track based in percussion and chain sounds with some typical Vangelis keyboard interruptions.
Talked already about “Infinity” so I won’t do it again. “Hic et Nunc” (Here and Now) is a jazzy tune that works as a relief in preparation for the most important song of the album which is “All the Seats Were Occupied”, a 19:19 minutes epic that mixes all the influences, sounds and songs of the album in a single track all surrounded by a mystical atmosphere, extremely beautiful and very complex represents progressive rock’s best face.
The album ends with the only ballad named “Break”, which sounds to me as a Roussos contribution, not a filler, but not necessary either, because IMHO 666 would have ended perfectly with the wonderful “All the Seats Were Occupied”
After 666 was recorded in 1970, the band broke and the album couldn’t be released until 1972 because of many reasons that include the track “Infinity”, the controversial concept and an innocent confession made by the band that they were influenced by Sahlep, most people believed it was a demon or a drug when it’s only an alcoholic drink of Turkey. There was even a boycott by several radio stations, and when the album was finally released by Vertigo (the adventurous face of Mercury), the band was separate for two years.
Iván Melgar Morey – Perú