Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Album | 13 January 1990

Sonic Boom

Over the last 10 years or so, through irregular illegal gigs advertised entirely by word of mouth and at the risk of heavy fines and imprisonment, Vagtazo Halottkemek (The Galloping Coroners) have built up a reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in their native Hungary. In recent months, they have also performed at numerous festivals in Germany and the Netherlands, and have achieved some notoriety in the West. "A Halal Moresre Tanitasa" ("Teach Death A Lesson"), recorded in 1988, is their first record to be made available in the UK.

The band cite the tribal beats of the mystical shamans of ancient Hungary as their most important influence and the ritualistic rattle of percussive instruments, including brutally echoed cattledrums, are creased with the frenzied scratch and scrape of a guitar, the groan of a synth, and half-choked words. It reminds me of the first Hawkwind album, of a polluted Shiva Burlesque, of Savage Republic at their most tenacious. A series of physical and spiritual peaks, it's a psychedelic trip in the most primitive sense of the word.

The light-hearted whistling and the sound of running water at the beginning of "Raebredek" ("I Wake Up With You") gives way to a bewitching melody – the chime of a tiny bell also helping to lull the listener deep into a trance – and whoops, screams and a sharp intake of breath heralds the start of the ugly thrash that is "Ki Vele, As Istenert!" ("Get It Out, For God’s Sake!"). More volatile still is the 12-minute "Elo Vilagegyetem" ("Living Universe"). The lyrics talk about the insignificance of mankind and the relentless pounding of the drums celebrates the eternal existence of some grander life force.

Vagtazo Halottkemek’s intriguingly named howler and whistler, Grandpierre Attila, says the band are "hammering on the doors of nothingness". Open without fear.

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