Bram Stoker – “Cold Reading” (Sunn Creative)
Talk about dinosaur rock – well, Bram Stoker came and went by 1972 – and now as if by miracle they’re back! Formed in 1969, they were in midst of London’s emerging prog scene – graced by the likes of Genesis and Yes with even Queen opening for them – regularly playing famous venues like the Roundhouse, The Marquee and The Greyhound before releasing their “Heavy Rock Spectacular” debut. Amazingly, they then split and were virtually forgotten except by the most ardent of progsters and of course, the band themselves. Centred around Tony Bronsdon’s classically influenced Hammond organ and guitarist / bassist Tony Lowe, Bram Stoker’s trademark sound was forged based on ethereal keyboard harmonies and melodies, much of which had a classical basis taking inspiration from the likes of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, of course Mozart. It was a style that Keith Emerson was also trying in parallel at the time so again, there are comparisons to ELP’s sound. With all this happening talent it beggars belief how they threw the towel in – but no matter, it’s all water under the bridge but more importantly, what is this new album – after 43 years – all about?! Well, the two Tony’s are back along with a new drummer in Will Hack, as well as being in touch with original bassist John Bavin, who now resides in Australia, but managed to lend a hand in the song writing. I guess the million dollar question must be: do they still have that authentic sound? Well, it seems that even the band pondered on this and so to get them back in the mould they’ve re-recorded ‘Fast Decay’ and ‘Fingal’s Cave’ along with new compositions like ‘Climbing The Gyroscope’. I personally couldn’t tell the older material apart from the newer stuff which I guess means it works! Furthermore, the sound immediately had me thinking of early 70s prog with it’s distinct church organ keyboards once again anchoring the sound while Lowe’s guitar work danced around it in fine form. “Cold Reading” is an amazing achievement – right down to its psychedelic occult Crowley-esque album cover – given I can’t think of any authentic band from that era who are still playing true to that early style four decades on! Bram Stoker have unfinished business and this time the prog world should be rocked to its foundations by the resurrection of these gods – this is hardcore prog by the original purveyors of it!