Hollow Earth hailing from Stockholm in Sweden channel the sound of early psychedelic progressive rock, being currently re-aired to critical acclaim most-notably by Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets. Bridging the gap between flower power whimsy and the fully-fledged maturity of progressive rock, this era is perhaps seen as an awkward teenage drug-addled experimentation before the real thing came along, and in some cases rightly so. But this is to ignore the genuine subversive dynamic at the heart of the enterprise.
Perhaps only now are audiences, with the benefit of hindsight starting to appreciate the iconoclasm of many of the psychedelics, overturning received conventions, breaking down form and sound and searching for new means of artistic expression. While Hollow Earth, especially on tracks like Incantation will inevitably resonate with devotees of early Pink Floyd or even Wobbler, there is more than retro pastiche. Insistent, hypnotic drum and bass lines hint at the constant menace underlying the music and provide space for extended keyboard improvisations which will also call to mind Deep Purple, especially the glorious Hammond organ work and Uriah Heep. Much as I prefer quality to quantity, the longest track on the album Behind The Ivory Gate best captures what this band is about, distilling the essence of early King Crimson, infused with Canterbury sound and again that heavy rock edge.
As a digression much as I would love to credit the musicians on this debut effort, there remains some mystery as to their identities. Originally claiming to be members of a secretive cult whose identities could not be released, they are now listed as Cristobal Nemo (keyboards) Don Pharaoh (bass) and Rod Handel (drums). Well, yeah. Even the name Hollow Earth seems to be one of the least original in the whole of popular music, referring to at least half a dozen outfits across the globe. A pity really, but I'm sure they have their reasons.
This is a release which really grows with listening. The multi-faceted interplay between the heavy and more bucolic sections makes for an entertaining listen. This may well prove to be one of those slow-burning records which is appreciated all the more as its reputation spreads. It is also, for all its retrospection, one of the most interesting releases in the progressive canon recently and in some ways, paradoxically the most modern.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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