Formed from the ashes of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster are equally obscure these days if not more so, and equally unfairly at that. Fact is, Death Walks Behind You - generally considered far and away the band's best album - is something of a minor "forgotten" hard rock gem, not nearly in the same league as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, or Led Zeppelin but definitely notable contenders thereafter, if only for a brief while. By the time of Death Walks Behind You, the band's second album, Paul Hammond had replaced Carl Palmer on drums and John Du Cann (ex-Andromeda, later in Hard Stuff) joined the trio as singer/guitarist, while group leader Vincent Crane added his distinctive keyboards and most of the songwriting while conjuring bass sounds from his keyboards as well. The album gets off to a rip roaring start with the should've-been-classic title track, with its wonderfully ominous intro and rock solid riffs/grooves thereafter, including several exciting surges and even a singable chorus. Elsewhere, the funky, poppier "Tomorrow Night" (actually a significant U.K. hit) and the chugging mid-tempo stomper "I Can't Take No More" are comparatively straightforward, but the band are really at their best on strong jam-heavy songs such as "VUG" (an instrumental), "7 Streets," and "Sleeping For Years," where their unique chemistry, particularly Du Cann and Crane's guitar-organ duels (a la Deep Purple), is at its most effective. This band can really groove when they up the tempo, enough so that their average songwriting, at times overly plodding tempos, and barely adequate vocals can be overlooked. Crane's keyboards are jazzier and more colorful than the soulful moody vibe he brought to Arthur Brown, , the underrated Du Cann packs some serious guitar heat (though again I wouldn't put him in the same league as Iommi, Blackmore, or Page), and Hammond impressively holds his own. "Nobody Else" is the only ballad on the album, and a sad pretty one it is, though it too picks up steam in its mid-section (great guitar solo), while the 8-minute instrumental "Gershatzer" is the album's most indulgent/meandering track (yep, that's the one with the organ and drum solos), no mean feat when you calculate that the average length of each song here is about five and a half minutes. Still, on most of these songs the band earns the right to stretch out, and their jam-based interplay is often genuinely interesting and exciting. Atomic Rooster had some obvious weaknesses and there are a few lulls along the way, but the band stirred their own singular stew with their gothic overtones and progressive tendencies, and Death Walks Behind You stands tall when held up against most other hard rock ("heavy metal" would be pushing it, though Crane's dark lyrics fit the part) albums from 1970. Alas, the band switched to a less heavy direction soon afterwards, and Crane and his rotating cast of musicians in Atomic Rooster remained also-rans for the rest of their career. Crane later (strangely) joined Dexy's Midnight Runners before sadly committing suicide on Valentine's Day in 1989.
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