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ARZACHEL

Psychedelic/Space Rock • United Kingdom


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Arzachel biography
Comprised of what was then the band URIEL, this was the earliest formation of Steve HILLAGE and Dave STEWART. ARZACHEL had two things which helped transition it to be CD era: the music is a head above most other psych rarities, and the four musicians later achieved marginal success within the '70s progressive rock "Canterbury scene".

The record itself featured some of the most explosive psychedelia by an English group. The sound of sustained keyboard and guitar passages are full blown drawn-out psychedelia of the highest order, think EGG, GONG, NATIONAL HEALTH, CARAVAN etc. Collectors of rare psychedelia recognize ARZACHEL's sole LP as being one of the most desired (and pricey) relics from the late '60s.

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ARZACHEL discography


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ARZACHEL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.64 | 173 ratings
Arzachel
1969
4.03 | 11 ratings
Arzachel - Uriel
2007

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ARZACHEL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars One of the big bangs of Canterbury Scene talent began right here after three young students: Steve Hillage, Dave Stewart and Mont Campbell met in 1968 at the City of London School. They soon hooked up with another, Clive Brooks and formed a simple blues rock band called Uriel (named after one of the archangels in Hebrew tradition) playing covers of Cream, Hendrix, John Mayall and The Nice. Then it got a bit complicated. After visiting London's famous Middle Earth Club they were indoctrinating into the cult of 60s psychedelia which steered their musical interests into completely new arenas. The new Uriel quickly caught the attention of Decca records but because their name sounded too much like "urinal," were forced to changed their name to Egg, however the contracts were signed as a trio without Hillage who had planned to return to his education and due to legalities when the band wanted to release an album together they had to choose yet another name and settled for ARZACHEL which is the Latin truncation of the Arab Muslim astronomer Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm al-Zarqālī who created all kinds of new gadgets but the name was inspired by the crater on the moon. While Egg would soon deliver their debut album ARZACHEL managed to record this one single album that was recorded in a single 8-hour session and released it before Hillage quit the band to return to school. As expected from the influences on board this Canterbury Scene related act delivered a healthy dose of psychedelic blues rock although nothing on ARZACHEL's eponymous album really displays where Hillage would go with Khan, Gong and solo and likewise displays little of what the rest of the members would conjure up with Egg and later National Health. The strange thing about this one is that not only did the band change their name at the last minute for this album but the members all adopted aliases as well.

Basil Dowling (Clive Brooks) / drums Njerogi Gategaka (Mont Campbell) / bass, vocals Sam Lee-Uff (Dave Stewart) / organ Simeon Sasparella (Steve Hillage) / guitar, vocals

ARZACHEL threw together two distinct sides on their LP. Side one consisted of four groovy psychedelic blues tracks mostly with vocals all quite distinct from one another whereas side two consisted of more extended jamming sessions that offered a couple very tripped out acid dripping experiences. "Garden Of Earthly Delights" is probably the most Canterbury sounding track on the album with the harmonizing vocal effect of Campbell and Hillage and apparently made enough of an impression that the title (which originated from the Hieronymus Bosch painting) inspired the beloved prog rock label of the same name. "Azathoth" is an organ based piece that has a rather trip hop sort of beat to it and i could easily see this appearing on a DJs set list. Another vocal track that continues the Canterbury vibe without emphasis on the blues. The instrumental "Queen St. Gang" has a more funky bass groove to it and has the ultimate chilled lounge lizard vibe with lots of organ gymnastics. "Leg" begins as a psychedelic stew of organ noodling but breaks into a Cream sounding heavy blues psych number.

"Clean Innocent Fun" begins as a call-and-response between a unified vocalist / blues guitar lick and the hard and heavy organ which reminds a lot of the very first Led Zeppelin album that came out the same year only drenched in intoxicating doses of Pink Floydian psychedelics with heavy organ attacks, blues guitar runs and atmospheric freak outs. The yummiest treat of the album is the closing 16 minute and 19 second instrumental "Metempsychosis" (a fancy term for reincarnation) which is the most psychedelic and free form track on the album. It is obviously inspired by early Pink Floyd and while having the same alienating effect as their "Saucerful Of Secrets" track however the guitar is clearly more derived from their "Astronomy Domine" track. This one goes into interstellar hyperdrive with a heavy rhythmic drive and sizzling guitar solos, psychotropic organ runs and very much incorporates the most detached aspects of Floyd while going on a huge meandering jamming tangent that adds some of the best musical chops the band has to offer ushering the album out with a big bang of cacophony.

ARZACHEL is clearly a mandatory listen for anyone interested in the development of progressive rock's Canterbury Scene branch as it is the antecedent of the much greater works of its members at an early stage. While not as accomplished or original as their respective works as solo members or with Egg, Gong and National Health, ARZACHEL does have its own appeal as a psychedelic blues rock album. While clearly steeped in the influences they wear on their sleeves with not quite enough time to simmer them down into their own cohesive sounds, it's still an interesting listen nonetheless. The musicianship is clearly of the highest quality and although i've heard that the production values of the earliest pressings were not the best, my 2014 Prog Temple remastered CD sounds like it could have come out in modern times. This is an album i teeter back and forth about rating. The first time i heard it i loved it and it was a 4 star album. The second time i was less enthralled and it dropped down to 3. The third time i loved it again and it was once again a 4. While being fully aware of the weaknesses of the album which mostly resides in the lack of creativity in the compositions, despite this i love to listen to this one as it not only has addictive bluesy hooks with psychedelic fixings but also resonates as an interesting historical artifact of the prog rock world. When all is said and done this is an essential album to be experienced.

 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by MyDarling95

3 stars Hard to hit this one for me. This is very well listed in the Psychedelic category, because what I really listen here is a rather immature band. And for the people involved here, some would hope to listen another pure Canterbury work, but that's not the case. Aside from "Metampsychosis" (which I cannot tell if is a strange improvisation or a great execution of a complex song) all the songs in here sound a little disastrous to me. Still this is a nice psych album, it is just that we expect too much after listening to the future works of these monsters. I give a low 3 stars, gotta admit it is great to listen to these guys so early in their careers. Hillage would result to be an awesome guitarist, a genius composer and a beautiful vocalist, and Stewart is for me the greatest Canterbury keyboardist, also one hell of a composer. As we know, Stewart, Campbell and Brooks went on to form Egg, Stewart and Hillage were involved in the excellent Space Shanty. Stewart was also obviosuly involved in Hatfield, National Health and Bruford's solo works, while our beloved Stevie also went on to Gong and has an awesome solo career (note that Stewart also appears in "Fish Rising"!), Cheers for all that!
 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Before the successful solo career, before Gong and way even before Khan, there was Arzachel. Yes, I'm talking about Steve Hillage, that legendary psychedelic guitarist who's forty-five year career has pretty much seen it all. And this is where it began. A deeply psychedelic excursion into early prog-rock territory laced with organs, spacey effects and neon dropped keyboards, underground psych-rock outfit Arzachel saw Hillage teamed with Canterbury keyboardist extraordinaire Dave Stewart and the multi-instrumentalist duo of Mont Campbell(bass) and Clive Brooks(drums), who would of course go on to form the quirky jazz-influenced group Egg. Nowadays, original vinyl copies of 'Arzachel' can fetch to upwards of 1,000, such is the rarity and reputation of an album steeped in Canterbury-lore. As an album it certainly has its moments, yet is let down by the two lengthy pieces that make up side 2, the shorter, more focused pieces such as the star-kissed opener 'Garden Of Earthly Delights' and the catchy r'n'b of the Stewart-led 'Queen St. Gang'. Elsewhere, the raucous acid blues of 'Leg' finds the group whirling deep into psychedelic territory, whilst the fuzzy 'Azazoth' exudes yet more of the album's deeply-lysergic ambience. Much more ambitious in their conception yet let down by incessant, unplesant jamming, overly-emphatic execution and an unpleasant, doomy feel, both the heavy and intense 'Clean Innocent Fun', which features yet more wild blues licks from Hillage, and the mind-melting cosmic madness of the aptly-titled 'Metampsychosis', simply fail to hold the attention. The low-budget production only adds to the slightly menacing atmosphere, though you have to give the group marks for pure intensity. Unlike Hillage's next album, the more polished and melodic 'Space Shanty', 'Arzachel' seems to lose focus just at the right moment, providing maybe just a touch too much far-out madness. That said, it's still a fasinating curio from the short-lived British psychedelic scene of the late-sixties, offering up intense underground thrills for all fans of darkly obscure progressive music. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2014
 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Cult, legendary name of the UK Psych scene, formed at the fall of 67' in London and featuring David L. Stewart on keyboards, Mont Campbell on bass/vocals, Steve Hillage on guitar and Clive Brooks on drums.During the summer of 68' Hillage left Uriel to attend university and the remaining trio, pressed by its managers, changed its name to Egg.A brief reunion of the original group took place in 1969 and the four friends recorded an album under the name Arzachel, using pseudonyms to avoid comparisons with Egg's music.This rare self-titled LP was released in November 69' on the short-lived London-based label Evolution.

The first side of the LP saws a band with a unique talent of mixing hypnotic, psychedelic grooves with Baroque-inspired Classical organ parts, thus producing a variety of atmospheres, ranging from haunting instrumental passages to more dreamy vocal-led textures.Great but a bit dated music with superb organ work by Stewart and excellent vocals by Campbell.The closing track of the side, ''Leg'', sees the band entering more Heavy/Psych Rock realms with angry vocals, powerful guitars and dynamic organ paces.The second side is a different story, containg two long psychedelic jams with a very rich sound and a rather free structure.The mood becomes really sinister with more abstract lines, characterized by endless guitar solos, nervous organ masturbations and groovy drumming, while vocal pars come not easy either, having a very dark delivery.Interesting music for what it is, but with little true value, regarding the composition level.

As a tightly connected part of pre-Egg's history, ''Arzachel'' has seen numerous reissues over the years and comes as a recommended release to all fans of improvised Psych/Prog as well as to collector's of prog history as a nice hostorical and archival album.Recommended as a whole.

 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by 1967/ 1976

4 stars I would start by saying that almost everything Prog produced before 1970 had many things in the psychedelic vein. If we add a good dose of drug (whatever that is) here is the excess! Arzachel is a really unique band in this sense, the daughter of a night of sex between music and drugs! If you do not know all this I think would be really hard to understand this album, confusing it with an album of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd! But, as Steve Hillage is not Syd Barrett, "Arzachel" respect to Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd albums is an album less sick but less rational, less psychedelic but initially, as a final composition (I can call it that?) Is even madder than Syd Barrett with Pink Floyd! Dave Stewart is another great organist in the vein of Keith Emerson or Vincent Crane and in this album is a great magician!

If you like the more sick Psychedelic Rock... Here is the album for you!

 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Arzachel is a crater on the moon and the music reflects the alienation and deep atmospheres of space. The opener announces the outlandish psychedelic style immediately, with a whirling dervish of sustained organ howls and spacey glissando guitar. It is little wonder the sound is hyper space intensity with the likes of Dave Stewart on keys and Steve Hillage on guitar. 'Garden of Earthly Delights' features Hillage's estranged vocals, and energetic pulses of organ, bass and drums.

'Azathoth' is driven by cathedral organ drones and slow vocalisations that seem sto come from the netherverse. 'Queen St. Gang' is a steady cadence of beautiful instrumentation, followed by 'Leg' which has a weird bluesy feel. The final lengthy jam sessions are provided to cap of this stunning curio. 'Clean Innocent Fun' and an epic Pink Floyd style classic 'Metempsychosis'. The tempo quickens as it progresses into a brain rattling time sig with organ distortion and high squealing guitar arpeggios.

Despite the poor production rough garage sound, Arzachel is a band that should be enjoyed by any space rock/ psychedelic prog addict.

 Arzachel - Uriel by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.03 | 11 ratings

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Arzachel - Uriel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars This is a private pressing of their 1969 album, done by some surviving members and for the fans. It is a fans edition. In addition to the songs from the 1969 album, there is also six bonus tracks.

Let me start to say that the packaging is great. It is a pity that this is a limited edition album only sold by the band itself. The music itself is a collection of some of the strongest songs to come out of the Canterbury/the British Psychedelic/Space Rock scene ever. The musicians is Steve Hillage, Dave Stewart, Mont Campbell and Clive Brooks. The band split later on to form the likes of Egg + many other bands.

The music here is full of heavy guitars (Steve Hillage), thundering bass and drums plus Dave Stewart's rampant Hammond organ. This is heavy, noisy Canterbury influenced Psychedelic/Space Rock. The songs from the 1969 album is pure high quality with the opener Garden of Earthly Delights as the best song. It is one of the best songs to ever come out of this scene, period.

The bonus tracks is various oddities. But they are never bad and never boring. The sound is dirty and spacey. But there is no fall or improvement sound wise from the original 1969 album to the bonus tracks. Hence, this whole entity feels like one unity.

In my view, this is the ultimate Arzachel album and a great addition to any Canterbury collection. I would say; an essential addition to a well stocked Canterbury collection. But most of all; the music here is great and great fun. It has put a smile on my face.

4 stars

 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Arzachel - st (1969)

This is a very interesting early progressive record, covering a wide variety of styles associated with the progressive movement. On this record you'll hear proto-prog, avant- garde-space-rock (Metempsychosis), extremely heavy rock , post blues rock (vocal parts on Clean innocent fun), majestic neo-classical organ driven rock (Azathoth and Queen Street Gang) and perhaps even a bit of proto-punk (on 'Leg'). The record became famous in the vinyl record community because of it's extreme rarity and it has some early musicianship of soon to be famous progressive rock musicians. Quite easily, Arzachel (or formerly known as Uriel) consists of Egg + Steve Hillage (Kahn, Gong, solo), with Egg consisting of Brooks, Campbell and no less then Dave Stewart (Egg, Kahn, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Bruford) on organs. Therefore, this record can also be seen as one of the earliest Canterbury records, though it's sound is quite different.

Recently I was able to buy a vinyl reprint of this otherwise unavailable record with a purple color, just as the early French reprint. The sound of Arzachel is very edgy. Whilst some compositions thrive in thickness of sound (with a pleasant slightly distorted vibe), the louder tracks seems to suffer from quite extreme loudness resulting in heavy noisy guitar and drums sounds. To some (like me partially) this will enhance the feeling of obscure heaviness and that relentless feeling of free garage experimentation. To others this will simply sound a bit ugly or unpleasant.

However, one thing is for sure. The song-writing and neo-classical compositions on side one and the free space/avant-garde experimentation on side two are sometimes plain brilliant. The guts to make such a 'heavy' progressive record is quite rare, especially in the late sixties. The way pleasant organ rock is combined with avant-garde on Azaroth is just so exciting and the endless heavy space jamming on Metempsychosis (over 16 minutes) is just unbelievable. The early guitars of Hillage are very pleasant, because he didn't yet found 'his favorite tricks and licks' - something that would bother me on later records. The psychedelic organ passages of Dave Stewart remind me a bit of Pawn Hearts era VdGG. Some people might argue that the record also has elements that make it sound unfinished or naive. Perhaps it can't be denied that with a bit more time and a better studio recording this would have been better, but the obscurity and rawness give the record a magic touch.

Conclusion. An excellent eclectic psychedelic/space record with the roughest edges you'll encounter. If you are searching for that 'heavy mind-set', that feeling of raw honesty and free garage experimentation - this is it. Others might be better of by first listening some of this material on youtube before buying the record. I myself feel tempted to give five stars, but the controversy of sound-quality makes me obliged to make it a very big four.

Simply ground-braking, exciting stuff that is spacier then the moon-landing itself.

 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Appropriate that the cover art to this one should include a creature from a medieval alchemical illustration, because for this album Egg (plus Steve Hillage) mysteriously transformed into Arzachel, a unit with the same lineup as the earlier Uriel and working in a similar psychedelic vein, but performing material rush-written (or improvised on the spot) for this album.

Make no mistake - the thing was originally conceived as a purely commercial entity, the small record label that funded the sessions wanting a bit of hard psych to bolster their product line. (Dave Stewart tells a hilarious story about how when playing the closing improvisation - the epic Metempsychosis - the band were all watching the studio clock intently, jamming until they had enough material to finish the album off.) And you can kind of tell from the production values - the album suffers from a slightly muffled mix in which Mont Campbell's bass is rather buried and Dave Stewart's organ tends to drown everything else out.

Still, despite the album's humble origins, it still holds up quite well. It does, of course, introduce the record-buying public to Steve Hillage's guitar skills, and the album consists mainly of Hillage and Stewart trading guitar and organ solos with occasional vocals from Steve - with Mont Campbell contributing occasional singing. (The interplay between his vocals and Steve's on Garden of Unearthly Delights contrasts their voices nicely.) The lyrics tend towards loud declarations or foreboding intonations about somewhat mystical topics - Azathoth takes its subject matter from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (the writer, not the then-active psych band), and Clean Innocent Fun has Steve yelling some nonsense at the beginning and end to sandwich the band's improvisation in the middle. On balance, the album probably wasn't ever going to set the world on fire, but it never fails to entertain. A four star album dragged down by two-star production standards - so let's call it three.

 Arzachel  by ARZACHEL album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 173 ratings

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Arzachel
Arzachel Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars Hillage /Stewart archive recordings of terrible sound quality. I believe this release has high historical value as early acid/psychedelic release of later well known great musicians. But speaking about his musical value, I am not so sure.

Music there is heavy psychedelic sound,based mostly on vintage simplistic organ passages. Not too much guitar could be heard (ok, sound quality doesn't help with that as well. Sound mix is below even that time standard, some songs sound just as unfinished demos (what is not too far from truth). Many elements of 60-s rock are mixed with new to time keyboards attacks, but now all sound is absolutely dated.

With my great respect to Hillage/Stewart legacy, I can't imagine someone listening this album just for pleasure. Rare and expensive release for collectors though.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to easy livin for the last updates

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