Review – Big Hogg – Pageant of Beasts – by Jon Wenlock-Smith

Big Hogg hail from Glasgow, which is over 550 miles from their spiritual, musical home of Canterbury in Kent. Or so it would appear to be, based upon hearing this album, ‘Pageant of Beasts‘, that was released this July on Bad Elephant Music.

This album bears significant reminders of the thriving musical scene that Canterbury gave to the world through bands like Caravan, Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers and many others. It also has a heady mix of jazz leanings and and avant-garde feel, which makes the music different as well as memorable, taking in psychedelia and jazz influences along the way.

The first piece, Golden Beasts, is a solo trumpet fanfare which opens and closes the album and upon hearing it I was strongly reminded of 80’s jazz luminaries Working Week as they ploughed a similar cross-genre furrow back in the late 1980’s, rather successfully too. Next track Here Come The Moles is a little left of centre and hinged on a hypnotic bass motif from Martin Beer which, alongside Justin Lumsden’s guitar and vocals from him and Sophie Sexon, makes a rather impressive impact. Man Overboard brings a distinct west coast USA vibe to the party. Imagine the Beach Boys with trumpets and you’ll get the idea! It is another very interesting track, the brass section sounds fabulous here, adding much colour and impact to a fine track along with sweet flute from Sophie.

Smoking Again starts out like a Faces outtake with a raspy vocal from Justin and some fine fuzz and wah-wah guitar lines. There is a lot going on in this track but it manages to avoid sounding shambolic, in fact, along with Here Come The Moles, it is one of my favorite tracks on the album . This is followed by Willow’s Song which is a lot more atmospheric and ethereal sounding. It comes from The Wicker Man and this version is fabulous. Red Rum has a nod to folk group Pentangle, especially in the bass department. 

All Alone Stone really wears its Canterbury credentials on its sleeve proudly and puts me in mind of Greenslade with its keyboard stylings. This track is very impressive sounding indeed and is the longest track on the album. It is a gentle, yet exciting, musical progression, making it a great listen. I am really impressed by this album and I’ve enjoyed discovering its treasures slowly as they unfold over multiple listens. Magistellus is next and this offers a great interplay between flute and guitar in the middle section and is another very fine track.

The Wyverns is Big Hogg at their most proggy, almost space rock sounding at points and follows the pattern of the latter half of the album where the band really up their progressive side and offer some highly unusual pieces and some excellent musicianship, Bouffant Tail being a case in point, wildly unhinged and all very strange indeed. This is a short track that is rapidly followed by Cat Fool, which sounds like a long-lost track from the early days of King Crimson, albeit with added brass, very interesting and different and it also has a lovely guitar break from Justin. The album ends with the return of the trumpet fanfare, entitled Too Much Belly Not Enough Paw, which brings the album full circle to end as it began.

This is a remarkable musical journey taking in jazz, psychedelia and other influences along the way and is a testament to crafting different, yet still vibrant, music for today’s age. This album will take a while to seep through and sink into your brain, however this is so very worth it. Big Hogg are certainly mining a very interesting seam on this album and they will hopefully be able to create more marvellous music in this style soon. I certainly hope that they continue in this manner as this band have a lot to offer and will appeal to lovers of modern progressive music.

Released 18th June, 2021.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

Pageant Of Beasts | Big Hogg (bandcamp.com)

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