Gnidrolog are one of the more overlooked bands that took part in the progressive rock explosion in Britain around 1971-73. Why the band is nearly forgotten nowadays is a mystery to me. When Mike Prete first played me Lady Lake, my jaw literally dropped. Expecting some banal proto-progressive stuff, I was pleasantly surprised to hear powerful, full-blown progressive rock with an dark, original feel. The best comparisons I can make would be to groups like Van der Graaf Generator, Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant, and Gnidrolog often meets the same level of brilliance as those bands. Of course, it would be mistaken to say that Gnidrolog were simply heavily influenced by these bands, since the group was coexisting and rose to prominence in tandem with those groups. In fact, judging from their gig history, Gnidrolog were fairly integral to the prog scene at the time, playing shows with everyone from Colosseum, Wishbone Ash and Greenslade to Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, King Crimson and even Magma. So why hasn't anyone ever heard of these guys? Why are they forever condemned to obscurity, to be uncovered years later by only the most intrepid of prog archaeologists? Well, maybe the fact that they only released two albums had something to do with it. Besides that, I'll be damned if I can figure it out. Actually, Gnidrolog recently reformed and put out a new studio album, Gnosis, which has gotten some good reviews, although I haven't heard it yet. Still, pick up In Spite of Harry's Toenail or better yet, their opus Lady Lake, and prepare to be bowled over.
This is a very surprising and overlooked album of dark progressive rock from the early 70s. Gnidrolog sounds like a mixture of early Jethro Tull and Van der Graaf Generator, with heavy emphasis on both flute and saxophone. Much of the songs are structured around fairly conventional vocal melodies, with cool lyrics backed by familiar song structures, before breaking into incredible chaotic jams full of flute, sax and guitar interplay. The opening two tracks, "I Could Never Be a Soldier" and "Ship," are mindblowing, full of dark melodies led by Colin Goldring, whose emotional tone bears a passing resemblance to Peter Hammill's.
Overall, this a vastly underrated album that must have been overshadowed by the other prog gems released at that same time. Lady Lake is a great work what will appeal to fans looking for a unique, dark mix of early Tull and VdGG.
In Spite of Harry's Toenail
In Spite of Harry's Toenail contains many of the same traits as its follow up, the masterful Lady Lake. Colin Goldring has a dark, demanding vocal delivery, which commands attention in much the same way that Peter Hammill's does. Alongside this are the group's complex, multi-instrumentalist talents, lending a Gentle Giant-like feel to many of the pieces. Cello, saxophone and various wind instruments abound, along with the searing guitar of Stewart Goldring. This album is definitely a grower however, unlike the relatively immediacy and great songwriting of Lady Lake. In Spite of Harry's Toenail is a denser, darker, heavier and more complex beast.
The two-part "Long Live Man Dead" is, to put simply, an utter classic with savage guitar riffs from brother Stewart to accompany a great vocal line and a powerful, percussive attack as the song shifts through its many phases. "Snails" is simply frenetic, building up into a closing climax of pure chaos and crashing instruments. "Time and Space" is actually quite pretty through its initial verses, but builds into a densely orchestrated chaos later in the song. The closing self-titled epic is another major highlight, heavy, complex, emotional and aggressive.
This is certainly a great album, but definitely tougher to get into than
Lady Lake. I would suggest that one start there first before moving
on to their first album. In Spite of Harry's Toenail is ambitious,
complex and energetic, and is just as often viewed as the better of the two
albums. Personally, I see Lady Lake as the more refined, mature work,
with a greater songwriting grasp, making it the preferable entry point for
beginning to enjoy this great band.
|Mike Prete||7-August-2001||Lady Lake|
This is an obscure classic from the 70s recently re-released on CD. Lady Lake is a dark symphonic epic in the vein of early blues-inspired progressive rock. The band draws from the sounds of early Tull, Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator, while adding a more folk/medieval touch due to the prominent addition of woodwind instruments. The only keyboard presence is a small bit of piano on "Same Dreams," but it is not missed.
The majority of the songs start out as rather typical rock pieces of the time, but build in intensity and complexity. This is most evident on "I Could Never Be A Soldier," which starts out as a rather simple piece, but is then transformed into a chaotic maelstrom of haunting vocals, wailing sax and pounding bass. Colin Goldring's vocal delivery is reminiscent of Peter Hammill, especially evident and powerful on "Ship." Some have complained that the lyrics sound dated, being that they are sort of idealistic in the late 60s/early 70s way, but I don't mind them, and they shouldn't detract from the music at all.
The title track shows the band at their most complex instrumentally, with different stylistic variations throughout the piece, which includes a jazz-influenced introduction with woodwinds that sound like brass instruments at points. The rest of the song takes on a more Van Der Graaf vibe to it with a powerful dirge and chaotic squeaks and squawks from the sax and cello. The final track, "Social Embarrassment" is also full of interesting instrumental and vocals ideas, and shows the most resemblance to Gentle Giant.
This is a fine example of dark symphonic prog with overtones of early
Tull, VdGG, Gentle Giant, as well as medieval influences. Highly recommended
to fans of aforementioned bands and early symphonic prog in general.
|Sjef Oellers||9-Mar-2001||In Spite of Harry's Toenail|
Gnidrilog are an English band with a unique, somewhat experimental approach to integrate folk, rock, some chamber music, and adding some avant-garde touches. In their music you can hear elements of Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Gryphon, Van der Graaf Generator, and King Crimson, but Gnidrilog has a distinctive style that sets them apart from those bands. My only minor complaint is the singer's somewhat whining voice, though this should not deter you from trying one of their albums. Inventive music with a pleasant lack of predictability in musical structures and textures. A must hear band especially if you like Gentle Giant and Van der Graaf Generator.
|Sjef Oellers||9-Mar-2001||Lady Lake|
Overall, I find their second album, Lady Lake, slightly less engaging than the masterful In Spite of Harry's Toenail. Nevertheless, Lady Lake is an excellent album that continues the style presented on their first. On the first two tracks, Gnidrilog sound quite similar to Pilgrimage or Argus-era Wishbone Ash, particularly the lead guitar. On later tracks they experiment with some adventurous musical textures like the fantastic horn arrangements on "A Dog With No Collar" and "Social Embarrassment". It is a pity that this band only made two regular studio albums in the seventies, for I believe In Spite of Harry's Toenail and Lady Lake are on par with the output of bands like Van der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, and King Crimson.
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