Big Elf—Money Machine (2000)

Big Elf—Money Machine (2010)

Big Elf—Money Machine (2000, re-released in 2010)

Details

Produced by Bigelf. Recorded at Room 222, Hollywood, August 1997. Engineered by Ian Lehrfeld and james Bennett. Mixed by Kevin Wilson and Damon Fox at Mad Hatter. Mastered by David Schultz and Digiprep. All songs written by Fox / Butler-Jones (except the covers!).

Originally released on Record Heaven label, Sweden in May 2000. Re-released on Powerage Records, August 2010.

www.bigelf.com

Band

  • Damon Fox – lead vocals, keyboards, guitar (1991-present)
  • A.H.M. Butler-Jones – lead vocals, guitar, piano (1992-2001) RIP
  • Steve “Froth” Frothingham – drums (1995-2010)

Tracks

  1. Money machine
  2. Sellout
  3. Neuropsychopathic eye
  4. Side effects
  5. (Another) nervous breakdown
  6. Mindbender
  7. Ironheel
  8. Death walks behind you
  9. The bitter end
  10. Bad reputation (bonus)
  11. Sellout (live)
  12. Neuropsychopathic eye (live)
  13. Money machine (live)
  14. Sweet leaf (live)

Live tracks recorded at Sodra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden on 13 December 2000.

Review

As I said in my review for this album’s successor, Hex (2003), this is one of the few bands featured in this project that I’ve seen live: they joined Opeth and Dream Theater on the Progressive Nation 2009 tour. I really enjoyed their honest mix of prog, rock, psychedelia and laid-back stoner metal. Five years later and former-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy is sitting behind their drumkit as a session musician.

Their debut album kicks off with the title track “Money machine”. It opens with a choppy, 4/4 on the beat riff: guitars and organ. “It is so hard to get a break from the money machine,” confesses mad hatter Damon Fox, a full three years before the album was actually released. Right from the start this album feels like a small victory. That they’ve hung on for 14 years and released four albums and three EPs shows that they have have staying power.

I’d forgotten what I’d written in my previous review as I was sketching out this review. I made a note that the album reminded me of Sergeant Pepper-era Beatles mixed with early Black Sabbath. I wouldn’t be surprised if this recorded was recorded analogue rather than digital. It has a very 60s/70s feel to it.

Track two, “Sellout” has an Abbey Road Beatles vibe. Next up, “Neuropsychopathic eye” has a Clutch-style riff. “Side effects” is another Black Sabbath-meets-The Beatles fusion with a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Dodgy song.

And so the album continues: a twisted amalgamation of psychedelic progressive, pop rock and sneering metal riffs on a bed of Hammond and Mellotron organs. I can see why Mike Portnoy wanted to get involved: this music suits his style of drumming.

Conclusion

I’ve not found a lot of time to listen to this album this week, unfortunately. I listened to it twice through in my car and that really didn’t do it justice. It put me off listening to it at home or in the office, which is a shame because it’s a really solid album.

This album has something of a melancholy feel to it in places (“The bitter end”), it’s thoughtful in others, and the rest of the time it rocks out with the best of them. It was no mistake that Dream Theater chose them for support in 2009.

As a footnote, I was sad to learn that vocalist, guitarist, pianist Butler-Jones fell into a diabetic coma in the summer of 2001, a year after the release of this album, and died. May he rest in peace.

Review score: 80%

Video

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