By Gruesome Greg
Originally released on cassette, then later on limited-edition vinyl by German imprint I Hate Records, Pagan Altar’s The Time Lord has seen a couple vinyl reissues since, albeit in limited pressings, but is now being made available on CD for the first time by Shadow Kingdom. An unearthing of material dating as far back as 1978, though mostly from the early 80’s, these recordings capture the original incarnation of a band that’s been through quite a few lineup changes since its 21st century reunion. If you’ve got their Volume 1/Judgement of the Dead LP, you’ve heard some of these songs already; “Judgement of the Dead,” “The Black Mass” and “Reincarnation” would all later appear on their cult classic debut.
However, this EP kicks off with two previously unheard songs. “Highway Cavalier” sounds sorta like Sweet or Bad Company, with a dash of early Alice Cooper thrown in for good measure, Terry Jones seemingly sounding more like Alice than Ozzy back in ’78. At 2:46, it could possibly have been the band’s attempt at a radio single. On the other hand, there’s nothing radio friendly about the eight-minute title track, sort of a proggy psych type thing. Hell, the guitar solo almost brings Boston to mind, although it’s probably longer than a few Boston songs. Not sure I’d call this doom, but it’s pretty decent 70’s space rock.
Clearly the band had changed direction by the 80’s, as demonstrated in the next three tunes. The winding, doomtastic riffs of Alan Jones bring on “Judgement of the Dead,” although on this rawer version, his brother sounds like he’s singing in a hallway, his nasal voice not nearly as noticeable as on the later version. “The Black Mass” remains as eerie and haunting as ever, mind you, one of the all-time (lost) classics of doom sounds just as good here as it does on Vol 1. This is the age, the age of Satan!
“Reincarnation” remains as the epic album-closer. Starting off on a softer note, with some plaintive wails from Terry Jones over mellow guitar-work and a shuffling drum beat, Alan then delivers another great sidewinding riff that signals a change of pace. Again, we don’t quite get that vocal-booth magic that made Volume 1 a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, though it’s a fairly recognizable performance from Terry. Perhaps he just sounds better with a cold?
Anyways, this is really only essential for Pagan Altar completists and mega-fans. If you haven’t heard these guys yet, seek out Volume 1 first (or Judgement of the Dead if you happen to find it on vinyl). The earlier songs on here show a band that’s yet to find its classic sound, while the later material is more polished on Vol 1. Still, The Time Lord is a pretty neat time capsule if you’re into that sort of thing.
(Shadow Kingdom Records)