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The Strange Bird's First Flight - 88%

DawnoftheShred, September 1st, 2012

Despite being named after a rather small, harmless bird, Budgie are one of the gigantic musical forces that came to define heavy metal’s earliest period. By some fateful intervening circumstance, they’ve never achieved the notoriety or respect that they deserve for the powerful, varied heavy metal they produced throughout the 70’s. In fact, the average metal fan only knows their name because a much more famous band happened to cover them (and no, I don’t mean Van Halen). But regardless of their relative obscurity, Budgie have a nameless irresistibility (after one finally catches a glimpse of the rare bird) and it’s clear that their grimy proto-doom sound has influenced scores of rock and metal bands ever since their humble self-titled debut in the beginning of the 70’s.

Due to the band’s geographical origin and heavy use of distortion, it’d be very easy for one to assume that Budgie are one of the earlier Sabbath clones. This would be underestimating the band I think, because despite the obvious “blues cranked to 11” feel of much of their early material, Budgie have a very different take on ‘heaviness’ than their darker Birmingham brothers in arms. For one thing, their approach tends to be more minimalistic than that of the jazz-influenced Sabbath: drummer Ray Phillips and bassist Burke Shelley tend not to rely on fills, instead adding immensity to the already stout riffs, only relenting during the occasional jam-out solo section, where the band often recklessly rock out at tempos not well observed until the NWOBHM. Shelley’s higher-pitched singing is pretty far removed from Ozzy’s mournful wail, sounding more like Robert Plant on a helium binge. And let’s not forget the band’s affinity for strange song titles. “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” and “Rape of the Locks” are among the band’s quirkier exhibitions, the latter literally about cutting hair, while the former follows what would come to be Budgie’s lyrical standard: vague, interpretative love anthems in clever heavy metal disguise. Sort of the heavier counterpart to American rockers Blue Oyster Cult sans keyboards, though I do believe Budgie existed first.

For all their various eccentricities, however, the focus of this and most other Budgie albums is the same as that of Black Sabbath: the monster riffs. Guitarist Tony Bourge will never quite escape from underneath the shadow of Tony Iommi, but he’s just as formidable a riff machine as the master himself. Literally, within the first milliseconds of the album, from the very first DEN DIN DIN DUN DUN VWOO WHENG of Bourge’s unaccompanied electric sledgehammer, you will be hooked. This riff is also neat because it doesn’t start on the downbeat, so the first few times you hear the tune, you’ll hear it wrong, the drums and bass coming in unexpectedly. This, in a way I can’t adequately describe, is certifiably cool as hell. “Guts” indeed. “NDPW” has a powerful rhythmic interplay; the band convinces you that 15/8 isn’t such an odd time signature after all. A single electric guitar and bass with applied percussion rarely get heavier than they do on tracks like “All Night Petrol” or “Rape of the Locks.” “What about the living?” Shelley asks during the former. “What about the dead?” What about them? None can imitate Shelley’s piercing wail, though Geddy Lee would nail a worthy interpretation of the style just a few years down the road. These are but a few of the many memorable moments to be discovered throughout Budgie’s earliest effort, listen for yourself and gradually unearth the rest.

If there’s a fault to be found in Budgie’s presentation, it’s that they existed during the 70’s, where musical experimentation was part of the recording process, no matter which kind of band you were playing in. In many cases this resulted in some very interesting material from rock bands; in Budgie’s case, it resulted in a career-long tendency to include brief acoustic ballads that feel completely out of place on the band’s albums. “Everything in my Heart” and “You and I” more or less stop the album dead, their short length notwithstanding. However, the use of acoustic experimentation does result in “The Author,” arguably this album’s finest track, where the melancholy prelude provides exquisite counterpoint to the enormous riffage that follows. Classic heavy metal through and through, everybody should know and love this band.

In my opinion, one of the finest albums produced by what must certainly be the finest band from Wales. Patronize!

Fast, loud, and with unexpected sludge. - 81%

Warthur, August 30th, 2011

Budgie's debut album, with its high-pitched singing, fast playing, and one obligatory acoustic love song (You and I) might be confused for a standard early 70s hard rock release... except for the guitars. The sludgy, fuzz-drenched guitar line on opening song Guts makes it clear that here is a band that has been paying attention to Black Sabbath, whilst lead singer and bassist Burke Shelley had not quite yet developed the high-pitched wail he'd deploy on later albums but still deserves props for pioneering a high-pitched style of singing which, at the time, stood in stark contrast to Ozzy Osbourne's doomy moans and Robert Plant's hard rock roar. The combination of this vocal style and the heavy musical backing was new at the time, but surely deserves to be recognised as an influence on the likes of Rob Halford and, in particular, Rush's Geddy Lee.

Whilst they're not as heavy as Sabbath was, it ought to be remembered that in 1971 *nobody* was as heavy as Sabbath was - and these boys come very, very close indeed. Generally playing at a fast tempo which would influence both the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands and Metallica, the group is also capable of slowing it down a bit to an almost doomy pace at points, as well as producing long, complex pieces such as Nude Disintegrating Parachute Woman and Homicidal Suicidal. Fans of early metal, stoner metal, and progressive metal will all find plenty to enjoy in this one.

Surpringly Sludge Heavy Early Masterwork - 85%

brocashelm, April 19th, 2006

The eccentric tale of Welsh weirdo’s Budgie is a twisted epic indeed, rife as it is with power trio density, wacky lyrical observations, bizarre song titles, and at times some of the heaviest metal to ever wrap itself around mortal ears. Ever under appreciated for their contributions to the genre as a whole, it’s possible that Budgie is the real red headed stepchild of heavy metal; a band with a vast trove of art to offer, most of it all falling to the wayside of attention. True, the band’s long and winding catalog is anything but consistent in style, but it’s always baffling, rewarding and as head scratching as it is head-banging, so please pay full attention. Anything less than complete concentration, and you’ll be more lost than Ted Nugent at a PETA fundraiser.

What we are dealing with in this entry is the band’s self-titled debut; an album that sees the bricklayers of Budgie (bassist/vocalist Burke Shelley, guitarist Tony Bourge and drummer Ray Phillips) lay down the mortar composed of super thick throbbing rhythms and an already apparent playfully brainy lyrical motif. Partly thanks to producer Rodger Bain (he of the early Black Sabbath sound jobs) this is easily one of the heaviest documents thus laid to vinyl to this point, but remember, heavy in the seventies is mostly in the sludgy, fuzzy, murky sense of Blue Cheer and Mountain. What makes Budgie's contributions unique are their weird sense of arrangements, their tendency to sprinkle brief acoustic cuts about, and the always high-pitched, quavering vocals of Shelley, who is undoubtedly one of the more unique vocalists ever in the genre.

Material wise for a debut in a mostly fledgling genre, this album’s contents are remarkably solid. “Guts” opens up the Pandora’s box of muddy blurge, and pounds on relentlessly, aided as it is by Borgue’s sense of wah-wah dynamics and Shelley’s deep-dish thick bass tones. At almost 9 minutes long, the very odd “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” could have been an endurance test. But thanks to this lot’s ever present sense of dynamics (soft and loud, pounding and gentle) it remains engaging despite its girth. A brief slap in the face, “Crash Course In Brain Surgery” is another murk-drenched pulse, and would become through repeated cover version attention, one of the band’s better-known outings. Elsewhere, Burke Shelley espouses the sociological act of men wearing their tresses long in “Rape Of The Locks,” while “Homicidal Suicidal” stands as one of the band’s denser constructs.

Once long lost to the vinyl vacuum of the post-vinyl era, this album is now pretty much easy to find on CD, either on import or domestically. So fans of early heaviness should have their marching orders by now...get it!

Budgie - 79%

PowerMetalGuardian, June 16th, 2003

Budgie is one of those bands that don't get classified as metal by most metalheads standards. It all depends on the metalhead. Compared to today's standards Budgie would be considered classic rock. But the riffs and bass beats are pretty heavy for 1971. If you don't think it's metal, that's ok, but Budgie definetly influenced many bands towards the metal industry.

This album has a total of eight songs, although the one I have has nine (including Crash Course In Brain Surgery. This album opens up with the song Guts and an awsome bass/guitar riff, that almost sound like doom metal. The one cool thing (or annoying thing) about budgie is the song writting. Some songs are very in your face songs, like Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman, while other songs are slow and almost folk sounding, example: The Author. Even the song Everything in My Heart is slow sounding (plus the song is 50 seconds long) and sounds a lot like Pink Floyd. Another example is the song You and I. It is only a minute and some long, but it is very mellow with an acroustic guitar and soft vocals. But on a song like All Night Petrol has heavy riffs with an awsome guitar solo. Besides the guitars, the drums are overall nice. The beats are very different, and change rapidly during the songs to mix things up.

So we have great riffs, and bass riffs, but what about the singing? Well personally I don't like Budgie's singer. On some of the songs it just sounds like he is a little japanese kid. It almost sounds like Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) mixed with Sean Harris (Diamond Head). It is not bad, just not everyones cup of tea. Another thing that sticks out about this album is the funny title songs and lyric writing. Homicidial Suicidal doesn't really make sense, but it adds for a good laugh. Rape of the Locks is another example of the silly song writting. It's just what it says, raping the locks (or rather hair). The song talks about people wanting to cut his hair cause it is to long.

Budgie is very hard to place in metal. There are fast riffs, great drum beats, not so great singing, but a very decent 70's band. If you don't like Black Sabbath, Rush, Jimi Hendrix, etc. you probably won't appreciate Budgie. Overall not a bad album, just different, very different.