Heathen Harvest Review of the
Label: Hau Ruck
Part 1 - Homeric
Part 2 - The Aeneid
Part 3 - Eddic
Part 4 - Song Of Igor
Part 5 - Arthurian
Part 6 - El Cid
I had heard about Changes but had not paid attention to them until I received ‘Legends’. It was originally released in CD format in 1998, but I must say that vinyl suits the concept perfectly. For those ignorant like me, Changes is the project created by Robert N. Taylor and Nicholas Tesluk way back in 1969. It has suffered many changes, pauses and long silent times, has collaborated with many astonishing musicians and has added many new releases to the original ones. Since 2001 Changes is signed to Hau Ruck! and they have been the label in charge of re-releasing ‘Legends’ in a new format. We can definitely say that ‘Legends’ is a conceptual record, but the correct explanation would be that Changes is a conceptual band. Robert N. Taylor has always oriented his compositions towards the past, the ideals and concepts that have served as motor for our cultural heritage and the humanization of each belief.
As for the external aspect, let me be honest. When I received the record I thought it would contain a peculiar mixture of psychedelic 70s with classic heavy metal. In my opinion, it is not too explanatory of what will be found inside although it has the particularity that Changes uses in its records. What I did really like, though, were the four small medievalist images on the vinyl itself, that present in a better way the spirit of the record. Musically, ‘Legends’ is a whole, divided in six parts. Each part, structures as a song, is dedicated to a different epic hero of European heritage. In this order, they are dedicated to Homer (from Greece), Aenea (roman), the Eddic cycle (from Scandinavia), Igor (from Russia), the Arthurian cycle (from the english isles) and Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, ‘el Cid’ from reconconquesting Spain. Three songs belong to each side of the record, and they are organized more or less chronologically, although the medieval songs’ order is difficult to concise.
The song, the one that covers the entire record yet is modified in each division, is structured over a clean, vibrant guitar work. There is no percussion at all, except the rhythm that the guitar itself creates. The melody lines belongs to the voice, that sings/recites the lyrics for each hero’s story. The singing is epic, presented as if the lead singer was a modern-day bard, and every song is arranged in the same way: and introduction, a six-verse composition and an exploding chorus. The chorus is always repeated in the same way, yet in includes the particularities of each hero with a direct reference to the story that is being sung. The chorus gives the, otherwise folk composition, a pop touch, being extremely catchy – I’ve actually found myself whistling it around the street. Although the compositions are repeated and linked, every song has its own idiosyncrasy: the flutes in ‘The Aeneid’; the darker, more apocalyptic touches of ‘Eddic’; the more populist, almost gypsy sounding ‘Song of Igor’, with the introduction of second voices and choruses; the harpsichord and medievalist touch of ‘Arthurian’ and the impetuous guitar in ‘El Cid’.
Overall, ‘Legends’ is an amazing experiment, a speech of history and knowledge, a boast of faith in one’s personal beliefs. Although the complete record makes sense as a whole, it might be even better taken in small doses. Set down the visor of your helmet and drive the spurs into your horses flank to charge.