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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

VANGELIS: Heaven and Hell (1975/2013)

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

“What we have here is a truly masterpiece of contemporary EM and the cradle of orchestral EM

1 Heaven and Hell Part I 21:58 Bacchanale Symphony to the Powers B (Movements 1 and 2) Movement 3 So Long Ago, So Clear 2 Heaven and Hell Part II 21:16 Intestinal Bat Needles and Bones 12 O'Clock Aries A Way  Esoteric Recordings ‎– ECLEC 2421 (CD 43:14) (V.F.)

(Symphonic and cinematographic)

Slow apocalyptic breezes coming from a nasal synth open the abysses of Heaven and Hell Part I. Five years after Sex Power, Vangelis affixes a musical signature which will be unique only to him with an orchestral approach very near the ambiences of movies where the synths get cover of symphonicity to the colors of iridescent metal and the choirs borrow chthonian Gregorian ambiences. Album of a genius to become, HEAVEN AND HELL launches the career of Vangelis Papathanassiou who abandons his suit of folk hermit or of Bohemian rocker for an even more mystical character. Recently reedited by the Cherry Red label, HEAVEN AND HELL is also the album of confusion for the growing fans of the Vangelis phenomenon. The Greek self-taught multi-instrumentalist rushes headlong into the battles of astonishing symphonic structures where the darkness is constantly harassed by angelic dawn serenades.

After these slow breaths of Jericho, Heaven and Hell Part I goes to debacle with an unbridled rhythm. Knocks of percussions set ablaze the rage of the first movement which topples over towards anarchy with sudden kicks which carry a sonic duel between philharmonic synths, harmonious ringings and Gregorian choirs of which the somber celestial harmonies run on loop over the warning shots of the percussions. This sonic frenzy attaches its passion at the second movement where Vangelis hammers an austere pace with gloomy chords which unfold a minimalist baroque melody. Follows then a delicate piano of which the melody has difficulty to penetrate this opaque Dantesque approach which gets support by the English Chamber Choir. The melody of Symphony to the Powers B is as frivolous and grave, embracing angelic structures as more restless passages. It's a brief opera where the sky sets ablaze hell and among which the fine notes of piano which dance with bells bring us towards the firsts outlines of Chariots of Fire; an album which will see the light of day some 6 years later. And we arrive to the soft Movement 3 and its piano which makes dream its notes in bluish mists and singing breezes. This delicate lunar melody will find a buyer as music to the Cosmos documentary in 1980 and leads us towards the splendid and very soft So Long Ago, So Clear; an electronic melody that will become the cradle of the New Age and where Jon Anderson enchants with his so ethereal voice. In fact, this finale reminds me that of Yes' Relayer where a fascinating celestial quietude followed the wild madness of Gates of Delirium. There is a small parallel to be made between both works.

A very sinister ambience opens Heaven and Hell Part II. Hollow winds blow on percussions and atonal bass pulsations, shaping a dark mood where every breath feeds the fright of the bats of which the flight of the thick cloud melts to the meshing of percussions and heterogeneous tones which get lost in the interstice of time in order to join the fascinating oriental melody of Needles and Bones. The play of the bass which stems the tide of agile metallic arpeggios is superb and the melody which sparkles under an immense pattern of synth carillons is just as much. And then we fall in pure magic. The movement of 12 O' Clock bickers constantly between the beauty and the beast, the consistency and the anarchy, the sky and hell. Absent choruses hum under a sky covered of apocalyptic thunders. We hear a voice of oracle to neigh there, while other more virginal voices whisper to the ears of the gods a melody torn between calm and storm. The percussions make kicks and upset the order of quietude while that 12 O' Clock adopts the bipolarity of Bacchanal. Far away, we hear a melody taking shape. Except that the chaos regurgitates its roars. There is no rhythm. Just bits of rhythm which burst, and which get lost in an intense sound mosaic where the immoderation is amplified by the presence of a virtual symphony orchestra. Vangelis is the master of his HEAVEN AND HELL and of his passion for chaos. Then finally come the first sunny spells of 12 O' Clock by the wonderful voice of Vana Veroutis who calms all torments and all tormented minds. Sublimate! And those who hear a phantom of Ennio Morricone … There is a little of truth. Aries bursts between our ears like an electronic fanfare. The lines of Albedo 0.39's Pulsar are drawn there. And this splendid HEAVEN AND HELL ends in a lunar ode. With A Way and its arpeggios of glasses which fall and sing like tears of joy on cheek wrinkled by happiness. These tears flow upward, singing with stars in a musical aurora borealis from which the melancholic delicacy will follow the dreams of Vangelis for years to come.

With its mega orchestral impulses, its choirs with aromas divided between black and white, its melodies sewn by thread of Orion and kicks of disjointed rhythms; HEAVEN AND HELL is a real slap to the ear. The album is still hard-hitting in 2014, so imagine in 1975! It's the cornerstone of Vangelis' career and it will serve as basis and as influences for so important albums such as Albedo 0.39, China, Chariots of Fire and even Blade Runner. The rhythms are heavy, the ambiences are powerful, and melodies are celestial. The musicality and the production are so intense that a lot of digital transfers have suffered from it. So, there were a lot of bad sounding CD. And it's aptly corrected in 2013 with a superb remastering made by Vangelis himself. This edition of Esoteric Recordings is without defect. No limitations of the sources or distortions of sounds which are rather explosive thank you. The sound is as much excellent as the Japanese pressing of 1990 and the CD comes with a nice booklet which doesn't say much but which is pleasant to look. Here we have a masterpiece of contemporary EM!

Sylvain Lupari (January 22nd, 2013) *****

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