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Rock - Released February 11, 1973 | Columbia

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On Tyranny and Mutation, Blue Öyster Cult achieved the seemingly impossible: they brightened their sound and deepened their mystique. The band picked up their tempos considerably on this sophomore effort, and producers Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman added a lightning bolt of high-end sonics to their frequency range. Add to this the starling lyrical contributions of Pearlman, rock critic Richard Meltzer, and poet-cum-rocker Patti Smith (who was keyboardist Allen Lanier's girlfriend at the time), the split imagery of Side One's thematic, "The Red" and Side Two's "The Black," and the flip-to-wig-city, dark conspiracy of Gawlik's cover art, and an entire concept was not only born and executed, it was received. The Black side of Tyranny and Mutation is its reliance on speed, punched-up big guitars, and throbbing riffs such as in "The Red and the Black," "O.D'd on Life Itself," "Hot Rails to Hell," and "7 Screaming Diz-Busters," all of which showcased the biker boogie taken to a dizzyingly extreme boundary; one where everything flies by in a dark blur, and the articulations of that worldview are informed as much by atmosphere as idea. This is screaming, methamphetamine-fueled rock & roll that was all about attitude, mystery, and a sense of nihilistic humor that was deep in the cuff. Here was the crossroads: the middle of rock's Bermuda triangle where BÖC marked the black cross of the intersection between New York's other reigning kings of mystery theater and absurd excess: the Velvet Underground and Kiss -- two years before their first album -- and the " 'it's all F#$&%* so who gives a rat's ass" attitude that embodied the City's punk chic half-a-decade later. On the Red Side, beginning with the syncopated striations of "Baby Ice Dog," in which Allen Lanier's piano was as important as Buck Dharma's guitar throb, elements of ambiguity and bluesy swagger enter into the mix. Eric Bloom was the perfect frontman: he twirled the words around in his mouth before spitting them out with requisite piss-and-vinegar, and a sense of decadent dandy that underscored the music's elegance, as well as its power. He was at ease whether the topic was necromancy, S&M, apocalyptic warfare, or cultural dissolution. By the LP's end, on "Mistress of the Salmon Salt," Bloom was being covered over by a kind of aggressively architected psychedelia that kept the '60s at bay while embracing the more aggressive, tenser nature of the times. While BÖC's Secret Treaties is widely recognized as the Cult's classic album, one would do well to consider Tyranny and Mutation in the same light. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 1, 1974 | Columbia

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While the speed-freak adrenaline heaviness and shrouded occult mystery of Tyranny and Mutation is the watermark for Blue Öyster Cult's creative invention, it is Secret Treaties that is widely and critically regarded as the band's classic. Issued in 1974, Secret Treaties is the purest distillation of all of BÖC's strengths. Here the songs are expansive, and lush in their textures. The flamboyance is all here, and so are the overdriven guitar riffs provided by Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom. But there is something else, texturally, that moves these songs out from the blackness and into the shadows. Perhaps it's the bottom-heavy mix by producer and lyricist Sandy Pearlman, with Allen Lanier's electric piano and Joe Bouchard's bass coming to rest in an uneasy balance with the twin-guitar attack. Perhaps it's in the tautness of songwriting and instrumental architectures created by drummer Albert Bouchard, Bloom, and Don Roeser (Buck Dharma). Whatever it is, it offers the Cult a new depth and breadth. While elements of psychedelia have always been a part of the band's sound, it was always enfolded in proto-metal heaviness and biker boogie. Here, BÖC created their own brand of heavy psychedelic noir to diversify their considerably aggressive attack. Listen to "Subhuman" or "Dominance and Submission." Their minor chord flourishes and multi-tracked layered guitars and Bouchard's constantly shimmering cymbals and snare work (he is the most underrated drummer in rock history) and elliptical lyrics -- that Pearlman put out in front of the mix for a change -- added to the fathomless dread and mystery at the heart of the music. Elsewhere, on "Cagey Cretins" and "Harvester of Eyes" (both with lyrics by critic Richard Meltzer), the razor-wire guitar riffs were underscored by Lanier's organ, and their sci-fi urgency heightened by vocal harmonies. But it is on "Flaming Telepaths," with its single-chord hypnotic piano line that brings the lyric "Well, I've opened up my veins too many times/And the poison's in my heart in my heart and in my mind/Poison's in my bloodstream/Poison's in my pride/I'm after rebellion/I'll settle for lives/Is it any wonder that my mind is on fire?" down into the maelstrom and wreaks havoc on the listener. It's a stunner, full of crossing guitar lines and an insistent, demanding rhythmic throb. The set closes with the quark strangeness of "Astronomy," full of melancholy, dread, and loss that leaves the listener unsettled and in an entirely new terrain, having traveled a long way from the boasting rockery of "Career of Evil" that began the journey. It's a breathless rock monolith that is all dark delight and sinister pleasure. While the Cult went on to well-deserved commercial success with Agents of Fortune an album later, the freaky inspiration that was offered on their debut, and brought to shine like a black jewel on Tyranny and Mutation, was fully articulated as visionary on Secret Treaties. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 6, 1988 | SMCMG

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Rock - Released September 27, 1988 | Columbia

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Signing on with Deep Purple/Black Sabbath producer Martin Birch, Blue Öyster Cult made more of a guitar-heavy hard rock album in Cultosaurus Erectus after flirting with pop ever since the success of Agents of Fortune. (They also promoted this album by going out on a co-headlining tour with Sabbath.) Gone are the female backup singers, the pop hooks, the songs based on keyboard structures, and they are replaced by lots of guitar solos and a beefed-up rhythm section. But the band still were not generating strong enough material to compete with their concert repertoire, so they found themselves in the bind of being a strong touring act unable to translate that success into record sales. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Hard Rock - Released June 12, 2006 | Charly Records

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Hard Rock - Released June 24, 2006 | Charly Records

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Hard Rock - Released March 21, 2011 | Charly Records

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Hard Rock - Released March 21, 2011 | Charly Records

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Hard Rock - Released February 13, 2013 | Perfect Cadence Records

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Film Soundtracks - Released August 14, 2015 | FULL MOON

"Music composed and performed by Blue Öyster Cult," reads the credit for this soundtrack, and that turns out to mean two actual BÖC songs, 19 instrumental excerpts, the longest of which is under two-and-a-half-minutes, and nine songs by otherwise anonymous heavy metal groups. There's a lot of music here -- the disc runs over 71 minutes -- but little of it is memorable. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released January 24, 2020 | Frontiers Records s.r.l.

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Blue Öyster Cult in the magazine
  • Blue Öyster Cult - The Symbol Remains
    Blue Öyster Cult - The Symbol Remains There are plenty of examples where bands have attempted a comeback and it’s been an absolute flop. Bands which, for some unknown reason, try to come back from the dead and end up making an album th...