A Gem Of The Prog Forest
One of the most enigmatic bands of England’s prog-rock scene in the 1970’s, Steel Mill’s solitary album Green Eyed God is finally seeing a proper release (with extras!) on Jewels Of The Forest. Recorded in 1972, it was not released in their home country until 1975. At this point, Black Sabbath was firmly in control, and the band had long since dissolved. Green Eyed God circled amongst the bootleggers, until saxophonist John Challenger unearthed some original acetates of the band’s singles and demos in his attic. The original album was remastered, along with the singles, and the band even got back together to record a brand new song! Now, 40 years later, we can all enjoy this wonderful slice of history.
The original album has held up well over the decades. Songs like “Blood Runs Deep” and “Green Eyed God” show a strong King Crimson influence without being derivative, while “Summer’s Child” and “Black Jewel Of The Forest” owe more to Jethro Tull, and serve to highlight Challenger’s haunting flute melodies. “Treadmill” is a standout track, utilizing the sonic imagery of chain gangs of the Deep South to tell the story of slavery. And not to be missed is “Mijo And The Laying Of The Witch”, which evokes early Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and can still shake some walls thanks to vocalist David Morris and his commanding baritone.
The singles are clearly separate for a reason. They still rock, but “Get On The Line” and “Zangwill” don’t fit the overall feel of the record. As well, the demo tracks consist mostly of hijacked blues-rock, especially “Super Clean Man”, which could easily be confused for a Beatles song. The real treat here is “A Forgotten Future/A Future Past”, which reunites the five original members on a new composition. The band is in fine form, effortlessly recalling the controlled intensity of their heyday. They haven’t grown as a band, considering they broke up 35 years ago, and that’s perfect.
It’s comforting to learn that in this age of the shortened attention span, a great band is never truly forgotten. If you pine for the days before Black Sabbath turned heavy rock on its ear, this is one for you.