I was speechless upon listening to this. the title track nearly broke up the band from my understanding. This album brought with it a rush of emotions and such within me. I didn't quite know what I was in for, but as it progressed it became clear this was likely their best album. So without much to say outside the review, let's dive in.
The albums opens with an eight piece epic called Tarkus. We start with a loud keyboard and hammond organ based piece fittingly called Eruption. It has a layered intensity that is hard to get over. It's an impressive piece, but it slows down to make way for our second piece, "Stone of Years". Lake sings about the impending conflict, with Emerson backing him on the keys in the latter portion of the song. Palmer offers interesting drumming with the wooden drums in sections. The piece ends about six and a half minutes in to make way for an intense drum and keyboard based piece called "Iconoclast". It feels like the prelude and build up to something grand an epic, then we get into a more melodic section before making way for Lake's vocals to kick off the next piece: "Mass". The piece doesn't last too long, as after some organ soloing we get a reprise of Lake's vocals from before, followed by our next piece "Manticore". Once again an intense drum and synth based piece. Once again building up strongly to something even more epic. A four minute piece called "Battlefield". It starts with synth and guitar build ups before we hear lake sing about a war or some kind of battle and someone's hypocrisy and deafness. (deafness in a metaphorical sense) Finally it ceases at sixteen and a half minutes in. Then we hear keyboards greeting us to the final piece "Aquatarkus". It's a largely synth driven piece, but the synths give way to militaristic drumming, before we here a gong. Then it should all sound familiar as it is reprising earlier. Then the piece finally cuts out. I read the lyrics and could not for the life of me understand this masterpiece. So I asked my ELP obsessed friend, and he said it's about the Sonic The Hedgehog minion looking robot from the cover. Well either way it takes a lot of skill to arrange a piece as magnificent as this, and I can see this as a magnum opus of sorts for the band.
I've had experience with sidelong compositions before, see Rush, Yes, or Genesis. The latter of the three has my favorite example "Supper's Ready". So I'm glad ELP pulled it off just as well.
Next we have side two. Our first track being a joke song called "Jeremy Bender". I don't recall the first album having any so it caught me off guard with it's ragtime affectations. The song is about a man who cross dresses as a nun and then has sex with one. Then he gets in trouble as nuns aren't supposed to have relations. It's a solid piece and a great song lyrically. Next we have "Bitches Crystal". I can't for the life of me tell what it is about, but I love it. The percussion, the keys, Greg Lake's screaming. This is a song that just clicks with me just right, and is as of now my favorite ELP song period. Next we have "The Only Way (Hymn)". A good piece with nice organ playing and harmonies, Lake's vocals are incredible in the middle section of this song. Though it gets interesting as Palmer joins in and the organ is swapped out with a piano. An overall incredible song. Next is "Infinite Space (Conclusion)". I don't know what this is concluding, but it's an overall solid instrumental. I think it is however the weakest track on the album. Next is "A Time and a Place". It's what I expect at this point, and damn now I know why people say he lost his voice. The guy screams more than Ian Gillian on a Deep Purple album. I love the keys on here though, especially near the end. We close out the album with another joke song "Are You Ready Eddy". The songs reminds me of old fifties type rock songs. The lyrics are repetitious and make for one of the weakest tracks on here. Though that doesn't mean it's a solid track to close the album out with, I just would've closed the album with "Infinite Space (Conclusion)".
Overall a fine album and a step up from the first, I just think I liked the first one more. Though I have no honest Idea how in the hell they can follow this up.