An album that must be heard by all fans of Progressive and Psychedelic music alike.
Aphrodite’s Child were a Greek progressive rock band formed in 1967 that consisted of Vangelis Papathanassiou (keyboards), Demis Roussos (bass guitar and vocals), Loukas Sideras (drums and vocals), and Anargyros Koulouris (guitar). They were one of the few Greek acts that reached superstar status worldwide, although they only recorded three albums in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Their first two demos impressed Philips records, who proposed the group to leave Greece and move to England in search of more artistic environment than under the military dictatorship that ruled at the time.
This is their third and finest album. It’s an instant psych classic, a conceptual album based on a part of the New Testament and The Apocalypse of St. John. The original storyline of text-writer Costas Ferris concerned a circus troupe that throws a show in a circus tent based on the Apocalypse of the Book of Revelations, filled with spectacular lights and sounds. However, while the show is going on in the circus tent, the real Apocalypse begins to occur outside, the audience believing it to be part of the show. At the end, the big tent disappears, and the two ‘shows’ unite in a melding of illusion with reality.
From the opening chant of “The System” (whose actual words are, “We’ve got the system, to fuck the system“) dissolving into the peppy “Babylon” with Demis Roussos jovially singing “Fallen fallen fallen is Babylon the Great!” amidst canned cheering, this is an album that quickly establishes itself as out to keep the listener’s attention by any means necessary. For whatever eccentricities Vangelis managed to later inject into his solo work, these were quite present and accounted for in much larger amounts here.
Stylistically, 666 dunks the listener’s head into a pretty eclectic kettle, primarily characterized by the psychedelic rock of the period. On the more mellow side of this lies “The Four Horsemen” and “Aegian Sea,” resembling Pink Floyd during the Saucerful of Secrets, with Roussos’ voice approximating a European Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon) on the former. However, the band also gets pretty electric. Guitarist Koulouris and drummer Sedaris particularly tear it up, if briefly, on “The Battle of the Locusts/Do It,” and the band indulges in a side-long jam “All the Seats Were Occupied.” “Altamont,” on the second disc, is also a splendidly heavy track, pounding away like the hammer of Hephaestos. Indeed, it would have been great to hear Christian Vander and Jannick Top of Magma ’76 get their hands on a groove such as this. Also represented are dalliances into ethnic folk (e.g., “The Seventh Seal,” “The Marching Beast”) and soul, albeit at least one instance of this (“The Beast”) sounds inexorably like 70s porn music. 666 is a charming timepiece that any fan of Progressive Rock and Psychedelic will enjoy hearing again and again. The music itself was an impressive display of Vangelis’ abilities, combining psychedelic and progressive rock with ethnic instruments, choral chanting, recitations, and very advanced use of synthesizers and keyboards for the time. Unfortunately, the relationship between the members changed for the worst and by the time ‘666’ has sold 20 million copies, they had already split.