That's how I'd rate Blue Oyster Cult's 1st, 3rd, and 2nd albums (respectively). Collectively known as the band's "black and white period" for their cover art, they are 3 peerless monolithic slabs of heavy metal.
With this self-titled debut, BOC arrived on the scene with all their trademarks in place. The "hook and cross" logo? Yep, it's already there. The umlaut over the O of Oyster? Present and accounted for. And that's just the symbols. Already here are their cryptic sci-fi/horror lyrics and the blazing guitars and keyboards that are the calling card of their easily identifiable sound. So self-assured!
In some ways this is my favorite because of the variety it contains. "Screams" and "She's As Beautiful As A Foot" have a psychedelic edge to them, while "Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll" has a jazzy break and "Redeemed" serves up beautiful harmonies in an almost country setting.
The word that comes to mind when I listen to their second album "Tyranny And Mutation" is "relentless". There's an unusual flourish or tempo change here and there, but for the most part the band is in fierce speed-metal mode. There would be no Metallica if this record didn't exist. It's the best of its kind I've ever heard. "Hot Rails To Hell" and "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" are every bit as sinister and propulsive as their titles imply. Not to be missed.
Their third release "Secret Treaties" combines the melodicism of the first album with the harder-edged attack of the second one. Many fans regard it as their finest achievement, and it's a fitting capstone to the "black and white" trilogy.
After this BOC found commercial success with "Don't Fear The Reaper", and filled coliseums on double bills with their British counterparts Black Sabbath (the "Black and Blue" tour). The album the big hit came from, "Agents Of Fortune", and its successor "Spectres" were both terrific - but heralded a new direction. More polished, slick, and pop. Something was gained (massive popularity), but something was lost, too. I missed the ferocity of the earlier efforts. By then I was distracted by the punk phenomenon, and "Spectres" was as far as I followed them.
Maybe I don't know enough metalheads, but I rarely hear this trilogy mentioned by them. Same goes when people compile lists of the "greatest albums of all time". And trust me - these 3 are utterly fantastic and deserving of the honor. Blue Oyster Cult were smart, talented - and very very cool.