Here’s another unjustly overlooked band that never received the wider attention it deserved, a victim of geographic isolation (despite their English name, the group hailed from northeast Spain), or maybe the fierce competition between likeminded musicians for a loyal but dwindling fan base in the late 1970s.
ICEBERG played instrumental Fusion in the spirit of early MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, but Jazz Rock is too mild a term for the type of music on tap here. This is Fusion more akin to Edward Teller’s Cold War fantasies: a Latin-flavored thermonuclear warhead able to detonate a musical fireball bigger than the one that vaporized Bikini Atoll in 1946. All right, so that’s a tacky analogy, but you get the point: these guys had serious chops.
The quartet was led by guitarist Max Suñé, playing with a passion and skill equal to any guitar hero of his time. He could solo with the pinpoint precision and white-lightning speed of Al DiMeola (always the yardstick used to measure any Fusion axe-man in the 1970s), but favored a raw, emotional guitar tone more reminiscent of “Birds of Fire” era John McLaughlin. Match this with the virtuoso mini-moog runs of Josep Mas and the results could turn even the most unlikely time signature into a thrilling, and often surprisingly graceful, adventure.
Listen to the guitar and keyboards trading solo spots during “El Caminant Nocturn”, a song almost guaranteed to blow your socks off and dry-clean them in mid-flight. Or the 11-minute “Càntics de la Carn”, another album highlight, beginning with a furious percussion workout under which Primitivo Sanchez (the name makes him sound like a Catalan punk rocker) lays down a speedy flamenco bass line for Suñé and Mas to race across in perfect stop/start unison.
The homegrown Spanish influence surfaces even more strongly on the remaining tracks, adding the warmer textures of acoustic guitar and piano but sounding no less dynamic than the earlier all-electric salvos. My only complaint is with the unresolved fade-out at the tail of the curtain closer “Crisàlide” (and in the middle of another monster Suñé solo too!). But in retrospect it’s probably fitting that the band’s last studio album should end this way, giving the impression that they never really stopped playing…that maybe someday, on another album, they might simply flip a switch and continue the same track right where it left off here.
At one time I owned several ICEBERG albums (and at least one Max Suñé solo effort), back in the days when even the coolest, most obscure European imports were available Stateside in any decent LP emporium. A lifetime later this is the only survivor of the bunch, but it’s the one worth hanging on to.
Neu!mann (Michael Neumann) PROG REVIEWER