Blue Öyster Cult
Spectres is the richest and most atmospheric album made by Blue Oyster Cult, and my personal favorite by them. I've followed this band for most of my life---I've seen them in concert twenty-one times, including what turned out to be the final reunion of all five original members--and never have all of the singers and songwriters in and connected to this band constructed more fantastical worlds than those found on Spectres.
The LP is not as heavy as their straighter, more obviously heavy metal albums (Fire of Unknown Origin and Cultosaurus Erectus), nor as quirky and off kilter as the first three releases, but I find it to be their grandest, saddest and most rewarding effort. Although some feel it is simply a commercial followup to Agents of Fortune, I find it to be superior in all departments and hugely cinematic.
In terms of progressive songwriting, The Golden Age of Leather is a marvel of instrumentation that drives through various landscapes of twin guitar harmonies, funky bass lines, plaintive leads, and rich the harmony vocals (one of the top strengths of this band). This tune compares structurally to Before the Kiss, A Redcap (from their debut), but has far, far better core ideas and is more haunting. Certainly one of their most adventurous songs ever. Fireworks, Celestial the Queen, and Death Valley Nights are three of the finest examples of harmony vocals in rock--on these tunes Blue Oyster Cult the rock band performs a bit more like BOC the studio consortium, bringing to mind tunes like The Raven by Alan Parsons Project or Dark Side of the Moon. These three BOC cuts are all gorgeous chorus tapestries.
Certainly, one can draw comparisons between the I Love the Night and Don't Fear the Reaper, but I've always preferred I Love the Night, which is more ethereal and haunting musically, if not lyrically, and has more tasty lead guitar by Buck Dharma, my favorite guitarist ever. (See his solo in the live version of Veterans of the Psychic Wars to see why...) And then there's Nosferatu--a haunting and forlorn masterwork that concludes the album with one of the two best songs ever recorded by the band. (The other is Astronomy.)
Unlike Secret Treaties, the debut, and Fire of Unknown Origin, Spectres did not grab me initially, when I first heard it as a kid. But--much like their similarly rich Imaginos album--Spectres reveals itself to those who spend time with it-- it is incredibly colorful tapestry of gothic, lonely, and obscure worlds.