For many music historians, the seventies was the golden age of rock. During the golden age of rock, concept albums and rock operas were commonplace. Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis, The Who were responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful concept albums and rock operas. They sold in their millions, and are now regarded as classic albums. Some groups did more to popularise the concept album.

None more so than Pink Floyd. Some of their finest albums were concept albums, including Dark Side Of The Moon, Animals, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. Coming a close second in the concept album stakes were Genesis, with concept albums that included Trespass, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Jethro Tull got in on the act too, releasing Thick As A Brick and Never To Old To Rock ’N’ Roll. So did Yes, another master of the concept album, with Fragile, Close To The Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans a trio of classics. These are just a few of the greatest concept albums of the seventies, the golden era of rock. Another reminder of this golden era was the rock opera.

The Who were responsible for two of the best known, rock operas, Tommy and  Quadrophenia. They enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim during the seventies. So did Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It was still enjoying rave reviews long after the concept album and rock opera had fallen from favour.

As the seventies drew to a close, many saw the concept album and rock opera as belonging in the seventies. Groups like Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd still continued to release the occasional concept album. However, by the eighties, it was thought that neither the concept album nor the rock opera would make a comeback.

They never really have. The rock opera seems a remnant of musical history. To some extent, so is the concept album. Sadly, in the past thirty-five years, there’s never been a time when the album charts have been filled with critically acclaimed, cerebral, concept albums. However, one group has been trying to bring back the glory days of the concept album, Canadian band, House Of Not.

Toronto based House Of Not haven’t been content to release one concept album. Instead, they’ve released three albums in what’s going to be a five album rock odyssey. It’s a truly ambitious project, one  that the enigmatic, Canadian band have spent twelve years working on. So far, only three volumes of what’s billed as “The House Of Not Project” have been released.

This is one of the most ambitious projects any band has embarked upon in the last decades. The House Of Not decided in the early part of the new millennia to begin work on a five album rock odyssey. Over the five albums, House Of Not document the journey of troubadour A. Nexter Niode, who busks his way through what’s described as a futuristic, “exotic land.” This gunslinging guitarist’s journey began in 2003.

It was back in 2003, when House Of Not released The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path, on Freak Street Productions. This was the start of this five part odyssey for House Of Not and their friends.

For The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path, A. Nexter, a.k.a. Brian Erikson had written fourteen tracks. He took charge of vocals, and added pipes and bells. Lou Ropolli played all the guitars; while Ken O’Gorman played bass, mandolin and backing guitars. Joining House Of Not were a number of what’s billed as “House Guests.” These musicians and backing vocalists augment House Of Not on Off The Path-Part One. The “House Guests” play everything from drums to didgeridoo, and help fill out the sound. While this is going on, House Of Not take charge of production; and once The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path was complete, they mixed the album. The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path was then scheduled for release in 2003.

When The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path was released in 2003, it proved to be no ordinary album. Billed as “The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode.” Over the fourteen tracks, eighteen year old Nexter takes a “trip,” and discovers Icon City. This is a land where the majority live in poverty, in servitude to the powerful tyrant, they call Hypocrite. He has transformed, and many would say ruined, the once utopian Sanctuary into a technologically indoctrinated collective. This once utopian dream has become a nightmare. That’s until a wanderer, dreamer and troubadour discovers Icon City.

It’s then that A. Nexter Niode sets about destroying both the status quo, and a despot’s fraudulent and tyrannical reign. This wander, dreamer and troubadour is The Wayfarer, A. Nexter Niode, who chances upon this secretive, and once proud city. Its story unfolds over the fourteen tracks on The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path. Before that, the listener is introduced to the cast of characters. 

Apart from the hero of the story, A. Nexter Niode, The Wayfarer, there’s the heroine, Silk, a.k.a. Lady Sadness. She becomes Nexter’s lover and muse. However, Nexter’s  confidant is  Hope, a.k.a. Lady-In-Waiting. Schadenfreude is billed as the villain of the piece. A tyrant and hypocrite, he rules Icon City with an iron fist. Then there’s Fred, The Piper, the father of Silk, and the family patriarch. He and his family have had their lives turned upside down. The final character is Number One, the narrator, who with the rest of House Of Not, guide the listener through the story on The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path, the first of this five part rock odyssey.

Homeric. That descries a rock odyssey in five parts. However, House Of Not don’t take long to tell the story of the first fifteen years of A. Nexter Niode’s life on Force Of Nature, which opens The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path. From conception through birth to adolescence, House Of Not spend just four minutes telling the story of what seems like an unremarkable life. As they do, House Of Not seem to draw inspiration from Kings of the concept album, Pink Floyd. Especially, Pink Floyd circa 1973, when they released Dark Side Of The Moon. Right down the backing vocals, House Of Not sound sonically and stylistically, like one of British’s music’s finest exports. It’s a case of wallowing in an arrangement that’s dramatic, progressive and ethereal, which whet the listener’s appetite. 

Everything seems to be getting on top of Nexter on Mainstream. From his family and friends, right through to his boss and even the government, things are getting to Nexter. Constantly he questions everything and everyone. His questions are left unanswered by those Nexter consider the establishment. Nexter feeling even more confused and persecuted, is desperate to escape. This becomes apparent on what starts off as a thoughtful, acoustic, guitar lead ballad. Later, it takes on a much more rocky sound. It’s not unlike Pink Floyd on The Final Cut. Especially, the arrangement, which features impassioned, pleading vocal, asking Nexter not to go.

He’s minds almost made up. Then when he meets a much more seasoned “wayfarer” on Footnotes, Nexter is convinced to take the “trip.” He decides he wants to become a troubadour, traveling from city to city busking for change. There’s a condition though. 

The veteran wayfarer explains he’s got to play with passion. That’s the case on Footnotes, which meanders melodically alone, the veteran wayfarer explaining the rules of the game to the newcomer on a meandering, melodic fusion of folk, rock and psychedelia. Then the sage like wayfarer  unleashes a blazing guitar solo, and Nexter knows what’s expected of him, as he begins his journey.  

Although everyone thinks Nexter is heading for “destination unknown,” he’s meant to be heading East. That’s where he will meet great, and wise men. Nexter is meant to learn from them, which should help Nexter discover his destiny. However, the plan goes awry, on the lysergic sounding Off The Path.

As he journeys, Nexter travels far and wide, constantly discovering new and exotic lands. Providing the soundtrack are two instrumentals, Off the Path and Taj Mahal Daydream, which are mesmeric melting pots of influences,  Wistful and ethereal sounding describes Taj Mahal Daydream. That’s fitting. Nexter is far from home, and what he knows. He’s far removed from his comfort zone. Then Nexter comes across what he thinks is another exotic lands, Icon City. 

It’s a case of all that glitters isn’t gold in Icon City. despot’s fraudulent and tyrannical reign. Schadenfreude, The Hypocrite rules the Icon City. He’s ruined this once proud city, whose people live in poverty, and are in servitude to The Hypocrite. It’s this once proud, but now secretive city the nomadic Nexter, dreamer, idealist and troubadour decides to unpack his guitar and play with pasion.

Once he’s looked around Icon City, Nexter the troubadour, settles down by the fountain in the square, and begins to play his guitar. It’s then that Nexter sees a beautiful, but almost haunted woman. This is Silk, who we’re introduced to in the thoughtful ballad Sad Silk. Sadness seems to exudes from Silk’s very pore. She’s known as Lady Sadness, but there’s a reason for this sadness.

In Icon City, Silk is an unwilling associate of Schadenfreude, The Hypocrite. She loathes and fears him. Her twin fears are that she’ll have to submit to his political ambitions and sexual desires. That’s been her fears from an early age.

Sllk, who is worshipped by her people, was snatched from her heartbroken father, Fred The Piper when she was young. Since then, she’s been enslaved, and unable to escape,..until now, when she meets a strangers to Icon City.

Nexter is in the crowd as Silk makes her way through her people, on Sad Silk. At once, he’s smitten, and vies for Silk’s affections. As Nexter gazes spellbound and lovingly at Silk. She in turn becomes a temptress, teasing and testing Nexter during The Walkabout. Sad Silk tells the story of this encounter. There’s a sense of sadness from the opening bars, as the story of this almost tragic figure unfolds. She dreams of escape, but The Hypocrite won’t let that happen.

When she sees Nexter looking longingly at Silk, she challenges him by saying: “you pretend.” All the time, Schadenfreude’s watchful eye burns into Nester. Then the spell is broken.

It’s Nexter that breaks the spell. He’s involved in an unseemly exchange, and when Schadenfreude takes his eye of Nexter, he announces he’s going to take Silk away, and be true to her. It’s then that Schadenfreude says: ”be true and be cursed!” From Icon City, Nexter beats a hasty retreat.

Next stop for Nexter is the Middle East. As he continues his travels, he wonders in A Mile in Those Shoes what his friends and family would think of him now? Again, the arrangement starts off with an understated sound, but grows and builds, before showcasing a much harder, rockier sound. Seamlessly, A Mile in Those Shoes gives way to Sacred Cow. While it has a similar sound, the subject matter is different. Here, Nexter ponders the subject of state and religious fundamentalism. Then it’s all change.

Ol’ Phat Fok sounds as if it’s providing the soundtrack to an old Western. Then a jazz-tinged horn punctuates the arrangement, and Nexter might as well be on Beale Street, New Orleans. He’s comparing his relationship with his nemesis The Hypocrite, with that of latter day icons, whether religious, political or corporate. He does this against what can only be described as a genre-melting arrangement. House Of Not continue to spring surprises. A swaggering slice of rock briefly explodes. So does a brief bluesy jam, before Nexter  remembers The Hypocrite’s words: “I “curse you to be true. Be true and be cursed!” With those words ringing in his ears, Nexter continues his journey.

He finds himself on Freak Street, in Kathmandu, Nepal. This famous street is at the heart of the city’s counterculture. A new type of counterculture is taking shape. As it does, Nexter meets and befriends Friedrich, an eccentric finger-painter. He helps Nexter to discover a new type of rock ’n’ roll. However, Nexter will only fully comprehend this genre, once his journey is at an end. This part of Nexter’s “trip” is documented in the lysergic, otherworldly, and almost post rock sounding Freak Street. It features another scorching guitar solo, which sounds as if Nexter’s been reborn, and found his inner Hendrix. Just when everything seems to be going to plan, danger is ahead.

On Stranger, a six minute epic, drama and danger are omnipresent as the song unfolds. Guitar runs are accompanied by chimes, bells and a myriad of other sounds. This is the cue for Nexter to look at himself in the mirror, and realise that’s he’s straying further from the world he knows and is familiar with. It’s like Alice In Wonderland, albeit with a rocky backdrop. However, one can’t help wonder if rather than a a journey in the traditional sense, Nexter is in the throes of a prolonged LSD trip, as he seems to be losing touch with reality? 

High In The Himalayas is a variation of of a Buddhist hymn. In this melancholy, guitar lead instrumental, one can hear the wind blow, and almost imagine Nexter scaling the Himalayas in search of spiritual salvation. There’s also a cinematic quality to the track. It sounds as if it’s been composed by Ry Cooder for a Wim Wenders’ soundtrack. Other times, it references the Berlin School of the late-seventies, early eighties. Blood From A Stone also has an eighties influence.

Straight away, Blood From A Stone, is reminiscent of Dire Straits early eighties albums. Soon, though a Pink Floyd influence shines through. By then, Nexter realises that he’s come to a conclusion. He something else, but he doesn’t know what. One thing he doesn’t want, is certainty. So Nexter decides to rethink his future.

Sanctuary, which closes The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path, has a similar sound to Blood From A Stone. It’s as if House Of Not have drawn inspiration from Pink Floyd and Dire Straits. Meanwhile, Nexter seeks solitude, as he considers what path to take on this journey that’s life. House Of Not have closed The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path on a cliff-hanger.

There’s a reason for this. The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path is the first in a five part rock odyssey from House Of Not. This first volume was released in 2003, on Freak Street Productions, and showcases a tight, talented and polished band. 

That becomes apparent straight away. House Of Not are obviously experienced musicians. They sound as if House Of Not have learnt from the masters. Sometimes, House Of Not seem to have been inspired by some of the biggest names in rock, including Pink Floyd, Yes, Dire Straits and Genesis.  That’s when the band play as one. Other times, when it’s a much more understated, acoustic sound, we hear a different sound to House Of Not.

On the much more understated sounding track, often, it’s just Brian Erikson and an acoustic guitar, as the song takes shape. He’s transformed, as the rest of House Of Not disappear into the shadows. All of sudden, Brian Erikson take centre-stage as he dawns the role of troubadour. He embraces and lives role, bringing life and meaning to the lyrics that are variously cerebral, thoughtful, beautiful and sometimes, full of social comment. House Of Not don’t shy away from the big issues, on an album that harks back to the golden era a rock, the seventies.

That was the age of the concept album. Back then, concept albums were inspired by numerous subjects, including mythology and science fiction, to religion, politics and war, and subjects as diverse as greed, money and madness. These subjects played their part in some of the greatest concept albums. However, they were all one offs. House Of Not have decided that they’re rock odyssey will be in five parts. The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path is the just the first step in a  journey that’s variously Homeric, Joycean, lysergic and surreal.

Indeed, surreal is a good description of The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path. Sometimes, The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path is a bit like Alice In Wonderland. Nothing is quite as it seems. One can’t help wonder if the whole journey is LSD trip, where Nexter has kicked open the doors of perfection, and sprinted off at speed? If it is, will Nexter be able to close the doors? That will only become apparent when the next part of Nexter’s trip unfolds. 

If it’s matches the quality of The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path, then it will be a captivating, enjoyable and genre-melting trip. Over the fourteen tracks, House Of Not flitted between blues, classic rock, country, folk, folk rock, post rock,  progressive rock and psychedelia, These genres melt into one on a cinematic and cerebral album that harks back to the golden age of rock, The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path.








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