For many people, the golden age of the concept album was the seventies. It seemed that every self respecting rock band had to release a concept album. This was almost a musical rite of passage. However, rock’s royalty weren’t content to release just one concept album. Instead, they released several consecutive concept albums. 

This included Yes, who released a trio of consecutive concept albums between 1971 and 1973. From Fragile in 1971, through Close To The Edge in 1972 and 1973s Tales From Topographic Oceans, Yes were one of the finest purveyors of concept albums. So were Jethro Tull.

Just like Yes, Jethro Tull released a trio of consecutive concept albums between 1971 and 1973. The first was Aqualung in 1971, with Thick As A Brick following in 1972 and A Passion Play in 1973. The early seventies were proving to be a golden age for concept albums.

And so it proved. In 1973, Pink Floyd, the King of the concept album, released the first of four consecutive concept albums. Dark Side Of The Moon was released in 1973, and was hailed as a career defining classic. When Wish You Were followed in 1975, it further cemented Pink Floyd’s reputation as the King of the concept album. Two became three when Animals followed in 1977. Then as the seventies drew to a close, Pink Floyd released The Wall in 1979. This was their fourth consecutive classic concept album. However, by 1979, the musical landscape had changed in the post punk years, and concept albums were no longer as popular.

In the early eighties, concept albums were something of a rarity. A few groups released the occasional concept album. This included Pink Floyd, who released their fifth consecutive concept album, The Final Cut in 1983. However, it would be the final concept album of Pink Floyd’s career. Surely, no other group would release five consecutive concept albums?

Over the next thirty years, groups still continued to release concept albums. They were usually one-offs, and weren’t part of a series. Certainly no group considered releasing a five album rock odyssey. Surely that would be just too ambitious? Nobody tried it during the seventies, which was the golden age of rock. So it’s unlikely that any group would consider releasing a five album rock odyssey nowadays? Or is it?

Toronto based House Of Not weren’t going to be content to release just one concept album. Instead, they plan to release a five album rock odyssey. It’s a truly ambitious project 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. 

It’s one of the most ambitious projects any band has embarked upon in the last two decades. House Of Not began work on their five album rock odyssey early in the new millennia. The plan was, that over the course of five albums, House Of Not would 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.

That was when House Of Not released The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path. This was the start of this five part odyssey for House Of Not and their friends. The story continues on The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two-Sexus, which was released in 2005 on Freak Street Productions.

Following the release of Off The Path, House Of Not’s songwriter-in-chief Brian Erikson began work on the second album in this five part rock odyssey. Brian Erikson wrote the fourteen tracks that would become The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two-Sexus. It was recorded in Montreal with a little help from House Of Not’s friends.

For the recording of The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two Sexus, the three members of House Of Not headed to Hole In The Wall Studios, Toronto. Brian Erikson took charge of vocals, dawning the role of Nexter Niode. He also added pipes and bells. Lou Ropolli played rhythm guitar; while Ken O’Gorman played bass, mandolin and guitar. Joining House Of Not were a number of what’s billed as “House Guests.”

These musicians and backing vocalists augment the three members of House Of Not on Sexus. The “House Guests” play an important part in the album, adding everything from harmonica, harmonies and horns, to bass, guitars, Hammond organ and percussion. They fill out the sound. Meanwhile Ken O’Gorman recorded, produced and later, mixed The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two-Sexus. It was released in 2005, and continues the story that began on Off The Path.

The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two Sexus opens with Seance. Moody and dramatic describes the arrangement. Just a synth dominates the arrangement, until bongos play. They’re joined by ethereal harmonies. Then Nexter hears Silk’s voice in his head: “be true or be cursed”. Having thrown down the challenge, Nexter’s mind is made up, and he sets out to rescue her. The next chapter in the story is about to unfold.

Voodoo Bitch, a song about obsession, explodes into life, as a blistering guitar combines with the rhythm section. This sets the scene for Brian’s thoughtful vocal that early on, references Mark Knopfler. That’s until, House Of Not kick loose. Then the vocal like the arrangement, becomes rocky, powerful and theatrical as the track heads in the direction of pomp rock. Dee Brown’s backing vocals match the vocal every step of the way, as they sing call and response. Then as a Nexter’s vocal becomes a thoughtful confessional, he admits he’s hopelessly obsessed by Silk. Again, there’s a degree of theatre, as befits a rock odyssey.  

Having admitted his obsession with Silk, Nexter sets about to rescue her from the Hypocrite’s powerbase. The only worry Nexter has, is that he’ll be corrupted by Hypocrite’s power. Mindful of this he sets about to rescue Silk without being corrupted. This he sets about doing on Whitehouse.

On Whitehouse, the lyrics are full of scathing social comment. It’s not just the Hypocrite that Nexter sets his sites on, it’s Uncle Sam. Against a genre-melting arrangement, Nexter almost spits out the lyrics. He almost sneers as he sings: “make sure the old man is out.” Meanwhile, House Of Not and friends combine everything from rock, post punk and even elements of reggae and funk. One minute, there’s a nod to the Rolling Stones circa Exile On Main Street, the next they unleash some classic heavy rock, before sounding not unlike The Clash. Then at 2.57 there’s another homage to the Rolling Stone; with machine gun guitars accompanying Nexter’s vampish, strutting vocal, which is full of machismo on this mixture of music and theatre. 

Having managed to find his way into the Whitehouse, Nexter is in for a disappointment. Silk who is her room with Lady In Waiting is unsure of his intentions. She cowers behind her veiled bed posts. Her ever faithful Lady In Waiting asks in a a melancholy ballad: “where would take her, that she’s never been…what would you give her, that she’s never been.” Silk’s final words are: “baby it’s time for you to go, and leave me with my Lady in Waiting.” With that, a heartbroken Nexter takes his leave.

As Nexter beats a hasty retreat on Icons, he does so with mocking vocals ringing in ears. Then as he tries to escape via a garden filled with statues, he’s caught by the Hypocrite’s bodyguards. They beat Nexter up, but still he mocks and goads them: “well come on do your best”. Defiantly, the lyrics are delivered against an arrangement that’s slow, dramatic and rocky. It’s also the perfect backdrop as Nexter sings: the harder you strike me, the brighter the fire you light in me, don’t underestimate me, emancipate me.”

Nexter is still defiant and determined to get the last word on  Is That the Best You Can Do? At the start, it’s an understated ballad, where Nexter is accompanied by backing vocals. Soon, though, the drama builds and soulful harmonies sing mockingly “Is That the Best You Can Do?” Meanwhile, Nexter mocks the Hypocrite on a song that’s sometimes, is reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Other times, the arrangement takes on a harder, rockier,  sound. However, hooks certainly haven’t been rationed on what’s one of the melodic and memorable songs on the album.

Blackout marks a stylistic change, with just a guitars accompanying Nexter’s vocal on this understated ballad about war zones and the rules of war. It’s reminiscent of early Dire Straits. Beaten and bloodied, Nexter’s discovered lying on the street by a good samaritan. As they tend to his wounds,  Nexter delivers  this thoughtful, cerebral ballad.

Footnotes/Hurt is a slow, instrumental that’s like a musical interlude that breaks up the album. Just a wistful piano plays, before a stunning searing guitar solo adds to the sense of melancholia and drama. Meanwhile, the rhythm section underpin the arrangement. However, it’s the guitar that steals the show, before the odyssey continues.

State Of The Union finds the Hypocrite addressing his ‘people’. In his speech, he’s far for pleased by Nexter. That he continues to pursue Silk, and show her affection enrages him. So he enlists Silk to play a part in his downfall. This is akin to a test of her loyalty. Behind the Hypocrite’s speech, House Of Not jam; and gradually, the dramatic rocky backdrop builds. It sounds as if it’s been inspired by a seventies concept album. As guitars are sprayed across the arrangement, the rhythm section, piano and backing vocals combine to create the backdrop for the Hypocrite’s State Of The Union speech. However, the question is, will Silk play her part in Dexter’s downfall?

Eerie and otherworldly describes the introduction to Behind the Veil. The curse has been placed on Nexter, but gradually, he begins to regain consciousness. That’s when he sees Silk’s true nature, as she and her Lady In Waiting tend to him. Effects have been applied to his vocal, so that it sounds as if he’s dazed and confused. Gradually, though, Nexter awakes and is joined on this ballad by backing vocals. Nexter’s vocal is tender, needy and hopeful, while the rhythm section, piano and keyboards accompany him. They take care not to overpower the vocal. Then at 3.51 it’s obvious what’s going to happen now.A guitar is dropped in, and cuts through the arrangement, as Nexter sings call and response with the backing vocalist. By then, one can’t help wonder if the tide is turning in Nexter’s favour?

Alas just as it looks as if things are improving for Nexter, a curveball is thrown on It’s Your Mother. The Lady In Waiting becomes a temptress, and tries to tempt Nexter during a moment of weakness. Meanwhile, House Of Not combine elements of rock,  pop and blues. Just the rhythm section, keyboards and bursts of guitar provide the backdrop, as Nexter rebuffs the Lady In Waiting’s advances. Harmonies, piano and a bristling guitar accompany Nexter as he sings: “ya know that you’ve got to give me up, it’s your mother I love.” By then, House Of Not remind of 10CC’s brand of slick and clever pop. Then at the bridge, House Of Not and friends enjoy the chance to showcase their considerable musical skills. This sets the scene for the big finish, to what’s another memorable and melodic fusion of musical genres.

Despite being meant to bring about the downfall of Nexter, Silk steals away to their hideaway in Secret Garden. As Silk calls out: “where are you?”  guitars ring out, and the rhythm section lock into a slow, tight groove. It’s reminiscent of the Rolling Stones, as blues, rock and gospel tinged harmonies combine. They accompany Nexter’s heartfelt, needy and hopeful vocal. Later, the sultriest of saxophone is added. So is a blistering rock guitar. They soon unite, as House Of Not jam on what’s one of their finest hours.

Pipedream is a ten minute epic, where Nexter worships of the altar of Silk. Before that, the arrangement meanders melodically along. A Fender Rhodes and a scorching, bristling guitar play leading roles. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provide a hypnotic heartbeat. That’s fitting as Nexter has fallen under Silk’s spell. That becomes apparent as he delivers a sultry vocal.  He almost worships her, and is obsessed by her. His description of Silk is almost unrecognisable from the one in Lay In Waiting.  However, the is just a Pipedream. Worryingly though, Nexter has become a daydream believer. As this rocky epic continues to build, House Of Not and friends are at their tightest. They never miss a beat. Later, though, they briefly loosen up and it’s reminiscent of the Rolling Stones. Singalong harmonies are added, before the arrangement tightens up, and becomes sultry, moody and rocky. Then when the vocal drops out, another blistering guitar solo proves the perfect replacement. House of Not jam for the rest of this sensual hymnal to Silk.

Chase The Dragon closes Part Two Sexus, and comes with the caveat, nothing is as it seems. It finds the narrator busking in the streets. As he sings and plays his trusty acoustic guitar. As the guitar man plays, one can’t help but wonder if this is Nexter? Is the clue to this ‘rock odyssey’ in the title, and indeed in Part One?

Back in The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part One-Off The Path, Nexter takes a “trip,” and discovers Icon City. Maybe this wasn’t so much of a journey, but an Acid trip? After dropping Acid, the doors of perception were well and truly opened for  Nexter. The only problem is, that once the doors of perception are open, closing them isn’t as easy. 

After the young troubadour discovers lost lands, the Hypocrite, Silk and the Lady In Waiting, the trip could continue. It might never stop. Further down the rabbit hole Nexter Niode will go, with even more adventures and nightmares will unfold. Meanwhile, Nexter wonders is this real life, or is it a fantasy? 

It could be they’re all figments of Dexter’s drug addled imagination, as gradually he becomes hopelessly addicted to drugs. So much so, that as The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two Sexus closes, Nexter finds himself busking, so that he can Chase The Dragon. It’s a dragon he’ll continue to chase; maybe even  over another three albums? After all, what is the alternative? 

Can there really be a land where the majority live in poverty, in servitude to the powerful tyrant, they call the Hypocrite? Very possibly. Many people have called some politicians and tin pot dictators a Hypocrite. However, have they transformed, and many would say ruined, a once utopian Sanctuary into a technologically indoctrinated collective? That’s unlikely. Unlike the majority’s belief that this once utopian dream has become a nightmare. Especially for Nexter.

He has to watch helplessly, as the Hypocrite wins the heart of Silk. She’s the object of his desire and sometimes his obsession. This older, richer and more powerful man takes from Nexter the only thing cares about…Silk. For the wanderer, dreamer and troubadour it’s a devastating blow.

Then Silk briefly reenters Nexter’s life in the Secret Garden. It’s the penultimate track on the second volume of this five part rock odyssey. Just like on Part One, House Of Not leave the listener with a cliffhanger on The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two Sexus.

The listener has no idea where this rock odyssey is heading. Chase The Dragon, the closing track of The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two Sexus just muddies the water further. 

What is clear, that The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two Sexus is a fitting followup to Part One. House Of Not pickup where they left off, creating another genre-melting album. Elements of blues, classic rock, country, post punk, post rock,  progressive rock and psychedelia melt into one, and create an album whose roots are in the seventies, which wasn’t just the golden age of music, but the golden age of the concept album.

Back then, groups like Yes, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd were among the finest and most successful purveyors of the concept album. Pink Floyd’s influence can be heard on The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Two Sexus. So can the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, 10CC, The Clash and The Who. Especially, their rock operas Tommy and Quadraphenia. These influences were present on Part One, will continue to influence House Of Not. However, two volumes are still to be recorded.

The Walkabout Of A. Nexter Niode-Part Three The Madness Of Crowds was released in 2012. Since then, all has been quiet from House Of Not. However, they’re currently working on Part Four, with a release date scheduled for later in 2016. Then we will be one step nearer to discovering what happens to troubadour, wanderer and adventurer Nexter Niode at the end of this Homeric, Joycean and lysergic five part rock odyssey. If they’re of the same quality as the first two parts, it will prove to be a captivating journey. 





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: