Customer Reviews: 666: Apocalypse of St John
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on May 12, 2000
I don't know what they've got in the water up there in Pennsylvania (maybe it leached out of the stripmines), but the previous review is way off base--this album cannot be so easily pigeon-holed. If an American or British band tried to tackle these themes and suffuse them with an air of ominous Hellenic dread, it almost certainly wouldn't work. But take a pack of Greek expatriates living in Paris in 1970 (who had previously scored big continental hits with odd but ultimately lightweight singles) and something of the mysteries of their homeland, and you get a template into which some truly ancient musical, lyrical, and philosophical ideas flowed. It's clear when listening to this album that there is nothing contrived about it. It sounds as if, for a brief moment in time, a common subconscious urge drove the project leaders toward a common goal.

There are some familiar elements--excellent rock guitar by Silver Koulouris (where has he gone?), powerful drumming from Lucas Sideras, excellent production values that still make me wonder whether this was REALLY recorded in 1970, and some excellent synth work before there was supposed to be any functional ones around. All the Mediterranean percussion and various stringed instruments do not come off as an attempt to make the recording "exotic." Rather, it is those instruments and vocals that, as good as the rock playing is, seem most natural for the material. Without getting too far out there, it sounds like some troubadours from Athens jumped up 2500 years and plugged in.

This album is dense ("All The Seats Were Occupied"), varied (studio effects; narration; jamming; "outside" playing), frightening ("Seven Trumpets"; the orgasmo vocals on "Infinity"), beautiful ("Break"), and often simply stunning and transportive ("The Four Hoursemen"). This album is "progressive rock" only to the extent that some very ancient ideas are being expressed with some modern tools, with no regard for pop formats of any kind. Nothing in Aphrodites Child's previous recording showed any signs that this album was coming, and nothing Vangelis did later (with the exception of his first solo album "Earth") carried these ideas any further. It's like Athena sprung full-grown from their collective heads in the studio, then split. Don't let the title scare you off--it ain't devil music, and it sure ain't Christian music either. It seems older than that. A true one-of-a-kind, for those who can handle it.
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on May 31, 2006
The story of "Aphrodite's Child" starts in Greece during the early sixties, in the time that the local music scene is quickly developing a new movement, usually referred to as beat or garage music. Many young musicians and groups emerge in search of a new sound, breaking away from tradional Greek bouzouki and taking inspiration from similar movements in Western pop-scenes.
All members of Aphrodite's Child had been playing in different local groups before moving to Paris. Most notably Vangelis Papathanassiou already formed a highly successful band during his high school years, "The Forminx" (1963 to 1966), while Demis Roussos has been part of bands such as "The Idols" and "We five".
During 1967 Vangelis and Demis form an ensemble together with Lucas Sideras (drums) and Argyris Koulouris (guitars), sometimes referred to as "The Papathanassiou Set". They record a demo with two songs, "Plastics nevermore" and "The other people". Impressed with the demo, Philips Records in Greece proposes to have the group try their luck in England...

Early in 1968 Vangelis, Demis and Lucas travel from Greece to England in search for a better creative environment. Back in Greece a military regime has taken over the government, and just as many other Greek artists they decide to leave their country. Argyris Koulouris has to stay behind to fulfil his army duty. Although aiming to travel to England, Vangelis, Demis and Lucas first get in trouble as they are not allowed to enter the UK due to their work-permits, and then get stuck in Paris due to a transportation strike. By that time they decide to stay in Paris, and sign up with the Mercury record label as the band "Aphrodite's Child", with the help of Philips producer Pierre Sberro.
Their first single "Rain and tears", based on a Canon by Pachelbel and released in May 1968, immediately strikes gold and becomes a huge hit. The song plays in France during the student riots, and is an instant success in France and other countries in Europe. Due to the success of the single it is time to record their first album "End of the world". The title song of the album, released in October 1968, becomes their second single. A third single "Valley of sadness" is also shortly issued in France, but that is quickly withdrawn.

To support their concerts and appearances in Italy, in January the band releases the songs "Lontano dagli occhi" and "Quando l'amore diventa poesia" as a single. Both songs are sung in Italian and recorded on occasion of the Italian San Remo music festival.
Back in Paris Vangelis prepares the release of another single, "I want to live", an arrangement of the song "Plaisir' d'amour". The release of the single in June is another big success in Europe, especially in France and Holland.
The success of the album "End of the world" calls for the release of another, so Vangelis, Demis and Lucas go back into the studio. What did not seem possible a year before now finally happens, the three Greeks, still astonished with their sudden success travel to London to record their next album "It's five o'clock" in the Trident Studios.
The first single from this album "Let me love, let me live", released in October 1969 rises to a number one position in the French charts, but it is the B-side "Marie Jolie" that is most popular in the rest of Europe. The title track "It's five o'clock" quickly follows the same path, released in December 1969 it does well in the charts of many European countries.
Shortly after the release of the album the band starts touring in Spain and Italy, but this time without Vangelis who prefers to stay in the studio. To replace Vangelis on keyboards fellow Greek Harris Chalkitis enforces the band on stage. In the meantime Vangelis works on his very first solo project, the score to the Henry Chapier film "Sex Power".

While the band is touring to promote their latest album, Vangelis firmly sets himself in the studio in Paris. He uses his time among others to prepare for the bands next album, a concept album of which the recording will start later that year. In the meantime he finds himself composing the theme to that years "Rose d'or" festival, a theme performed by the orchestra of Raymond Lefevre. Also Vangelis produced a single for French single Paul Labbey, and around this time he probably also composed a song for fellow Greek artist Tassos Papastamatis.
Before the group would go back into the studio to record their third album, the record company insists on another single release, which becomes "Spring, summer, winter and fall". Released in August the epic song quickly becomes another big hit in Europe. Then the recording of the final Aphrodite's Child album can finally begin....

By the time Vangelis, Demis and Lucas start working on the their third album (666) Argyris Koulouris joins the band after fulfilling his army duty in Greece. The conceptual album "666" is based on a part of the New Testament, The Apocalypse of St. John and is conceived by Vangelis and Costas Ferris. The entire album takes more than a year to record and complete, and when it was finally ready for release, the band has already split up and each member working on solo albums.
Demis records his first solo single "We shall dance" (with Lucas on drums), and releases his first solo album "On the Greek side of my mind". Lucas also started working on his first solo album, which he released the next year titled "One day".
Vangelis in the meantime records the score for "L'apocalypse des animaux", his first collaborative work with the French director Frédéric Rossif. He also releases a single with his girlfriend Vilma Ladopoulou, performing with Arghyris Koulouris using the pseudonym "Alpha Beta".
Production problems for "666" are numerous, as the band members were not on very good terms during the recording sessions. Then Mercury, the band's record label starts objecting to the specific content of the album, and although Vangelis refuses to remove offending tracks (such as 'oo' Infinity) the album is brought back to the released issue of 80 minutes.

One single makes it off the album, "Break/Babylon" is released in November, but that can not turn the album into a commercial success at the time. Today however the experimental "666" has received widespread acknowledgement and is regarded as a classic work and milestone in progressive rock!
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on May 8, 2002
Initially, I didn't know what to make of this set. It's alternately deep, campy, portentious, clever, innovative, goofy, and enigmatic. Perhaps it's precisely because of all those reasons that it keeps finding its way back to my CD player! There are some very innovative sounds and colors here, courtesy of Evangelos Papathanesiou (a.k.a. Vangelis) and the rest of the superb Greek group Aphrodite's Child. This album was definitely ahead of its time, with all the elements of what later led to the 70's progressive rock movement being put to the test, most noteably the "concept album" and instrumental virtuosity on display in long jams as in "All The Seats Were Occupied", not to mention a few other unique elements such as clever and unusual combinations of Eastern/Western instruments and the occasional spoken interlude. "The Four Horsemen" and "Aegean Sea" are standout tracks to me: the first because it's a kind of ethereal rocker - I don't know how else to describe it! - and the second because of the wonderful atmosphere it creates. Another interesting one is the two-chord "Loud." It's basically a C major and D major chord played in alternating 4/4 measures. Over this simple, quiet backing a monotone female voice recites the verses, followed by the refrain of "Loud, loud loud loud" sung by multiple voices... in a near whisper! The controversial track "Infinity" features only Vangelis on simple percussion and Greek actress/singer Irene Papas reciting the line "I was, I am, I am to come" over and over, simulating both the ecstacy of orgasm and the pain of childbirth. It's quite a clever track, I must admit, though it can be a bit hard to listen to at times, and I doubt that mothers would appreciate hearing it !
Overall, a very mixed listening experience... but that's the very reason why you wouldn't go wrong to buy it. "666" is definitely not boring, and highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon May 13, 2006
My first exposure to the music on this 1971 release was through the Supernatural Fairy Tales prog rock box set put out by Rhino in 1996. After having listened to this incredible double CD set in its entirety, I am not sure why the Rhino folks picked The System/Babylon to represent this album. There are much better pieces on the album in my opinion - The Four Horsemen for example or maybe Aegian Sea.

The core musicians on this album include Vangelis (organ, piano, flute, percussion, vibes, and backing vocals), Demis Roussos (bass, vocals); Lucas Sideras (drums, vocals); and Silver Kouloris (guitars and percussion). There is a host of supporting musicians too, including Harris Halkitis (bass, tenor sax, conga drums, and vocals); Michele Ripoche (trombone, tenor sax); John Forst (narration); Yannis Tsarouchis (Greek Text); and Irene Pappas (vocal on Infinity).

The musical styles used on this album include a little prog rock and a ton of psychedelic rock, although there are some excellent spacey passages too. The 24 tracks are spread across 2 CDs and more or less flow together as one large song-cycle suite. The music covers a broad spectrum of emotions and dynamic ranges and include full blown rave-ups along with very dreamy passages. Although I enjoy all of the music on the 2 CDs, my favorite tracks include Aegian Sea (this haunting and spacey piece is simply incredible), The Four Horseman, and the mega 19'19" jam All the Seats were Occupied. Of all the pieces on the album, the track Infinity is very different and some may find that it makes for difficult listening - Irene Pappas seems to favor an avant-garde approach when it comes to using her voice. Overall, the music is absolutely incredible however.

With regard to the lyrics, they are alternately apocalyptic and flower power and reach a peak on the great track Altamont. Although I may be way off base here (I am a Biologist not an English major) I believe that the author of this piece is viewing the horrific tragedy that unfolded at the Rolling Stones concert held at the Altamont Speedway (1969) from the lofty heights of "the high Mountain" (having actually achieved spiritual enlightenment). Based on what I have read, many people view the Altamont tragedy as the spiritual end of the 1960s. The imagery used in Altamont is simply incredible and includes a lamb with seven eyes, a beast with seven horns, and seven bowls filled with anger.

All in all, this is a simply incredible album that pushes the boundaries of rock to the breaking point. Highly recommended to all fans of psychedelic rock with touches of prog.
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on December 26, 2001
The Book of Revelation is not merely to be read. You can "see" it with Revelation Illustrated, a series of artist Pat Marvenko Smith's illustrations. And you can "hear" Revelation, and how? Listen to 666: The Apocalypse of St. John, by Aphrodite's Child.
It's too bad this classic album is not available in the US, save for import.'s some of the most beautiful and haunting music I've ever heard. It's a true rock n roll oratorio! If St. John had chosen music as the way to convey his visions, this would've been how he'd have done it! And the genius of Vangelis really shines through; it makes 666 a treasure to own and listen to.
Babylon and The Four Horsemen are cool tracks, and check out the Middle Eastern flavor of Lament, which captures the feeling of people wailing for the fallen Babylon. Aegean Sea has a wonderful, dreamy melody, and it adds color to the vision of the many souls standing before God in heaven in Rev. 7. The lyrics and melody really capture the feel of John's visions. Even the instrumentals, such as Battle of the Locusts, The Wedding of the Lamb, and The Capture of the Beast capture the feel and spirit of Revelation; the Middle Eastern flavor of "Wedding" will haunt you. "Capture", with the chains and the haunting melody, gives the feel of seeing the Beast and False Prophet captured and thrown into the lake of fire. The track with the infinity symbol, the vocals of which are supplied by actress Irene Papas, are "I am to come, I am to come, I was" --- period, and they can be loud or low-pitched, cresendo or decresendo; evidently this track is about the Whore of Babylon.
The guitar playing is among the best I've ever heard, and so is Vangelis' keyboard playing.
Don't be scared by the title. It's not Satanic, but very much Biblical!
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on June 28, 2005
This is the perfect soundtrack to the events of the Apocalypse. If you have an ounce of imagination lurking around in your head, this will trigger it. I will buy the CD one day, have the vinyl LP, and every note, word, and sound, is committed to memory. The recital on "Agaen Sea," with that ominous voice, I can't think of a better vehicle for that passage. You can almost see a blood-red full moon, and falling stars while listening to this piece. The imagery of Revelation, so colorful, so frightening, is delivered to the listener in a way, someone not familiar with scripture is given a taste of the most widely interpreted, and debated book of the New Testament.
The controversy over the title, comes from people reading and seeing only what they want to see. What they have to keep in mind, the inscription on the front cover, is taken verbatum from Revelation. The huge number 666, in white letters, against a black background, over a red cover, seems to inspire fear of "Devil Music;" gimme a break, remember the PMRC Senate hearings in the '80's?
This is a very artistic interpretation of ancient text, told through the medium of Avant-Garde music, circa 1970.
And like the text that inspired it, it's timeless. Go ahead, treat yourself. you'll be glad you did.

P.S. I finally did get the CD version. NICE!
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on February 11, 2002
Before Vangelis became one of the biggest names of electronic music, he was a member of Aphrodite's Child, which lasted from around 1968 to around 1972. 666 was their final album, recorded in 1970, supposed to be released at the beginning of 1971, but was shelved and not released until 1972 because Mercury Records didn't like the content so Vertigo got a hold of it and had it released. Despite the album's title, this is not a devil worshipping album (so if you like Slayer, Venom, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc., you probably won't like the music on this album), but rather a prog rock interpretation of the Apocalypse of John from the Book of Revelations, that is, the End of the World as interpretated in the New Testament of the Bible. Prior to 666, Aphrodite's Child released a couple of rather mediocre pop albums à la From Genesis to Revelation, including It's Five O'Clock (1969). But 666 is such a giagantic improvement over It's Five O'Clock that it'll be more like saying Genesis first released From Genesis to Revelation, and rather than having their next album be Trespass, make their next album be Foxtrot. That's how drasically better 666 is to It's Five O'Clock. The music is definately not for everyone, as lots of the album tends to sound rather disturbing, not to mention that "[infinity symbol]" found on the second disc in which Greek actress Irene Papas guests on. The music often has a strong ethnic bent to it, using things like bazouki, as well as the usual prog rock instruments, and Vangelis' keyboards. "Loud Loud Loud" features narration by a kid, who I believe was the 12 year old son of a Greek diplomat. There are a few more pop-oriented numbers, like "Here And Now", "The Beast" for example, and experimental pieces, a killer 19 minute long jam called "All the Seats Were Occupied", which ends with the very calm "Break". If you're at all familiar with Enigma, you'll notice samples of "Seven Bowls" and "The Lamb" being sampled on their 1990 album MCMXC a.D. which makes me believe that Michael Cretu was either a closet prog rock junkie or listened to Vangelis. For me, Aphrodite's Child's 666 is the ultimate prog rock album, and with it being a double album set, it's plain to see unlike too many other double album sets out there, these guys had tons of great ideas to cram on to two discs and I never have any problems sitting through both discs. To me, I find this album underrated, and unrightfully so, but if you're faint of heart, don't buy this, but if you like exotic sounding prog, get this.
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on August 10, 2000
This is one of the most intriguing and definitely early "experimental" projects by Vangelis and friends.The most revealing and astonishing feat is that the band used no synthesizers (too early for that yet) and was able to accomplish very unique sounds with the various instruments at hand ! Yes, it does contain progressive rock sounds (Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, etc.) but with a more European/Greek cultural flavor. A few tracks are also faintly reminiscent of some early Santana (when Santana went through his mystical/spiritual mode in the late 60's and early 70's). In addition, excerpts from 666 would later be utilized by such groups as Enigma for sampling ! Anyone who appreciates music by Vangelis may appreciate this recording due to the innovative and creative ideas put together by Aphrodite's Child at a time when synthesizers and digital equipment was unheard of. This is Vangelis in rare and raw form !
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on November 20, 2015
I got this CD for my husband so I asked him to write the review. Here is what he says: " This is a classic recording released originally in 1971. The performers are a Greek band called Aphrodite's Child. The most well known of the original band who has gone on to more recognizable music is Vangelis. He has gone on to score movies and won an Academy Award for the "Chariots of fire" theme. He gets the writing and producing credits for this work. The recording itself is a telling of the Bible's book of John called "Revelations". Pretty heady stuff. The music is also pretty "heady" in the sense that it is the psychedelic rock genre so popular at the time. it also has a lot of classical in the mix as well. The recording has since become a cult favorite. It gets a five star rating from me primarily because of the subject matter and the courage it took for the band to attempt an opus of this undertaking. There are some very good musical interludes on this recording. Screaming guitar leads and synthesizer wizardry abound. The vocals are dramatic and interesting, though at times; they fall short of the challenges. Also at times; the music becomes almost unintelligible as the band becomes (in my opinion) just a little too carried away with their psychedelia and atmospheric meanderings. Once again; I recommend this HIGHLY as an addition to any audiophile's collection. It is a one of a kind recording.
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on April 15, 2000
I have worn out three of these albums on vinyl, and I am going to spend the 30.00 + to get this on CD so I can keep my current mint copy intact. It is an album that goes from really weird to very beautiful and is truly a unique piece of work. It can be very unsettling for the first time listener. Don't worry, even though it is based on the Bible, it is not a "preachy" sort of thing, and I guarantee you will be amazed by the format, the ideas, and the craftsmanship.
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