Elias Hulk was an English hard-rock-psych band from Bournemouth, Dorset, that released the album Unchained on Young Blood in 1970.
Members: Peter Thorpe [Big Pete Thorpe] (lead vocals), Neil Tatum (lead guitar), Granville Frazer (rhythm guitar), James Haines (bass guitar), Bernard James (drums)
Elias Hulk was instigated in 1968 by Bournemouth teenagers Peter Grenville ‘Gren’ Fraser (guitar) and James Haines (bass). After their stint in the unrecorded pop-psych act Free Love, they formed The Parkers, a blues-rock duo that opened a free festival in La Harve, France. Upon their return, they enlisted singer Pete Thorpe, drummer Bernard James, and lead guitarist Neil Tatum.
As the new five piece rehearsed, they developed a set of originals that echoed the blues-psych heaviness trends on the UK scene. To convey the unbridled aggression of their sound, they named themselves The Hulk, then placed Elias (Hebrew for “the Lord is God”) in lieu of the definite article to avoid a lawsuit from Marvel Comics, creators of The Incredible Hulk.
In October 1969, Elias Hulk debuted as the opening act for soul-funksters Black Velvet at the Pavilion Ballroom in Boscombe. They subsequently played up and down England, opening for fellow newcomers Hawkwind, High Tide, Mighty Baby, Eire Apparent, Caravan, Warm Dust, Wishbone Ash, and Audience. In late 1970, they played two all-night festivals dubbed “Sound 70” at Manchester’s Buxton Pavilion Gardens alongside Manfred Mann Chapter Three, the Keef Hartley Band, Tea and Symphony, Black Widow, Fat Mattress, and Paladin.
Elias Hulk demoed material at Strawberry Studios in Stockport under the guidance of ex-Mindbender/future-10cc guitarist/singer Eric Stewart. These tapes found their way to producer and former pop singer Miki Dallon, who signed the act to his fledgling Young Blood label (Dando Shaft, Julian’s Treatment, Python Lee Jackson). Dallon served as Elias Hulk’s producer on their singular album Unchained, recorded in two days without overdubs and rush-released in November 1970.
Unchained features eight songs, mostly in the three-to-four-minute range, including “Anthology of Dreams,” “Ain’t Got You,” “Yesterday’s Trip,” and “Nightmare.” Gren, credited as Granville Frazer on the sleeve, co-wrote all but one of the songs. The cover, drawn by artist Peter Lee, depicts a fist-clenching Hulk-like creature hovering over a rocky precipice with two scantily clad female captives. The album sold best in Germany, where Lee’s art was swapped with a blue-tinted photo collage of the band members.
Musically, Unchained captures the unbridled sonic flurry of Elias Hulk. “Anthology of Dreams” sets a staccato guitar figure to a metronomic cymbal tap, which cuts to a booming, full-band shuffle. On “Nightmare,” James kicks up dust amid Frazer’s rupturing chords, Haines’ deep notes, Tatum’s soaring leads, and Thorpe’s assured, wailing vocals.
“Yesterday’s Trip” initially glides on an up-slide riff, flanked with pummeling drumrolls. The song undergoes a sequence of rhythmic mutations, dominated throughout by lyrical fretwork. “Ain’t Got You” explodes from slumber with lava-like guitars over rocky rhythmic elements. Stylistically, Unchained connects dots between the thunderous end of freakbeat (Art, The Attack), the guttural core of blues rock (Steamhammer, Chicken Shack), and booming grandeur of newer hard rock (T2, High Tide).
In early 1971, Haines and James departed, effectively ending Elias Hulk. Thorpe and Gren briefly formed a blues-rock combo with bassist Dave Hewitt, who promptly departed to co-found Babe Ruth. Years later, Gren played in the unrecorded Lion with ex-Ruth singer Jenny Haan. The others drifted through various unrecorded bands and eventually retired from music. Elias Hulk reunited on two occasions between 2008 and 2012.
- Unchained (1970)
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