It’s never been released to the general public, originally being recorded and self-produced by the band in the mid ‘70s. It’s finally being shipped out on vinyl and digitally this February, so this Retro Recommendation will be both a review and a retrospective piece.
Other than a few facts brought up in the last paragraph, there is little known about First Step Beyond. Information on the Internet is sparse, save for a short trailer on YouTube and a stream of “Strangulation” on Soundcloud (the link is posted at the bottom of the column). This writer couldn’t even tell you who the members of Medusa are or how long they were around for, only that this is most likely their lone output.
First Step Beyond has its flirtations with metal, though it’s more in vein of spacey prog rock a la Hawkwind. Medusa is a product of their time, so there’s a heavy focus on lengthy jamming. “Transient Amplitude” is nine minutes of pure instrumental folly that will be delightful to those who love guitar solos that never end. “Frustrations Foot” is light on the vocals, trading off guitar leads and intrusive sound effects to further solidify the “floating in outer space” mood.
The metal side of the band comes through with hokey witchcraft imagery on “Black Wizard” and lyrics like “Evil fire burns inside your heart” from the sharp opener “Strangulation.” That tune also has a great riff progression, which is a trait also carried over to “Unknown Fear.” The band doesn’t get very hostile, but these tracks show that they did have a dark side to them that could have been explored in further detail.
Instead, they pour over sappy, one-note ballads like “Temptress” and “Feelings of Indifference,” which would have been overwrought by ‘70s standards. These tracks, right in the middle of the album, completely sap the energy generated by the preceding songs. It takes the band time to get back to that high mark, but “Black Wizard” and “Unknown Fear” are enough to do that.
There is no question that First Step Beyond is dated, and not just because it’s been unreleased for so long. First Step Beyond lacks the timeless sound that is heard from a Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin record. There is well-done material here though, making the album worth at least a glance. For collecting dust for over 35 years before seeing the light of day, First Step Beyond gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.