Blue Oyster Cult were already the complete deal when they made their debut album. For this, their second, they honed their sophistication with a series of sleek, potent hard rock songs, full of intrigue, vivid images, fluid riffs and even well-crafted melodies. In the spirit of the early 1970s, they recorded a 'black' side and a 'red' side. The former contains the better-known material and, significantly, displays the greater energy. 'The Red And The Black', a rewrite of a track from their debut album, kicks off at breakneck pace. 'OD'd on Life Itself' is spookier. It employs a riff much-used by Status Quo, yet otherwise sounds totally unlike Quo. 'Hot Rails To Hell' evokes the inferno with gusto, though the live version on 'On Your Feet Or On Your Knees' takes the song to an even deeper plane. '7 Screaming Diz-busters' is one of the band's best-crafted epics, shifting between swagger and sprint.
The 'red' side is full of good tracks, their strengths lying in craft and imagination. 'Baby Ice Dog', bookended by howls, is mysterious and unnerving. 'Wings Wetted Down' seems to come straight out of a fantasy novel, while 'Teen Archer' is the most incisive, musically. 'Mistress Of The Salmon Salt' is another epic with the band intoning 'quicklime girl' in harmony.
Perhaps the most striking feature of 'Tyranny and Mutation' is the production, which is much sharper than on the first and third albums. The band have often been likened to Black Sabbath, but theirs isn't the sledgehammer approach, nor even the broadsword; more like the sabre. Just because it isn't as famous as 'Paranoid' or Led Zeppelin's entire catalogue doesn't mean that it isn't a classic.