Aphrodite's Child: 666 - Album Of The Week Club review

Aphrodite's Child's cult masterpiece 666: an apocalyptic prog tour-de-force or a pretentious load of twaddle? Just don't ask Irene Papas what she thinks

Aphrodite's Child: 666
(Image: © Vertigo)

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Aphrodite's Child: 666

Aphrodite's Child: 666

(Image credit: Vertigo)

The System
Loud, Loud, Loud
The Four Horsemen
The Lamb
The Seventh Seal
Aegian Sea
Seven Bowls
The Wakening Beast
The Marching Beast
The Battle Of The Locusts
Do It
The Beast
Seven Trumpets
The Wedding Of The Lamb
The Capture Of The Beast
"∞" (Infinity)
Hic Et Nunc
All The Seats Were Occupied

To most in the prog community, there’s something almost mythic about 666, the third album from Greece’s Aphrodite’s Child.

Released in 1972, this is now regarded as a classic. Yet it was recorded under very difficult conditions, and by the time 666 finally came out, a full year after being finished, the band had split up.

This was Vangelis’ concept. He set out to make an album that was based on the Book Of Revelations, in the process taking the music into a more dense psychedelic undergrowth. But he did it against the wishes of bandmates Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras, who wanted to go in a more chart-friendly, pop direction. However, the divergence of opinion just adds to the unique breadth and trajectory of the music.

It was a very brave album. But one not everyone was impressed by. The band’s label, Mercury, were certainly left bemused.

In fact, they were so horrified by the scope and challenge of the double album that they initially refused to release it. In particular, Irene Papas’ graphic orgasm during Infinity struck the wrong chord with them. Eventually, the company relented and agreed to put it out on their Vertigo imprint. By this time, Roussos had issued his debut solo album and was on the way to becoming an internationally successful pop artist. And Aphrodite’s Child were consigned to obscurity. Except…

Well, the 666 album has taken on an afterlife that has seen it hailed as one of the great prog albums of the era. Rightly so. Despite the members seemingly in disagreement over where the music should flow, what they came up with was remarkable. Relying on inspiration and intuition rather than production has meant it’s not an album of its time, but remains as relevant now as it was in 1972. Perhaps more so. An album where any sonic idea, however insane, would be incorporated, changing the complexion of the overall fire.

It is a fittingly glorious reminder that there was a lot more to Demis Roussos than being a ‘fat bloke in a frock, who could sing a bit in a high voice’. His contribution to 666 is vital, and helps to accentuate the nether-worldly atmosphere.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in June 1972

  • Eagles - Eagles
  • Obscured by Clouds - Pink Floyd
  • The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - David Bowie
  • Earthbound - King Crimson
  • Some Time in New York City - John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  • Roxy Music - Roxy Music
  • Carney - Leon Russell
  • Free at Last - Free
  • If an Angel Came To See You, Would You Make Her Feel at Home? - Black Oak Arkansas
  • Number 1 Record - Big Star
  • School's Out - Alice Cooper
  • Together - Golden Earring

What they said...

"This was an ultimate freakout album in its time -- a weird amalgam of group chants, Moog excursions, obligatory pop and narrations with Vangelis Papathanassiou on keyboards. Despite the moments of absolutely flat pop (one track per side) it barely affects the flow of the rest of this mind-bending and bad trip-inducing potpourri.." (Head Heritage (opens in new tab))

"This album is an exploratory odyssey, a descent into abstract musical dimensions. Of course, 666 tends to favour a psychedelic atmosphere within the majority of its compositions, but we do see Aphrodite's Child leaving their comfort zone and enthusiastically voyaging into the previously unknown. There are various examples of songs incorporating a vast variety of influences ranging from, Musique concrète, Jazz, and even eastern influences with orchestrations that contain Raga aesthetics." (Sputnik Music (opens in new tab))

"As an album 666 is certainly ambitious, occasionally overcooked, but ultimately a unique statement by a talent that would achieve far greater recognition as his career progressed. For the other band members who weren’t Vangelis, they evidently gave their all despite their misgivings and the whole album stands as a testimony to their willingness to put in the effort regardless of the musical direction." (Backseat Mafia (opens in new tab))

What you said...

Gary Claydon My review is based loosely not only on a conversation I had with a mate many years ago but on just about every conversation I've ever had with anybody about this album ( which is admittedly, not that many).

FRIEND: I've found this album that will blow your mind.

ME:Tell me more

F: For a start it's by a band hardly anybody has ever heard of. They were a prog rock band from... Greece!

ME: Is it Aphrodite's Child?

F: They were called Aphrodite's Child and they made this album 666. It's nothing like Iron Maiden. It's based on The Bible.

ME: The Book of Revelation

F: No, The Bible. It's got stuff about plagues and beasts and the lamb of god. And one of the tracks sounds like a woman having an orgasm! The biggest hit from the album was a track about the four horsemen of the apocalypse, you know, war, famine, pestilence and that other one

ME: Death

F: No, the one who moved to Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane

ME: I'm pretty sure it was Death

F: Anyway, it was the original prog concept album and way ahead of it's time.

ME: That's the perceived wisdom but, to be honest I was never convinced. I first heard it a few years after it's release, in 1975 or 76, and even then I thought it sounded dated. I'm not sure that the passage of time has done it any favours.

F: It was innovative and imaginative. Its integration of styles, arrangements and use of time signatures was astounding.

ME: Again, I was never convinced. To me it came across as a mish-mash of influences - The Beatles, psychedelic pop, every hippy rock musical ever written, Floyd, Tull , Hawkwind with a smattering of jazz and Greek folk music. Sure there are moments that stand out but nothing sustained. The whole thing gets a bit messy and self indulgent, ultimately a bit boring.

F: But the musicianship is superb.

ME: No question. The keyboards, as you'd expect, are top notch, the drummer sounds like he's having a ball and there is some neat guitar work. I particularly like the solo at the end of The Four Horsemen while elsewhere there is some nice Gilmouresque stuff going on.

F: Did I mention the track where it sounds like the woman is having an orgasm?

ME: Indeed you did.

F: Anyway, the most surprising thing about this album is the people who played on it. Remember the bloke who did the theme to Chariots Of Fire?

ME: Vangelis

F: That's the fella. Well, nobody ever remembers anything else he ever did.

ME: He did quite a few film scores

F: Yeah, but nobody remembers anything except Chariots of Fire!

ME: And there was that stuff he did with with Jon Anderson

F: Who? No, but, see, Vangelis was the main man behind Aphrodite's Child! And, you will never guess in a million years who the main vocalist was!

ME: It was Demis Roussos

F: It was only Demis bloody Roussos. Remember him, had a couple of pop hits in the 70s, big bloke, looked like he was wearing a frock and sung like somebody had got his nuts in a vice?

( Friend breaks into a rendition of Forever and Ever which consists of a high pitch keening coupled with supposed Greek accented English the combined effect making it sound like like Demis Roussos was, in fact, an asthmatic from Aberystwyth)

ME: God help us all

Panos Salem: The Four Horsemen and Aegian Sea are standout tracks for me, but the whole thing is pure perfection. Progressive in every sense of the word.

Jonathan Novajosky: To say this album is a bit out there is a huge understatement, but maybe I need a little weird to spice up these days of quarantine. Double albums can be a double-edged sword for me. They run the age old risk of trying to force quantity over quality (The River, I'm looking at you), but if done right, can be pure masterpieces (Out Of The Blue). 666 doesn't really fall into either extreme for me. Most of the songs are pretty short and so odd that I was never bored with it, but there were not many I particularly loved.

I had no idea Vangelis was in a band – I love his soundtrack for Blade Runner. Even the beginning to The Four Horsemen reminds me of Tales Of The Future from Blade Runner. A couple of others that I liked were the soothing Loud, Loud, Loud, The Beast, and Hic Et Nunc. Some of the chanting and crowd noises give a few tracks a nice energetic feel; and these ones I gravitated towards. Others were downright annoying like Seven Bowls and the unbearable Infinity, which is just horrendous. Hard pass. 

666 is a nice little oddity album, something you whip out every now and then when you're tired of everything else. I don't know if I will ever go back to this one, but for now it at least provided some entertainment. 6.5/10

John A Navarro: Got this on vinyl way back when released, still sounds fantastic. I freaked my parents out then, now I freak out the great grandkids of my parents.

Billy Master: Never paid much attention to this. Just given it a good Spotifying, and I will be purchasing a copy. Totally bonkers. Zappa, the Who, Krautrock, Viv Stanshall. What a wacky combination. You would be hard pushed to find anything as experimental and innovative as this nowadays.

Mike Knoop: In a bar somewhere; Tarkus, S.F. Sorrow, Atom Heart Mother, Tubular Bells, and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown are all arguing who is the most progressive, the most bombastic, the most barmy. Aphrodite's Child winks at Space Ritual and says, "Hold my beer."

I think I first read about this record in some "weirdest albums" list and 666 certainly qualifies. Sgt. Pepper horns, crowd noise, choirs, and spoken word - and that's all in the first five minutes. What struck me is, with a few exceptions, how listenable it is - especially for an album with so many talky bits. It reminds me of being in your favourite bookstore and hearing a classical or jazz album overhead and thinking, "This isn't what I normally listen to, but I like this."

The album all flows together, so I had to really pay attention to the track listing to point out favourite parts. Four Horseman is the closest it gets to a traditional song, lyrical content, notwithstanding. Seven Bowls has some nice "Gilmourian" guitar and acid freakout Do It could be a rave smash. The only song likely to clear the room - or get you reprimanded at work - is , with it's pre-Diamanda Galas growls, shrieks, moans, and howls.

Ultimately, I have a hard time humming a tune off it the moment the music stops, but the album is totally immersive and beautiful while it plays.

Happs Richards: Wow, not sure what just happened there, but I kind of liked it although I did wonder at one point of self isolation and paint fumes were getting to me!

Dave Hinsley: Wow, that's a strange album! I suspect it would benefit from erm, some mind altering assistance!

Iain Macaulay: So, short review. Brilliant musicianship. Great song craft. Interesting arrangements. Very strange in its delivery. But on the whole a very interesting listen, and you have to listen to it. You can’t just have it on in the background. I did listen, three times. The first time in stages, the second and third, all the way through in one go. Which was quite a feat of endurance. I enjoyed it, while it was on. Yet, on reflection, I can’t remember any of it. Not one little bit in detail. And, unfortunately, that kind of sums it up for me. Nice while it lasted but... next.

Marco LG: I place this album in an ideal line together with other ‘strange beasts’, from Frank Zappa debut with the Mothers (Freak Out!) all the way to the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy by Gong, passing through Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and SF Sorrow by the Pretty Things. Like all those, it is an awesome piece (in the real sense of inspiring awe to the listener) deeply rooted in its time. A lot of it still works today, but not all of it, and all the forward looking and outlandish ideas have been developed and packaged a lot better by many others that followed.

Maybe the best analogy I can think of is Hawkwind’s masterful live album Space Ritual, which also provides an immersive experience where the single tunes struggle to stand out. In 666 we have an even broader spectrum of ideas and experiments, contributing to a richer musical experience in fact, but what is missing is the equivalent of Lemmy: someone capable to provide a coherent backdrop to keep it all together.

Setting aside the weird and wonderful (infinity symbol) and probably the whole second disc which is the part that works less for me, 666 contains moments of pure genius, like the sequence The Lamb, The Seventh Seal and Aegian Sea: three beautiful and timeless pieces. But the real stand out moment, the piece I will certainly go back to from time to time is the infectious The Four Horsemen.

Overall, I enjoyed discovering Aphrodite's Child and 666, but I won’t rush to buy this album or even save it in my favourites on streaming services. 6 / 10 from me.

Chris Nirvana: Purely incredible. From the kickass three minute solo of The Four Horsemen to the 'radio-friendly' Babylon and Aegian Sea to the orgasmic performance of actress Irene Papas in "∞", 666 is an epic. It is really a pity that, although both Vangelis Papathanasiou and Demis Roussos are very famous in Greece, this particular album was never recognised in their country as much as it should have been. To be honest, the record might sound a little exhausting at some points, but it is indeed a prog masterpiece.

Shane Reho: I've been meaning to check this out for some time now. This is one crazy listen, but it's a great one. Easy to see why it was never commercially successful, nothing on it sounds like it would work outside of the context of the album, and a lot of it is either too crazy or too interesting to be on the radio. That's a good thing though. I think I'll be revisiting this quite a bit.

Nigel Lancashire: Aphrodite’s Child’s third and last album took nearly two years to record, so unsurprisingly in those musically fast-moving times, 666 is already a bit dated by 1972, leaning more into the psychedelic than towards progressive rock. Maybe ‘experimental pop’ would be a fairer term, as after escaping the then-right wing country, the Greek band had been a successful European pop act previously and broke up almost immediately the album was released. Singer Demis Roussos ran straight into a pop balladry career that brought him huge success in the mid-70s, while Vangelis became an internationally renowned soundtrack composer and keyboard rock god (here’s a thought – should we look at the classic Albedo 0.39 sometime guys?).

I’m only familiar with the classic Four Horsemen having only heard (and immediately rejected) the entire album once, as a 15-year-old over 40 years ago. And, I’m happy to report it’s a better listen this time around – for the most part a nicely balanced chunk of loose, swirling musical experimentation and songs. Perhaps too light in the ‘song’ end at points, but overall an easy listen. Demis is constrained to bass and acoustic guitar duties, and doesn’t get too much to do vocally across the record as a whole, but drummer Lucas Sideras really gets to stretch his skills.

Going forward, I’m likely to return to the album as a whole later, and particularly Babylon, Four Horsemen, the striking instrumental blasts of Do It (sort of reminds me of an outtake from Lemon Jelly’s Lost Horizons album) and the groovy The Beast – which now I notice are all from the first two sides. I’d rather not revisit Greek actress Irene Papas’ frenzied, gasping chanting for Infinity again thanks!

Last note: has anyone noticed the similarity of the vocal fill during Four Horsemen to the fill during Jane’s Addiction’s Been Caught Stealing? Or is it just me – Horsemen has been directly sampled several times, but this broadly reminiscent bit by Perry Farrell never gets mentioned.

John Davidson: Aphrodite’s Child’s album 666 is imbued with the hippy sensibilities of Hair and Godspell and takes musical inspiration from the 1960s psychedelic rock of Tommy-era Who and the Moody Blues more than contemporary progressive rock acts like Genesis and Yes.

As such it sounds more like the soundscape for a stage show than a rock album in its own right and as others have noted, few of the tracks stand out as individual works. That’s not to say that the album isn’t interesting and immersive – it is – but it’s just not something that it is easy to dip in and out of.

After a brief intro, the album bursts into life with Babylon, a high energy psychedelic rock song with an open Pete Townsendy riff, a driving bass line and horns.

Loud Loud Loud is a largely spoken word hippy poem, with a simple piano refrain and chorus.

The Four Horsemen starts with Demis Roussos singing in restrained tones before it steps up into a groovy , guitar led psych rock number

The Lamb is a largely instrumental track with a distinctly eastern Mediterranean flavour that blends into The Seventh Seal and then Aegean Sea - where we can really hear where Vangelis is going to take his career next with his soundscapes rolling behind the guitars and soft, repetitive vocals.

The rest of disc one is made up of shorter largely instrumental tracks including the short but excellent guitar wig outs Battle Of The Locusts and Do It.

Disc two is still impressive but less engaging. Altamont is the stand-out with its spoken word evocation of hippy culture. Infinity goes on a bit – though apparently this is the edited version and All the Seats Were Taken is a montage of the highlights from the album .

In this modern world I would have said it was difficult to carve out 80 minutes just to concentrate on listening to an album – but with large parts of the world now in lockdown maybe this is no longer the case.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect– given it was conceived largely by Vangelis – is the quality and quantity of guitar work on the album, but much like Mr Vangelis later body of work, while there is plenty of music to admire , there’s not much of it that would pass the “Whistle Test”.

An interesting curiosity rather than a musical masterpiece, but I’m glad I found a few hours to spend in its company even if, like the movies of its day, it seems more than a little dated now.

Carl Black: This was a bit of a surprise for me. Never heard of them or any of their tracks. Overall its a bit patchy. As most double albums are. This could have been condensed down to a good 40 minute album without losing its strangeness or identity. When it hits, it's straight between the eyes. Four Horseman and Do It are Bangers in a sea of wired. Most of the short songs come and go, a lot of them unnecessary. The wedding of the lamb is hypnotic and emulsive. What the hell is Infinity about? Concept or no concept, that should belong on the cutting room floor, surely? The first eight minutes of All the Seats Were Occupied is fantastic, it goes a bit strange and then comes back. Cut out the muddle bit and you've got a truly iconic song. As it is it gets spoiled by over indulgence, which is a real shame. Its bang in the middle of 6 and a 7. Which way should I go?

Michael Baryshnikov: I used to torture my neighbours by Infinity back in the day. First time they heard it they called police.

Richard Baker: I missed this album due to the constant bombardment of AM and FM radio in my youth. Playing the group's and song's we were spoon fed and have all heard a bazillion times by now. I now spend much of my time searching for the music I missed. When I first heard this some years ago I wonder why I had never heard this before. The local AOR radio station GM answer my question with "we only play million selling albums". To me that was just a sad guideline to have.

Roland Bearne: I actually can't get through this. Some stellar musicianship. The unselfconscious pomposity of the spoken word sections just makes me think of Viv Stanshall and made me laugh out loud. What a load of kaftan wearing twaddle. Sorry, I'm usually more lucid, but no. Not this time.

Final Score: 6.82⁄10 115 votes cast, with a total score of 785)

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