Normally I steer clear of bands that wear top hats, and I like to stay in the shallow end of the prog-rock pool. So when those characteristics combined into one potentially treacherous ensemble - and that band's name was, perplexingly, BigElf - I didn't have high hopes.

Normally I steer clear of bands that wear top hats, and I like to stay in the shallow end of the prog-rock pool. So when those characteristics combined into one potentially treacherous ensemble - and that band's name was, perplexingly, BigElf - I didn't have high hopes.

But BigElf, which will rock Ravari Room Friday night, transcends a lot of my negative perceptions. They've got songwriting chops, shredding skills and a large dose of nostalgia brewing in their cauldron, and more often than not the result is delicious.

The L.A. quartet combines all of the bands you rocked out to in middle school into one prog-rock behemoth. Queen, Sabbath, Floyd, ELP - they're all coursing through the veins of this beast.

BigElf's latest, Cheating the Gallows, plays like Ozzy Osbourne fronting Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's as musically badass as that suggests, with guitars and organs interlocking in nasty riffs and hazy freakouts.

Lyrically, it gets pretty ugly - worst on 11-minute closing number "Counting Sheep," which proclaims, "It's built to please true music lovers/ It stays with you a lifetime/ All that's left for you to discover/ It's like no other show."

But nobody should be turning to music like this for poetic inspiration. Furthermore, at the very moment BigElf reaches that lyrical nadir, it also scales its highest musical heights.