Release Date: April 7, 2015
Label: Inside Out
Mister Steve Hackett still delivers the goods, obviously not intent to rest on his considerable laurels and releasing another masterful work, showing that he remains predictably unpredictable. He has found new energy on the electric scene, not surprising as he has always come across as a consummate musician and a fan (his list of guest appearances runs in pages). When you have a bass/stick man of Nick Beggs' stature, how can one not be inspired? That was a true find, Stevo!
The greatest attribute I can think of in anointing Hackett with special accolades is that he gives the fans what they want: guitar innovations and solos! He is not a musical dilettante who amuses his ego by playing sloppily (and rarely) just to piss others off! I actually showed some you tube vids to an unsuspecting female music fan (who knew nothing of Hackett but knew of "Abacab") and she was shocked how great control and technique he displayed.
There are a few outright jewels here, from the title track to the exhilarating "Love Song to a Vampire", an archetypical Hackett anthem that blends a fabulous melody, choir work, blistering guitar phrasings, a thunderous beat and a genial structure that keeps things palpitating ! That choir blast amid the Roger King orchestrations is insane BTW! Instant pleasure!
The Brits seem fascinated by the carnival, it's an oft repeated theme in both music and film, a merry go round of seemingly simple social pleasures that are overt on the playful "The Wheel's Turning", mixing in the circus like stylings with some brawny playing (Beggs and drummer O'Toole really flex their muscles here), while Hackett tears off some wah-wah licks to great effect. Slightly bluesy and pure fun!
"Corycian Fire" refers to the Corycian cave in Greece, where the oracle began in ancient times and it depicts the rights of wild women invoking the rebirth of Dionysus. Hackett gives the piece a slight Mediterranean touch, with brash percussives and almost Wagnerian chanting that explodes mightily into the soaring sky.
The acoustic Hackett is equally enthralling, so "Earthshine" fulfills that function brilliantly, showcasing his ridiculous maitrise, his picking is phenomenal, rapid and precise. "Loving Sea" has a highly 70s resonance both musically and lyrically, lead and backing vocals conspiring together to create a very pastoral sound, sort of CSNY with prog tendencies. So as such such, its nice but not memorable.
But "Black Thunder" fixes that in a hurry, a booming and volatile beat with the rhythm section doing some serious heavy damage. The guitar attack is nasty, the choir backing voluptuous and the soloing simply devastating. Lots of stop and start themes, mood swings, hodgepodge of industrial sounds and a wickedly tortured solo, you really see the visceral Hackett at work here, not exactly softening up his old age attitude. He can and does, still rock. The highlight track must assuredly be "Dust and Dreams" , a perfect groove laid down by the Beggs-O'Toole tandem riding on burning coals, hot and smoldering, as Hackett drapes his Siberian toned guitar and unleashes a solo that curdles the blood and gooses the skin. Brrrrrr, bloody magic! The mood is oppressive, symphonic and demented, having a similar feel to his classic tune "In Memoriam" off the Darktown album.
This is not his best ever but a close third after Voyage and Spectral, a solid release by prog's resident strongman and legend. 4 lupo lux
01. Out of the Body
03. Love Song to a Vampire
04. The Wheel's Turning
05. Corycian Fire
07. Loving Sea
08. Black Thunder
09. Dust and Dreams
10. Heart Song
12. Midnight Sun