One of the genuine Prog Gods has delivered the goods yet again…
Review by Paul Quinton
Release date: 30 March 2015
Although he left Genesis in the 1970s, Steve Hackett always been proud of his role in the band, and although he’s since had a highly productive and acclaimed solo career, he often returns to that part of his career both in his live show and on record, such as on his Genesis Revisited tour, which has lasted almost two years and played on every continent, including three separate, sell out tours of the UK. During that lengthy return to the past, he kept his feet in the present by writing and recording his latest solo album, which is released as the Genesis tour finally comes to an end, perhaps acting as a signpost to his future, although he has said he’s not ruling out a return to keeping the Genesis flame alive in the future.
As ever, whether it’s for the Genesis project or for his solo work, Hackett uses his own band, most of whom have been with him for good number of years, and it’s this level of familiarity and trust that allows him the freedom to take his music wherever he wants, and this shows on Wolflight, an album that goes though many, many moods, genres and styles of music, rarely staying in place for any length of time.
The album opens in highly stylised Prog fashion, with a crying baby, a device I’ve heard a lot of times before, and the comparatively brief mood piece ‘Out Of The Body’. It’s a typical Hackett instrumental that moves straight into the lengthy title track, which put me in mind of Jethro Tull at first, but like most of the rest of the album visits a number of musical stops during its eight minute journey. That in turn gives way to ‘Love Song For a Vampire’, possibly the most overtly Prog track on the album. It starts with a gentle acoustic part, before moving into a lush ballad section that sounds not entirely unlike Dream Theater.
It’s this diversity that gives the album much of its identity, and this is not only a great strength of the album, but also potentially a weakness. Each track has its own personality, here an acoustic instrumental, ‘Earthshine’, there an electric guitar instrumental, ‘Dust and Dreams’. ‘Corycian Fire’ starts with a violin-led orchestral section before its main part utilises Middle Eastern rhythms and textures to great effect. ‘Black Thunder’ brings the Jethro Tull comparisons back to mind before it goes through several more changes, with even a hint of electronica. ‘Loving Sea’ again uses a gentle acoustic intro before the song becomes a fine, even catchy piece, with harmonies that would grace a Crosby, Stills and Nash album, reminding me of ‘’Til These Eyes ‘ on the Beyond The Shrouded Horizon album, and the album closer ‘Heart Song’ is quite a commercial piece with almost a pop chorus, but also with a guitar sound that’s as close to his work with his former band as anything on this album, and a very upbeat way to finish the record off.
This probably isn’t an album that the listener will ‘get’ in one listen. It will take a few sittings to properly absorb everything that’s going on, to become familiar with the different moods and the various paths the album takes. One criticism might be that the record rarely stays in one place long enough for you to immediately grasp the themes and to really explore its depth and I wonder if the extended writing and recording period gave the band a little too much freedom to develop, to extend and to explore, whereas a more condensed programme would have led to a tighter, more focussed record. But while that’s pure surmise on my part, I do feel there’s some similarity in how several of the songs are arranged, a gentle intro before adding the various parts and building up to the big finish. Maybe a little more individuality in this area on some of the songs would make them a little more immediate.
Whatever my initial reservations, as I listened more to the album, I came to appreciate its various moods and the different elements. It is above all, a Steve Hackett album, and that distinctive, melodic, fluid guitar is always there, weaving around the various themes and reminding you why he’s accorded so much respect as a musician. It’s a complex and adventurous album, that will reward repeated listens and I can only conclude that one of the genuine Prog Gods has delivered the goods yet again.
8 out of 10
- Out Of The Body
- Love Song to a Vampire
- The Wheel’s Turning
- Corycian Fire
- Loving Sea
- Black Thunder
- Dust And Dreams
- Heart Song