Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Reviews: Steve Hackett, Jane Getter Premonition, North Sea Echoes, Today Was Yesterday (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Steve Hackett - The Circus And The Nightwhale (InsideOut Music)

If you only know passing info about Steve Hackett it's that he was the guitarist of Genesis and has spent his time as a solo artist touring the albums he played on. However those who know a bit more you'll see that between the Genesis Revisited tours he has released a huge amount of solo albums. The Circus And The Nightwhale is his 30th (!) solo record and with so many of the previous ones it's a concept album about a young man called Travla's rite of passage. Hackett considers it to be autobiographical and it's a real showcase of what Hackett does as a musician and has been doing since the 1960's.

It's his first new music since 2021 and comes as one of the most eclectic release of his career, the circus/vaudeville themes cut through the broad strokes of hard rock, blues rock and lots of prog quirkiness. Steve again handles guitars, 12-string, mandolin, harmonica, percussion, bass as well as vocals, on lead vocals is Nad Sylvan, who's been there for a while now and is also part of The Flower Kings. He's got a unique set of pipes merging Gabriel with his own style on tracks such as the jazz club beginnings of Enter The Ring, which evolves into some Jethro Tull-like folk progging. As Steve's brilliant guitar playing is augmented by Roger King's keys and orchestrations, engineer Benedict Fenner also adds keys as Rob Townsend brings sax, Steve's brother John plays flute while Jonas Reingold (ex-Flower Kings) brings bass and locks in with drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson). 

It's a very strong line up of musicians all of whom have played for Steve for a lot of years so sound tight and precise here. If that's not enough Amanda Lehmann comes on vocals (Ghost Moon And Living Love) with Nick D'Virgilio and Hugo Degenhardt returning as guests drummers. The album itself is a cinematic journey through the storyline Circo Inferno driven my frantic mandolin as Breakout goes full rock n roll leaving you with no illusion how well Steve can play in any kind of style, shredding like a man half his age. The Genesis stuff brings people in the door but the creativity of these solo albums is what has kept Steve Hackett in the public eye for over 40 years. 8/10 

Jane Getter Premonition - Division World (Esoteric Antenna)

Following on from her Anomalia album which garnered lots of praise from the critics, guitarist/vocalist/composer Jane Getter returns with her new album Division World, which will appeal to anyone that's a fan of Steven Wilson's work. It's got the same artistic traits as Mr Wilson, with jazzy rhythmic prog rock that is dynamic in its delivery, it's a fusion of multiple styles which incorporates, electronica, pop and more esoteric atmospheres.

Joining Jane on this record are the same all star band that appeared on her previous album, the keys come from frequent Wilson collaborator Adam Holzman his influence notable on both Compass and Layers. On guitar Jane is joined by Testament's Alex Skolnick playing it a bit slower and more deliberate than on his thrashing main job. There's a strong rhythm section in bassist/singer Paul Frazier and drummer Gene Lake as Randy McStine (Porcupine Tree) guesting on vocals.

With so much top class musicianship here the music must be good and it really is if you love intelligent, brilliantly crafted music the you'll find lots of it on Division World, from the relaxed, bluesy Another Way, which sounds like Eric Serra, the folksy Mixed Up which goes into some Yes-isms, though the title track brings a bit of rock riffing. Getter's vocals vary, they are harmonious and louche, using various effects when required by the song, I'm saying she's a good singer here if that's not obvious and her guitar playing is also virtuoso, wheeling off solos and lead breaks but playing with nuances too on Rewind Regain. Division World opens itself up after a few listens, unveiling music that is complex and heartfelt, ripe for the discerning prog fan. 9/10

North Sea Echoes - Really Good Terrible Things (Metal Blade Records)

Jim Matheos and Ray Alder will be known to fans of progressive metal, Matheos the co-founder/guitarist/producer for long tenured band Fates Warning as well as OSI and Kings Of Mercia, while Ray Alder is the vocalist/co-writer in Fates Warning as well as previously being the singer of Redemption and currently of A-Z with Mark Zonder, releasing two solo albums as well. So both are prolific, both brilliant in their respective fields but their magic is amplified when they work together. The 10 albums they recorded together as part of Fates Warning are considered the ‘classics’ so I was intrigued when Really Good Terrible Things dropped into my email box.

If you expect lots of FW bombast and basically a FW album in all but name you’ll be disappointed as North Sea Echoes goes for a more atmospheric, intimate approach. Multi-layered, textural guitar playing, slinky use of synths and Alder’s vocals at their most soulful with tracks such as Flowers In Decay, oddly this sounds like a Seal track, as most of the album has the feel of 90’s trip hop/shoegaze dripped with melancholic moodiness and a lot of lo-fi. The ideas here came from Matheos’ attempts to write songs for his ambient projects Tuesday The Sky but felt they needed vocals so in true FW style sent the demos to Alder who began to write lyrics, it’s this musical chemistry that makes the album work, while not strictly a metal record, there’s depth, power and emotion on offer, two old friends and creative partner’s in unison on music, no matter what type. 

A lot of the lyrics concern new beginnings and the inevitability of death that we’re all basically a massive cosmic accident so we should live each day grateful we’re here. Reflecting this is that Alder and Matheos almost work symbiotically, they know each other inside out so these songs carry through their history, into a different genre. In a similar way to Tom S Englund (who is now the singer of Redemption), shows more of himself with Silent Skies, or Mariusz Duda embraces electronics on Lunatic Soul; North Sea Echoes, exists almost as twin to their other band, the one a bombastic progressive metal band the other a proggy, dark, electronic project. Though both with the same duo at the heart of it. More Depeche Mode than Fates Warning, these are some REALLY good terrible things. 8/10

Today Was Yesterday - Today Was Yesterday (Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group)

An album that sounds like Peter Gabriel and Eric Serra jamming with The Tea Party and NiN? Featuring Robby Krieger (The Doors) and Alex Lifeson (Rush) bringing some lead guitar magic? Yeah I'm definitely in, I'm probably going to love it and get quite excited about it.

Formed by drummer, percussionist and programmer Ty Dennis and lead vocalist, songwriter, bassist, guitarist, pianist and programmer Angelo Barber, Today Was Yesterday play intelligent prog pop, densely instrumented, to create evocative atmospheres that are drawn from that Gabriel/Serra style of electronic avant garde music which merges multiple genres, take something such as I Fall (Silly Games), which is jazz driven, around the spacious drumming and double bass, Robby Krieger's guitar pitched with a perfect slide solo for it.

Both Dennis and Barber are sidemen, having served in plenty of bands for 25 years, but this is their first foray into original music together. With Krieger on just the one track, Alex Lifeson brings the chops on six of the 10, giving something different to each in the same way he does on his new project Envy Of None. Whether it's the psychedelic swathes on A Louder Silence or the dramatic rocking on My Dog Is My God

The driving rock beat against brass on Rukus, displays what they can do with no guests, as does the Borrowed, which comes from art-rock of the It Bites/John Mitchell style. Much of the lyrics are metaphorical and poetic, while the music has virtuoso performances but composed to as I've said Grace and My New Low have tips of the hat to Canadian multi-instrumental trio The Tea Party, vocally especially, though normally Angelo keeps the whispered approach of Gabriel, Serra and also Fish on If I Fall.

The last guest is Ed Roth who adds organs/Rhodes on the 80's pop strains of I Take All, but this is an album about the two long time collaborators taking centre stage rather than waiting in the wings. 9/10

No comments:

Post a Comment