Availability: Inside Out Music, Spotify, Amazon UK, and iTunes
Behind the Smoke expands its metaphorical wings into hard rock and progressive rock, accompanied by interjections of symphonic rock and classical orchestra, with Steve Hackett reaching octaves he’s never explored before in previous albums, and Israeli singer Mira Awad, transporting this singular track into that of a conceptual piece all on its own, a song for the refugees. At various times, it fluctuates from one genre to another; folk rock, Latin, traditional Middle Eastern music and tribal, following the path sort by Wolf light (2015). The distinct guitar techniques of Hackett envelope track into familiar territories, yet there is something new and refreshing. The opening song both confirms my predictions of the sound affirmed in the albums To Watch the Storms (2003), and Wild Orchids (2006) has returned, but it also exceeds my expectations because this album is venturing into genres not explored before. Martian Sea is a track that travels back in time to traditional progressive rock of its early days, where it fused psychedelic rock, and Asian folk. In this, there is a fusion of pre-Collins Genesis, Yes and inspirations of the solo progressive/art rock works of Peter Gabriel (Peter Gabriel, 1977 and Us, 1992) and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the latter deduced from the performance of the keyboardist Roger King, channeling the late Keith Emerson.
Fifty Miles from the North Pole starts out as a quieter piece, melding blues, and surf rock guitar riffs, lounge music, country rock. However, after 1:00 mark, the song lulls into psychedelic pop to build into a darker direction with the thunderous return of progressive hard rock, accompanied by orchestral, tribal and experimental jazz interludes. El Nino, inspired by the unusual climate changes within the Pacific Ocean, begins as a powerful orchestral and tribal instrumental, and then evolves into melodic progressive rock number. This track is comparable to the works of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds (1978), for it is dynamic, but additionally melancholic; jesting to tragic outcome, however without being able to lose hope.
Other Side of the Wall is a saddened acoustic track, with low tempo Flamenco inflections. This is another of the album that features portions of Gabriel era Genesis, namely the albums Nursery Cryme (1971), specifically The Musical Box suite and Selling England by the Pound (1973) for their usage of storytelling at the time of ethereal folk rock; there can also be contemporary comparisons to Finnish theatric rock band Poets of the Fall, who are themselves inspired by progressive rock. The climatic ambience is also used on their albums Twilight Theatre (2010) and Jealous Gods (2014). Anything but Love follows through with the Flamenco composition, and this time in traditional fashion, and then diverges away surprisingly to a light, rhythmic country theme, with mild twist of pop rock. The song transforms again into enthusiastic progressive rock for the remaining minutes, conducting neo-progressive rock band Marillion (Holidays in Eden, 1991) as Nad Sylvan makes an appearance.
Inca Terra (Inca Territory) within a soft Flamenco guitar instrumentation is a quartet of Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan, Kobi Farhi and Mira Awad; each taking turns to sing parts of the verse, as the song transforms into a folk rock with accapella and tribal traces. The folk rock segment is similar to that of the works of Irish folk super group, Clannad. The song then transmutes into progressive rock, with the inspiration of Marillion, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer setting the pace, fused with ethnic electronica, utilizing the pioneering sound of Deep Forest and Afro Celt System. In Another Life composes a fusion of Gaelic/Medieval folk music, venturing into neoclassical music, Hackett portraying a bard singing of lost love, and the struggles of migration during war, wanting to start again; Steve Hackett duets with Awad in this soft interlude, before the track transcends back into progressive hard rock, with Middle Eastern spikes being thrown into the mix, then falls into Irish folk, with the introduction of uilleann pipes, eluding to a heartbroken soul.
In the Skeleton Gallery forms a hybrid of progressive, symphonic rock and blues; mellowed at first, but at the timing of marching, the song during a bridge becomes instrumentally jazz and carnival; which itself is transference of the genres found on To Watch the Storms, namely the tracks Circus of Becoming and Frozen Statues. At this point, Hackett is convoyed with Farhi, Awad and Sylvan, before the tracks explodes into progressive hard rock and increases on the jazz qualities, before ending in the fashion of dying musical box. West to East explodes into a symphonic rock, blues and acoustic rock mix, and throughout the duration of the track, it switches from one to the other; the acoustic notions being used as an intermission, with Kobi Farhi harmonizing with Middle Eastern instrumental, vocally illustrating the union of the Western and Eastern worlds, as the title of the song suggests.
The Gift the last track of the album ends the tracklisting with a forlorn alternative-progressive rock fusion, presenting progressive trance and orchestral bearing. Steve Hackett uses a guitar to portray a voice, allowing the notes of the instrument to sing. It contains the emotions of dismay, exhaustion and reluctant optimism of a Utopian future of union.
Album is out on 24th March 2017, and is available to pre-order now.
Written by: Lauren Richards-Evans