Galahad: Quiet Storms
What with it being the first of two new studio albums we can expect from Galahad in 2017, you'd possibly be forgiven for presuming an acoustic collection featuring a selection of reworked classics, a few cuts from EP releases, a couple of covers and two new tracks, would class as a stopgap outing. I'd venture nothing is further from the truth. In a world where progressive rock simply stands still most of the time, this English collective have continually striven to evolve from their neo-prog beginnings into all manner of beasts, their most recent all new outing, Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria incorporating dance beats and ambient moods into a prog setting with no little success. Quiet Storms couldn't be more removed from this approach, stripped back, but far from bare or simple arrangements allowing the songs fans will already know, such as "Termination" (which features Christina Booth from Magenta on backing vocals), "Shine" or "Guardian Angel" to sound entirely different, while being clever enough to keep the essence of what made them what they are. It's a fine balancing act and one swiftly negotiated as singer Stu Nicholson confirms what an underrated presence he is, while the keyboards and electronic trickery from Dean Baker and percussion from Spencer Luckman adds surprisingly complex foundations from which to build.
Stand out moments come thick and fast, yet I simply can't stop singing the mournful but defiant refrain of "Beyond The Barbed Wire" long after the song and album has ended. Older tracks such as "Pictures Of Bliss" and "Don't Lose Control" suddenly sound more intrinsically linked to the modern catalogue of this outfit than ever before. Interestingly the band also choose to revisit two tracks from a previous exploration of this approach, "Melt" and "Iceberg" both from the Galahad 'offshoot' album Not All There, credited to the Acoustic Quintet, and both deserving this opportunity to revisit them.
Two covers appear, Rammstein's "Mein Herz Brennt" previously released on an EP of the same name by the band, while the John Grant piece, "Marz" is adapted by Nicholson to include some incredibly personal, nostalgic lyrics and as "Marz (And Beyond)" becomes a highlight of the album. Something that can also be said for the two new cuts, "Willow Way" (featuring Threshold's Karl Groom on keys and acoustic guitar), which reminds of something Fish may have included on his acoustic album, Communion, while "Weightless" is, in a contradictory manner, possibly the densest offering on show; it's atmosphere and presence quite overwhelming. Closing with a 'Hybrid' version of "Guardian Angel", where electric meets acoustic, the opportunity is taken to celebrate the bass playing of the much missed Neil Pepper. With the song also featuring the guitar playing of Roy Keyworth, who recently left the band after his second lengthy stint, it also feels like the closing of a chapter as Galahad build towards a fully electric release later in the year.
Neither as understated or turbulent as its name may suggest, Quiet Storms confirms that Galahad are a truly progressive band, always keen to explore different facets of what makes them who they are. That it does so in a way that both celebrates their past while still laying new paths for the future is what sets this band apart from the many with similar aspirations.
1. Guardian Angel
3. Beyond the Barbed Wire
4. Mein Herz Brennt
6. This Life Could Be My Last
7. Pictures of Bliss
8. Willow Way
9. Easier Said than Done
13. Don't Lose Control
14. Marz (And Beyond)
15. Guardian Angel (Hybrid)
Added: June 11th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Galahad online store
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