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Fish: Weltschmerz

So here we are at the end. Glory days being consigned to the past and, if his determined statements are to be believed, never to be revisited again. Weltschmerz is the final studio statement from a man who’s been a jester, held vigils and offered up feasts of consequences. It’s a hell of a catalogue, however with this final album - an exclamation mark on his musical career, if you will - Fish is bowing out at the peak of his powers and even better, arguably, than he’s been for many a moon. That’s not a claim I make lightly, the last two albums from the big Scot - Feast of Consequences and 13th Star - amongst his strongest, but when a poet takes his bow, expect the prose to be poignant, pressing and personal. And that’s exactly what Weltschmerz is, an album filled with backward glances at the singer’s life and career as he seeks to understand the world in which he currently resides. Hence, you are left wondering if "Waverley Steps (End Of The Line)" is a look over the musical meanderings that Fish himself has taken, or a deeper examination of the human condition and how we seem hell bent on self destruction. My guess is that the intention is, as ever with Fish, to do both and also much more. Combined to a melancholy mix of stinging, restrained guitars, forceful keyboard passages and trumpet laments, the effect is heady and impacting, and it’s not alone.

Weltschmerz is no triumphal self congratulation. This is a questioning album and one that leaves the feel of determined disillusionment on the part of its main creator as he makes a bold and hard hitting proclamation. It is, however, a long farewell, a double disc, eighty minute plus opus populated by only ten songs. Interestingly, what also stands out is, I’d guess, an unintentional nod to previous moments in time. The album’s title cut feeling like it could have slotted into the singer’s seminal debut solo offering, Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors. Whereas "Garden Of Remembrance" takes the piano fragility of that album’s "A Gentleman’s Excuse Me" and unearths one of Fish’s best, heartfelt vocals from any stage of his career as he tackles Alzheimer’s and how a long loving couple can be separated while still together. It’s beautiful and stark all at the same time and I must admit that it’s difficult not to shed a tear every time you set foot down its path.

With room given to pieces like the "Rose Of Damascus", which features the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, to become a seventeen minute epic that moves from tight, contained passages to swirling Arabesque shouts where a trademark narration adds a real Sunsets On Empire feel, don’t think for one second that this album isn’t as ambitious as any hungry new man on the block, because it is, and then some. Flanked by long term collaborator Steve Vantsis (bass and co-songwriting) other key cohorts from the journey also lending their returning weight to this incredible outpouring of an album are guitarist Robin Boult, keyboardist Foss Paterson, Dave Stewart on drums, former Van der Graaf Generator saxophonist David Jackson and the mighty Steven Wilson. While the new blood of Steve Hackett’s drummer Craig Blundell, guitarist John Mitchell (Lonely Robot, Frost*, Arena) and the multi-instrumentalist Mikey Owers are also given the opportunity to add their own individualities and undoubted skill.

Admittedly I’ve focused on this collection’s more contained and controlled moments, but Weltschmerz is no lament, with the incredibly catchy and forceful "Man With A Stick" and its clickety-clack percussion snap mighty indeed, whereas "This Party’s Over" adds a kick and jump of whistles, claps and acoustic guitars. With "Walking On Eggshells" a proud strut that has inner strength and "C Song (The Trondheim Waltz)" a conglomeration of formal dance and Scottish folk, variety is also the order of the day. All of which leaves the opening blast of this album, "The Grace Of God", to take on the role of moody atmospheric scene setter and "Little Man What Now" to own the mantle of enigmatic provocateur.

I’ve attempted to avoid becoming misty eyed as a stalwart of my own musical journey steps into his shadowplays, and so it is with that in mind that I suggest that with his final farewell Fish may well have conjured up an album that nears the pinnacle of his work. All of which through balance, understanding and a belligerence that simply doesn’t see compromise as an option. If that’s not how to go out, then I’m not sure what is? In the end, however, it feels right to leave the final words to the man himself and Weltschmerz, which is also the name of the final song on his final album… “I am a grey bearded warrior, a poet of no mean acclaim, My words are my weapons that I proffer with disdain, My melancholy aspect is something you can’t disregard, My motives you cannot question nor my strong sense of right and wrong.”

Track Listing
CD 1
1. Grace of God
2. Man with a Stick
3. Walking on Eggshells
4. This Party's Over
5. Rose of Damascus

CD 2
1. Garden of Remembrance
2. C Song (The Trondheim Waltz)
3. Little Man What Now?
4. Waverley Steps (End of the Line)
5. Weltschmerz

Added: September 21st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Weltschmerz @ Fishonline
Hits: 4567
Language: english

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