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Fish - A Feast of Consequences CD (album) cover





3.96 | 442 ratings

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5 stars It's been six years since '13th Star' first appeared. For a while another Fish album seemed in some doubt due to him requiring two operations on cysts on his vocal chords. There followed yet more domestic upheaval from a short-lived second marriage.

He regained confidence in his voice through extensive touring of an acoustic set in 2010/11 and finally, in 2012,he was ready to start work on 'A Feast of Consequences'. Important at an early stage was the return to the fold of '13th Star's' principal writing partner and bass player Steve Vantsis who had left the touring band in 2008, and here he co-writes seven of the eleven tracks, together with input from returning guitarist Robin Boult . Keyboard player Foss Paterson co-writes the other four tracks , Gavin Griffiths stays on the drumkit and Calum Malcolm produces again.

Given the near-complete continuity in personnel from the last album the unsuspecting listener might be surprised to find that this work is quite different- gone are the snarling guitars of tracks like 'Circle Line & 'Square Go'. In its place come songs intentionally built up from an acoustic base, with a rich, warm production from Malcolm. The subject matter has changed too- conscious of not wanting to get bogged down with another album about relationships Fish here covers a myriad of both introspective and observational subjects. Different too is Fish's voice, which has a clarity within its current range that is quite remarkable given the troubles he's had.

Before going through the songs though ,the other major component to this project is the artwork, especially in the 100-bage book which comes as part of the deluxe package. This time both Mark and Julie Wilkinson have produced the artwork, and a quite stunning collection it is too. Mark has done a major illustration for almost all the songs, any one of which would grace a gatefold sleeve. For any fan of Fish and of Mark's artwork the deluxe package is well worth the extra cost.

So to the music. First up is 'Perfume River'. It starts with haunting sampled bagpipes, then Fish sets off on an atmospheric journey along the Vietnamese river, lost in personal reflection " a discarded fading flower on the soporific sensual Perfume River " as he describes it. After almost 6 minutes his anger finally breaks through in a burst of guitar which subsides before the song takes off in a totally different direction, driven by acoustic guitar. Here, Fish has had the wake-up at what surrounds him in the still war-scarred country and he reels off the observations. All-in the track runs to almost 11 minutes and is a very strong opener and ,for me, one of the best tracks he's done.

Next comes 'All Loved Up', a bouncing pacy pop-rocker taking a sideswipe at today's 'get famous quick' culture ,it's almost to this album what 'Incommunicado' was to 'Clutching at Straws'. It's quite good but I prefer to play it later in the album rather than second track, as the album is at this point still taking its form and this track is different to the rest of the mood.

'Blind to the Beautiful' is an aching ballad looking partly at climate change. It's acoustic , with a violin joining the guitar and piano as Fish sings "hurricanes with children's names write our history".

The title track sees Fish address a failed relationship in a great rock track with more fine lyrics "I tear a page from the book of faces, throw your letters in an open fire" he starts. He goes on to draw parallels between the crumbling relationship and the world running out of resources.

Then comes the 'High Wood ' suite of five songs, almost half-an-hour in total. It follows a trip Fish made to the cemetery at the 'High Wood' in 2011 , scene of one of the most horrific prolonged battles in WW1, and where his grandfathers served. The words throughout this suite are emotional, at times graphic but, most importantly, respectful to the subject matter . The music features strings ('High Wood' / 'Leaving') a brass band ('Gathering') and a wall of guitars ('Thistle Alley'). It is bold and a remarkable piece of work covering a current-day visit to the site (High Wood), the initial cavalry charge ('Crucifix Corner'), the recruitment of the so- called 'Pals' battalions (Gathering) , the horror of the trench warfare as the battle stagnated ('Thistle Alley') and closes with a reflection on the devastation ('The Leaving'). Paterson co-wrote four of the songs here, with Vantsis adding the heavy 'Thistle Alley'. This suite is why for methis album is elevated to a 5* album, a reflection the work that has gone into crafting a genuinely significant body of songs.

After 'High Wood' the album might be expected to drop off but there is the introspective, emotional 'Other Side of Me', where Fish rediscovers himself after coming out a relationship. An organ note of optimism rides a wave of sunshine after a lovely understated guitar solo. Backing vocals throughout the album come from Elizabeth Antwi ( worked with Fish on 'Raingods album) and she really shines both here and on the closer, the complex 'Great Unravelling' , which features another fine guitar solo while Fish delivers a lyric looking at the threads of life .

I come at this review admittedly as a big fan of the work of Fish and am conscious that I also gave the last album 5 stars (which I also stand by) . 'Feast' benefits from repeated listening, revealing itself in layers, but the way this album has been crafted with such intelligent lyrics leaves me convinced that this work will stand as one of Fish's very finest efforts. If you like your music challenging and thought-provoking take the time to fully appreciate this.

oldcrow | 5/5 |


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