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Steve Hackett - To Watch The Storms CD (album) cover

TO WATCH THE STORMS

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.76 | 284 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Storm Clouds Rising

Steve Hackett's first studio album of the new millenium has him finding his feet and a steady lineup of musicians that help create a wonderful atmosphere of varying pieces that explore many different textures, moods, and atmospheres. And while it is no Darktown, To Watch the Storms really makes a strong impression on me, nearly everything about this album is excellent, right down to the packaging of the album itself.

Hackett is very diverse right from the get go. Tracks like The Devil is an Englishman (a cover of a song from Thomas Dolby) continue exploring the modulated vocal stylings that Vampyre with a Healthy Appetite first endeavoured nearly a decade prior. Frozen Statues combines jazzy piano with airy and ethereal guitar frills and sparse woodwinds/trumpets, and acted as a great opener during his live shows on this tour.

Mechanical Bride is one of the strongest pieces Hackett has written thus far, in my opinion. It's got a strong 21st Century Schizoid Man vibe, but there is so much more to the track. It has rapid-fire playing by all musicians (the bass performance on this track is impeccable) and Hackett unleashes some wicked solos in the process (not since Every Day has he had a guitar solo this nearly this spectacular).

Other particularly strong tracks include Circus of Becoming, which combines brooding circus organ with uplifting guitar leads from Hackett, creating an uneasy yet highly enjoyable atmosphere. Brand New is another uptempo number, and once again has Hackett burning up and down the fretboard, leaving just enough space for the other musicians to flesh out their performances as well.

The majestic Serpentine Song invokes thoughts of Voyage of the Acolyte, with its strong flute melodies and light guitar playing, giving a nostlagic feel to the piece as well as creating a particularly mellow atmosphere. The last song worth mentioning is Marijuana, Assassin of Youth, a number that combines key melodies of recognizable songs from the 50s and 60s, creating a medley of sorts.

Overall, To Watch the Storms continues a streak of strong albums released by Hackett that began with 1999's Darktown. As I said earlier, this album isn't Darktown (in the sense that Darktown was a masterpiece in my eyes), but it does offer something to the table Darktown didn't, and that something I can't truly describe in words, it's something you have to listen to to find out. Highly recommended.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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