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Steve Rothery - The Ghosts Of Pripyat CD (album) cover

THE GHOSTS OF PRIPYAT

Steve Rothery

 

Neo-Prog

3.87 | 198 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In another of prog's ongoing mysteries, celebrated guitarist Steve Rothery of Marillion fame waited almost 30 years to finally record an outright solo album (The Willow Tree was more of a project than anything solo). So it goes without saying that his long awaited instrumental debut "The Ghost of Pripyat" was met with great trepidation and required patience until it finally got distributed properly. True treasures are worth waiting for and this splendid release falls certainly in that category. When I read that Yatem Halimi was the bass player, I got even more excited as his clever playing on Panic Room's two latest masterpieces really grabbed my attention. Having the prolific Steve Hackett and the genial Steve Wilson join in only heightens the quality, as the two have obviously many technical traits in common with Mr. Rothery. Throw in second guitarist and co- composer Dave Foster of Mr. So & So, as well as the recent Legend line-up only increases the drama. Keyboardist Riccardo Romano of Italian band Ranestrane discreetly colors the scenes with some atmospheric renderings while drummer Leon Parr holds the rhythmic fort. In the old glory days of prog, there were the three Steves (Howe, Hackett and Hillage), now we have another trio with one returning member (Rothery, Hackett and Wilson). For those who do not follow history, a massive nuclear catastrophe befell the town of Pripyat in the Ukraine, back when it was part of the crumbling USSR in April 1986. The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl malfunctioned due to a variety of human and systematic errors that caused a massive meltdown of the reactor core. The town once boasted a population of 49,400 and today is entirely abandoned, a ghost town of epic and tragic proportions, a monument to human stupidity. This is a soundtrack for the ages, a remembrance of human frailty and arrogance in trying to harness powers that are perhaps too slippery to control. The entire disc is a pure delight to listen to, even though the material is influenced by the gravest of tragedies, the players demonstrate an incommensurable aptitude to express sorrow, desolation and fear. The stupendous interplay between the two axemen, the delicate keyboard tapestry, as well as the pulse are of the very highest order. Each of the 7 tracks, though all unique in sound and texture, seem to blend into an overall impression of intense inspiration, generally in the more mellow, atmospheric mode I happen to adore , with occasional bursts of cosmic energy (no not nuclear!). As befitting Rothery's style, his solos are deeply poignant affairs, never overtly complicated or extended beyond need, giving the other players enough room to dribble, pass and even volley when prompted.

"Morpheus" easily sets the vaporous tone that will permeate the entire work, leaving Master Hackett himself to bewitch the unsuspecting fans with his exemplary restraint and musical mind, his thrilling solo a burning glow of utter beauty, class and mastery at its finest. Reflective, diaphanous and highly panoramic, the electric flow is one of meticulous bravery.

The excellence of the compositional skills are beyond the norm, exuding mature and insightful arrangements, emotionally drenched soloing from the master himself on tracks like "Kendris" that have a slight East European flavor, outright blow outs such as on the raunchy "Old Man and the Sea" (solo by SW) and the colossal "White Pass", where Rothery's enchanted guitar dances into the mountainous twilight. This last one in particular is a very powerful cut, mindful of Dutch instrumental band Odyssice (that Bastiaan Peeters is a killer guitarist), chock full of minute bejeweled details that will make your head spin, from crystalline licks, volume pedal trickery to searing , scouring axe majesty.

On a whirlwind track like "Yesterday's Hero", the core (pun intended) sentiments are expressed with a kaleidoscopic pirouette, urgent and desperate. Though beginning with oozing delicacy, shifting into mellow inner drive as it's steered by a moody guitar streak, there is an immediate sense of gentle persuasion in the glittering technique. The slow build-up then evolves into a more buzzing affair, a solo that defines Rothery, a spiraling, passionate and exploratory guitar rant that is utterly brilliant, almost Floydian in delivery.

The high point is attained on the shimmering "Summer's End", a suave, silk and velvet composition that starts out as a hot and humid little affair and then gradually morphs into this tectonic conflagration of sound that inspires trembling delirium, egged on by a roiling Hammond organ rant, propulsed by Parr's solid bashing, while Halim keeps things grounded and level. The at times raging and exuberant solos are simply extraordinary.

The lush title track is perhaps the most intriguing as it relates directly to the topic, a delicate and intricate duet of acoustic guitars that paint a rather bucolic atmosphere, with Foster coughing up a slick and complex riff, with that slight Eastern feel once again, interwoven with the churning organ. The groove settles in and Steve is ready to glide over the mid-section with his insistent licks, I was almost momentarily reminded of an instrumental Allman bros Band. There is a sense of unforgivable sadness and melancholy that behooves an abandoned and atomized city, with disfigured stray dogs yelping their solitude for no one to hear. The despair and the finality of it all come through clearly with Steve 's guitar weeping tragically.

Fans of old and new Marillion are obvious targets but any instrumental guitar fan needs to check this delicious effort out and linger in its perfect musical glory.

5 radioactive phantoms

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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