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Steve Hackett - Wolflight CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 384 ratings

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2 stars Steve Hackett has often returned to darker themes, with occasional gothic themes such as the songs "Vampire with a healthy appetite", "Wolfwork", "Transylvanian Express", "The Devil is an Englishman" , songs with a touch of humour. And some albums have had an overall dark or gloomy, melancholic feel, like "Defector","Guitar Noir" and "Darktown".

Since the 2000's his music have not reached the same level of sincerity and introspectiveness as previous stuff in my opinion, and have instead become more outreaching , occasionally "prog-tribute"-oriented, with a larger awareness of the audience . Although Wild Orchids (2006) returned to a darker concept after the lighter "To watch the Storms" (2001) , it was entertaining and varied rather than deep. In Hacketts 2013 album "Beyond the shrouded Horizon" the mood was more exotic, where you "travelled" to far away places, with a more "new-agey" atmosphere than usual, which I appreciated.

The latest album is Wolflight , which seems to be a return to a dark concept. At least it's got wolves and there is a song about a vampire. But I think Hackett combines all elements he has previously used, into a dynamic concept, so there is a bit of everything.

The songs transition into another, and the moods and styles change more flexibly than ever, from solo acoustic guitar to rock parts with orchestral accompaniment, to ethnic world music. It feels a bit like a show, like it is presented to an audience. It is theatrical and entertaining with many changes. The moods are mostly familiar and simple. One particular harmony is like the theme from "Vampire for a healthy appetite", the first two chords. This harmony is very recurring throughout the album and brings a kind of dark vibe, but more in a children friendly familiar way rather than mysterious and chilling.

The first four tracks (except the "intro" track") feels like a concept, long, eventful and ambitious, with a sort of rhapsodic style, while the rest of the songs are not as intricately composed and evolving, keeping more to one style. Because of that, in a strange way, the album feels short, although its around 55 minutes.

It feels like most of the energy has gone to arranging and adding a lot of sounds to the music, creating a living and dynamic experience, and the performance is very good, but the core of the music ? the musical ideas, the harmonies and melodies and main grooves, which is most important for me, are straightforward and dull. It seems that many songs have a couple of main themes which are unrelated, which is connected by various in-between sections. It's not a strong album to me.

1 Out of the body

There are some subtle sound of wolfs, then a a fast groove starts which evolves and goes through a couple of themes that will appear in later songs. Orchestral strings and other orchestral instruments are involved, and electric guitar of course , with a large sound.

2. Wolflight (8.00)

This is probably the most varied track Steve Hackett has ever done. Begins with two successive interludes, one ethnic, the other soft symphonic, and then the song starts for real with Hackett singing, in a cozy mood, with acoustic guitar, telling a story. There are too many parts to be able to describe everything. It evolves through various parts into a "darker" main theme. There is orchestral stuff, electric guitar with a big sound, there's a short spanish section, and many different themes. Hackett manages to make it sound simple and not confusing, which is impressive. But with all those parts, it feels kind of short when it just ends at eight minutes. And the melodies and harmonies are not too exciting for me. But this song defines the album the most, showing an evolvement in Hackett's music making.

3. Lovesong to a vampire (9:17)

The longest song has a large sound in a melancholic and maybe a bit of nostalgic mood with a slightly folk-ish lyrical structure, going from a verse of soft acoustic guitar and singing to a loud and dramatic main chorus with vocal parts and drums. There's also an instrumental section with electric guitar soloing. The soft lyrical verse evolves each time with added classical instruments. Towards the end there is a change of style into an instrumental rock riff with electric guitar soloing. Then there is a part from Wolfwork (Wild Orchids) except that the guitar melody is different. Like the previous song it is very rich in arrangement and instrumentation. But I am distracted by the reminiscence of "In the court of the Crimson King" ? which is an obvious influence, although it has different harmonies. And since it's so long, it's a bit too heavily focused on the chorus, a good chorus, but short, and sensitive to repetitions.

4. The Wheel's Turning (7.24)

This also has a lot of parts, but is mainly an uptempo song with a catchy pop chorus. Then after a short orchestral theme by what sounds like a sample from some symphony, a russian symphony I would guess, it goes into triplet form and evolves into a rock blues shuffle. Then after a while of jamming, it's back to triplet form, and via the symphony-sample back to the straight uptempo parts of the song with the chorus and guitar solo fading out. Eventful, but not too interesting.

5. Corycian Fire (5.47)

Middle eastern intro with authentic instruments, but familiar tonality. Then a symphonic part enters with vocals, and the chords are the same as the chorus on "The Fundamentals of Brainwashing" (Wild Orchids), a heavy groove in half time starts, and the chords are such that it is compatible with the middle eastern scale. It goes in to a double speed rock part, then comes back to original speed.A choir comes in on top of the orchestral strings and percussion, singing latin words, which escalates into a Carmina Burana inspired thing, which I found pretentious.

6 Earthshine 3:20

Classical solo acoustic guitar piece. "Bay of Kings" and "Momentum" are among my favourite albums, but this song doesn't add anything new. It's in a style similar to "A Midsummer Night's Dream". But there was a great acoustic track on his previous album, in the deluxe version , called "Four Winds West".

7 Loving Sea

The previous song ended on a major key, and this song picks it up in a feel-good way. It is sort of like "Happy the Man" by Genesis (same key, has an egg keeping the beat, and acoustic guitar), but straight rather than swingy feeling, and more of a modern "Yes"-feelgood mood, with vocals in many harmonic layers, too layered for my tastes. The chorus have the same chords as "Ripples", only the first 2 chords, but that harmony is very characteristic, and there is a lyrical resemblance:"Carry me to the loving sea", and "Sail away, away". Too feelgood and "nice" for my taste.

8. Black Thunder (7.32)

Blues rock song with a firm riff. Hackett sings a phrase which is responded with the riff interchangeably. After a while an orchestral part comes in and the songs goes into an instrumental, sort of free-form part, with guitar soloing backed by a percussion/drum figure and bass grooving. I like the outro part with some jazzy harmonies, not unfamiliar though, and I'm not a fan of the soprano sax, but still kind of nice. More complex and otherworldly harmonies is what I have been missing from Hackett, I'm thinking about Tigermoth for example.

9. Dust and dreams (5:33)

I was excited about Hugo Degenhart being featured on this song. He played drums on some Hackett albums in the 90's. But here he only plays a couple of bars that are looped, in two different grooves. There is a half-time shuffle feeling, oriental scale, boring harmonies. The main melody is the same oriental main theme from the album "Metamorpheus"(2005). It moves into a second part , in straight feeling similar to "Loch Lomond", there is a more spacey ambience with strings. The guitar is nice, but overall, I feel that this goes on autopilot.

10. Heart Song (2.51)

Continuing from the previous song, some vocals come in, and there is a chord sequence which is the exact same one from "Blue Child" (Wild Orchids), playing to the end.

wilmon91 | 2/5 |


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