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Karnataka - Secrets Of Angels CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.75 | 84 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Formed back in the mid-Nineties, UK band Karnataka originally earned attention with their second album `The Storm', fronted by Rachel Jones who would later sing for The Reasoning. Not as complex as other female-fronted prog-related groups such as White Willow, as overtly `retro-prog' as Magenta sometimes were, nor as gutsy as Mostly Autumn could be, Karnataka always had a more streamlined, straightforward yet classy pop/rock/ballad sound with light progressive qualities. The group are now on their third singer and a reworked line-up, and although the exquisite Hayley Griffiths has been performing live with the group for a few years now (initially brought in to replace singer Lisa Fury from their fourth album `The Gathering Light' who jumped ship pretty much by the time that album was just released!), this is her official studio debut for the band. It's great to report that `Secrets of Angels' is their best work yet that should see the status of the band raise even higher on the strong results they deliver here.

While the previous CD started to liven things up a little, in comparison `Secret of Angels' is bold, confident and delivered with great power and conviction, and although still very much song based, Karnataka's music sounds more sophisticated than ever before. Symphonic synths and dramatic orchestration is plastered over much of the album that even brings hints of gothic touches, more muscular guitars never resort to lazy metal riffing, big soaring choruses are memorable without being obviously commercial, and Hayley's vocals thankfully stay on the right side of musical-theatre without ever becoming cringe- worthy.

`Road to Cairo' is a punchy opener with middle-eastern tinged orchestration, and `Because of You' is the sort of goth-lite hard rocker with a massive chorus that would have made Evanescence a fortune at the peak of their popularity, and it's just as likely to appeal to younger female listeners as well. `Poison Ivy' is breathless and bombastic, the tip-toing melancholic piano verses of `Forbidden Dreams' are lifted by a gutsy chorus, and the more up-tempo `Borderline' stomps with purpose. Two more ballads then pop up - `Fairytale Lies' is highlighted by Hayley's sumptuous multi-layered harmonies and delicate harp throughout, while the deeply romantic `Feels Like Home' should be destined to soundtrack weddings around the world, as well as appealing to devoted couples. Awwww, dat's love, baby!

But the band finally truly stretch their prog legs with the seven-part twenty-minute epic title-track, and after a run of verse- chorus structured pieces, the extra running time allows more longer instrumental sections and less straight-forward passages. It reintroduces some of the light Celtic touches from their earlier albums, and it's unsurprising to find Troy Donockley contributing Uilleann pipes and whistles. There's a strong folk element throughout the piece with powerful symphonic roars, ghostly and ethereal siren calls over harp and plaintive acoustic guitar, cinematic orchestration swells and heroic guitar solos rising in victory. Best of all, some moments not only have a haunting Loreena Mckennitt-like old-world storytelling quality, but some surprising Fish-era Marillion-style Neo Prog glistening synth diversions as well! `Secrets of Angels' is far and away the most enchanting, complex and lavish work from the band yet, a truly defining piece for the group, and they would be wise to attempt even more of these kind of grandiose journeys on further discs!

Despite the album having consistently strong material, the band should definitely play the `prog card' a little more. Many of the earlier songs push the five-six minute mark, yet those are crammed full of vocals the majority of the time, when a few extra choice keyboard/guitar solo breaks would break up the pieces a bit more. But Karnataka have delivered a superb album with plenty of crossover appeal, big melodies and great playing in `Secrets of Angels', and their fans should be more excited than ever at the promising future of the current incarnation of this talented group.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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