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Galahad - Battle Scars CD (album) cover

BATTLE SCARS

Galahad

Neo-Prog


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5 stars Opening with the title track this album gets off to a majestic start. Deep rumbling bass leads into a symphonic overture and whispered, menacing vocals. You get the feel something big, bold and beautiful is coming and when the song kicks in with its bounce-along hook you certainly get that. This is a great power-opener and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Battle Scars is a very different Galahad album ? still recognisable, but finally unleashing their true power and potential that has been so desperately bursting to get out. The production work by Karl Groom is superb ? everything is in its proper place, the levels are perfect and for an album with such a huge sound, nothing is lost in the mix.

Battle Scars powers on into Reach For The Sun ? you'll need to watch the CD player to spot the join ? a fast, power prog track with plenty of subtle Mellotron, some spikey keys and a thumping drum sound.

Singularity opens with swirling synths and very spacey percussion, moving into a solid prog beat. The chorus, when it arrives, is beautiful, Stu's vocals are on top form with wonderful haunting choral backing and a spine tingling melody ? ending with some cleverly underplayed fast guitar work from Roy.

Back to power-prog with Bitter and Twisted. With great patterns from Spence on the drums, massive guitar chords and snarling lyrics again with choral backing vocals ? there's a lot of venom in this song.

Suspended Animation is my current favourite track ? one of three written by the late, great bassist Neil Pepper who sadly died before the album was released. It's a true prog epic, loads of Hammond, intricate time-signatures, Mellotron, swirly stuff, great big bass it's got the lot!

A gentle start on Beyond the Barbed Wire doesn't stay gentle for long as it kicks into some more snarling vocals and another thumping beat. These are powerful tracks on CD, I can't wait to hear them live.

The last proper album track ? there's a bonus of Sleepers 2012 ? Seize The Day is a real surprise. Listen to the piano and vocals at the start ? very Gabrielesque ? then we are hit with what I would describe as trance! On a Prog album?! But wait it works, as everything else kicks back in, it suddenly all feels right. It's fast, it's slow again?.. It's small, it's big, then suddenly it's frigging huge ? what a finish!

A seminal album was once released with the tag, 'Expect the Unexpected' and the definitely applies here. Love it!

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Send comments to duckylips (BETA) | Report this review (#733120)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars The mid-noughties should perhaps go down as a good period of Progressive rock. Trouble is, we may not have realised it at the time...

I can think of two albums where the bands concerned produced arguably their best work to date. As a result, we awaited the follow-ups with interest.

The first band is Pallas, who's 'Dreams of men' was right out the top drawer. The second was 'Empires never last', by Galahad.

Unlike Pallas, where the band's evolution could be heard, Galahad never seem to 'evolve', with each different album sounding completely different from the one before. 'Empires never last' came from nowhere!

Pallas' follow up 'XXV' ended up a flop. The band thought that they could 'rock' themselves to a success. The prog sound that they had worked so hard for was all thrown away in one over-rated and over-hyped album. Sadly, the same also seems to apply to Galahad.

I don't recognise them in 'Battle scars'. Once again, a band tries to 'rock' it's way through Neo-prog. If I want to hear a band simply rock, I can go down the pub. But I don't. I want the sophistication and mood swings that represent Prog.

So, basically it all happens too fast, and in all honesty can be barely called prog. Fast bits broken up by the all-too-necessary moody bits. Catchy, but without depth.

Having heard Galahad's earlier works, there is definitely talent in the band. Maybe each album sounds different because they struggle to find the right balance of input from band members. What exactly should Galahad sound like?

You can see that when they play live, that they like to rock, which is great. But prog is more defined by what comes out the speakers, and a deeper, more thoughtful approach may be more appropriate. Those who want rock will be satisfied. Those that wanted something deeper, probably not.

I am loathed to criticize the band, in all honesty, and I'm aware that there some very real personal issues going on whilst it was being made.

That said, this album is ultimately a disappointment. I found it uninspired and repetitive. Like many, I'd had great hopes, but sadly, they were not realised.

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Send comments to sussexbowler (BETA) | Report this review (#745532)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars Before I listened to 'Battle Scars' for the first time, I went back and played some of 'Nothing Is Written'. Incredibly that album is more than 20 years old, and back in the early Nineties I saw this band play many times. The line-up changed between this album and the follow-up, 'Sleepers', which came out in '95 ? but some 17 years later four of the same five were involved with 'Battle Scars'. However, bassist Neil Pepper had left the band for a period and hadn't been back for long ? it was an incredible shock to everyone that Neil was diagnosed as suffering from cancer, yet somehow he made it through the recording sessions. The fact that he passed away in September 2011 at the age of just 44 leaving behind a widow and young family is something that many of us are still finding hard to deal with.

So, in lots of ways this was always going to be a hard album to review for me. Any opinion will always be subjective, no matter how objective the reviewer tries to be, and not only have I a long history with the band but I was aware that I really wanted this to be a great album, a fitting legacy as it were. But would it be?

As I said, before playing 'Battle Scars' I listened to 'Nothing Is Written' ? back when the band had won the Radio 1 Rock Wars and had been guests on The Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance (those were the days). Back then they were young and dynamic, with much to prove. Here, all these years later they are not quite as young as they were, and in many ways are something of elder statesmen of the prog movement. But this is not a band to rest on their past achievements, as their last studio album 'Empires Never Last' amply proves. This is a band that is proud of what they have done previously, but also understand that they need to mature and this is an album that shows that they have done just that.

In 'the new guy' Dean Baker they have a keyboard player with a huge palette and being able to bring to play many different sounds has enabled them to deploy different techniques to great effect. The title cut starts the album and the gentle choral and orchestral effects soon give way to a Freddie Mercury style chorus where Roy is finally allowed to crank up the guitar and deploy some strong riffs. Stu has always had a very melodic voice, yet he has managed to add just a touch of menace when the need arises which gives the song an extra edge.

Karl Groom's production, as always, is very polished and allows all of the musicians to shine ? this is complex stuff yet is brought together in a fashion that is immediate and melodic. It is music that can be enjoyed on first listen yet the more times it is played the more the listener will get out of it. Spencer and Neil locked in as if they had never been apart and this strong rhythm section allows Dean and Roy to run riot. I would love to hear "Reach For The Sun'" in a live setting as the impression is that this has been written so that they can really turn this up and blast out. There may be a few Ozric style keyboard sounds, but the star of this is the repeated riffing, and the controlled passion.

Galahad in 2012 have produced an album that would be very recognizable to the people who used to go and watch them at Mr Kyps in Poole, yet is also very much the band that these days headlines prog festivals in Europe. At the very end of the album is a nod back to times past, as they revisit the title cut of their 1995 album 'Sleepers', and in many ways is quite different to the rest ? showing just how much the band has changed. But it is great to hear it, as I for one always thought it contained Neil's best basslines and yet again he proves what a great musician he was. Later this year Galahad will release another album, 'Beyond the Realms of Euphoria', which was recorded at the same time ? it will be interesting to see just how that will compare as 'Battle Scars' is a winner on all counts. www.galahadonline.com

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Send comments to kev rowland (BETA) | Report this review (#745924)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars If there ever was a band that has clearly progressed, it must be said that British group Galahad is definitely a top contender for the prize. Starting out with early albums that were really nothing more than baby steps, their first real leap forward was the charming Galahad Acoustic Quartet -Not All There release back in 1994, which proposed a stripped down, very dark folk series of beautiful songs, a platform for Stu to really put his original voice up- front and center. I still adore that CD to this day, as the medieval/melancholic vibe is precious and vibrant. Next came Sleepers in 1995 , which was standard neo-prog of the times, with simple ballads (Julie Anne and Pictures of Bliss) as well as some extended 10 minute + workouts (title track, Exorcizing Demons , Live and Learn and Amaranth) but was not particularly liked by the stubborn critics , a judgment that was even more scathing on the follow-up, 1999's "Following Ghosts", a seemingly heady mixture of what was before but salted with some harder pieces such as 'Imago' and 'Myopia'. This was , in my humble opinion where the tide turned as new keyboardist Dean Baker exercised his melodic influence by injecting strong electronic-tinged sweeps into the fold, though preferring bubbling Tangerine Dream style synthesizers to the usual formulaic organ/synth style as espoused by Clive Nolan, Martin Orford or Mark Kelly. And that's where Galahad's fortunes veered towards a future style that was all theirs. No more copycats, we are Galahad! In 2002, the aptly-titled "Year Zero" - that certainly proves that they were starting fresh and new- introduced a whopping symphonic element, structurally first as the album is a 15 part suite that is one massive piece of mellotron-driven, synth-swept extravaganza, courtesy of Mr. Baker but also a rejuvenated Roy Keyworth who now began a rougher, raspier attitude to his guitar style. With a monster bassist in Neil Pepper and a powerful drummer in Spencer Luckman, Stuart now just needed some material to really blow fans away for good. They took 5 years to sculpt one of the most bewildering recordings ever in prog , the hissy, angry and devastatingly sparkling "Empires Never Last " , one of 2007 top albums, almost universally adopted by those who trashed the band in the past as well as fans who stood the test of time. Stuart Nicholson proved his vocal mettle and if you add the visually stunning DVD Resonance (which gustily actually pre-dated the album), the conclusion ?the only one- is that these lads have come a long, long way! This was a difficult period though as long time bassist Neil Pepper was struggling mightily with health issues, replaced by the talented Lee Abraham.

So the long waited follow up 2012 had Pepper back for an artistic swansong, as he went to prog heaven in September 2011. "Battle Scars" is the first of 2 albums to be released in 2012, the second set for later this year. The overt rockier edge is still there with more trance/electronica grooves as well as lush symphonics with furious mellotron cascades. The mixture is a bright one and very original. I like to call it power-prog, powerful music that hits the nodes with passion and class.

The ultra-classical overture (they like to start their concerts the same way) is a fine prelude for the title track to kick mightily into gear, with Stuart flexing his pipes with voluptuous engagement, the lyrical material not quite pretty and clean, soft pain emanating from his trembling lips, as the evoked brutality becomes overpowering. The pummeling drummed onslaught is fast and furious; while Roy rasps hard on his fretboard and Dean waves his mellotron drenched hands. "Reach for the Sun" is a brief moment of rage, as the pace remains frisky and raw, powerful riffs and more battle scars are revealed. Synths bleep and bloop amok, the mighty 'tron howls and the axe grinds, what a delightful arsenal of sound!

"Singularity" is a highlight spool of glittering noise, buzzed by a sublime melody and expert guitar finger painting. The expressive vocal is luxuriant, the pace somberly energetic, the guitar on slow burn fire , a delightful combination of sounds that hit the mark and make this a Galahad standard to come for evermore "You can't touch me now", he sings. The harmony vocal work is sublime and the result is utter poignancy. A delicate piano settles the score.

When Stuart snarls, he gets it right, as per the nasty "Bitter and Twisted" , a fine account of our hyper-judgmental society whose priorities lie with the ability to hate via electronic messages and general ethereal inhumanity. No more values, no more dedication and no more resolve. Spencer accentuates the dysfunction with syncopated percussive mayhem, fueled by a violent guitar smack and whistling synth slaps. "You are just a little piece of... nothing at all" has got to be the lyric of the decade!

The Pepper-penned "Suspended Animation" is pure prog bliss, growling bass pangs devour a swirling swarm of organs, synths and guitars with ogre-like fascination. It's almost the funkiest piece from the Galahad catalogue and a definite keeper.

"Beyond the Barbed Wire" is desperate, cold and unrelenting, possessing an exhilarating impulse of pain and cold, as the contrast between gentle surrender clashes with the impossible desire for freedom and salvation. Tremendous modern beats and mellotron choirs collide with aggressive and repetitive guitar riffs and vocal refrain of the title. Roy's guitar solo soars and sears brightly, hot electric fission into the cold, frigid night.

The pulsating "Seize the Day" is a complete stunner, Gabriel-like piano and vocal intro (think 'Here Comes the Flood') that quickly colors the trance-like electronic melody. Even if you are not a fan of trance, this is truly uplifting stuff, brilliantly played when the bullying drums, thumping bass and the massive guitars enter the fray! You have to admire the band's courage and determination to not be swayed by anything other than their inner muse. This piece is proof of their commitment to bend the rules and define modern prog. Bravo, ballsy guys!

To be treated to a reworking of 'Sleepers' is an unparalleled joy to behold, not just a nostalgic wink to their past but an outright genius track that not only proves Stuart's undeniable talent but the seemingly stellar work of all the instrumentalists is better than ever. Both Dean and Roy really flesh out the sound, making it more vibrant and edgy than ever before. We as fans, thank you deeply!

Galahad is meritorious of the highest accolades, as they persisted with their vision and like them or not, they are a force to be reckoned with for the future. I actually prefer this new offering over Empires, a feat I would never had thought possible.

5 combat wounds

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#763208)
Posted Sunday, June 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Battle Scars' - Galahad (7/10)

Although bands in prog most often pride themselves on being more 'advanced' than your run-of-the-mill plebes, I do agree that one of the most remarkable things about Galahad has been their capacity to improve and advance themselves. Especially with their last album "Empires Never Last", I believe this band has finally reached the top tier of gentlemen within the melodic and melancholic world of neo-prog. Developing upon their symphonic edge, "Battle Scars" is Galahad's ninth record to date, and they have never sounded so modern. Theatrical and passionate, there are some great listens to be had with this one, although it may not be as consistent as it could have been.

To be open with you, I can't say I've often found myself 'digging' the sound of Neo-Prog, now not so much a label to describe 'new' prog as it is a sub-genre of prog that I long felt sucked the complexity and proficiency out and replaced it with 80's cheese up the wazoo. Of course, this was a bit of an overgeneralization on my part, and "Battle Scars" does seek to prove me wrong. Crossing me much the same way as did Pendragon's "Passion" from last year (among the best that 2011 had to offer), "Battle Scars" strikes me as an example of how the neo-progressive style has developed with the times. The combination of vocalist Stuart Nicholson's dramatic vocals and the orchestral approach to some of this music reminds me of Muse above all else, and though the course first laid out by Marillion is evident in "Bitter and Twisted" and "Seize the Day", Galahad have, on the whole, broadened their sound. Like Pendragon, they have grown darker and heavier, and this suits the band's theatrical and moody vibe.

For such an experienced band, it's no surprise that things are performed and produced so well. For the first three songs on "Battle Scars", I could have been convinced that this was a masterpiece. Everything on this opening seventeen-odd minute stretch is excited and beautifully paced. The album opens with some moody orchestrations, before Stuart's voice takes hold and ushers in an epic sense of atmosphere and bravado. Of course, it's not long before the rest of the band takes hold, and when they do, they don't let go until they have sucked a listener in entirely. Helped by the fact that there is virtually no pause between the first and second tracks, the first three seem to make a trilogy, a process of absolving one's scars in order to become 'one with the universe' ("Singularity"). Simply put; it's brilliant stuff.

Sadly, this doesn't last forever; by the fourth track "Bitter and Twisted" onward, the music feels decidedly less exciting. The production standard is maintained, and it's arguable that they stick to the same style, but the dynamic and quality that had me so excited at first about "Battle Scars" does not translate. For those lucky enough to hear the 'full' version of "Battle Scars", the 2012 re-do of their classic "Sleepers" sees Galahad rekindling the fire. Besides the obvious improvements in execution it has over its 'original' predecessor, "Sleepers" is a fitting way to end this musical journey. As the longest track on the album (some might call it an 'epic'), it is rich with interesting ideas, although- like the rest of the album- it has some trouble balancing the 'good' from the fantastic.

A little inconsistent perhaps, but Galahad are surely a force to be reckoned with, in the 'neo- progressive' scene, and even prog rock at large. The dark, symphonic approach these guys take with their music is definitely worth checking out. It's perhaps not the greatest thing Galahad have released in their time, but "Battle Scars" is certainly worthy of their name.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#780591)
Posted Sunday, July 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The first of two Galahad studio albums for 2012, Battle Scars offers a dark, occasionally heavy version of the Galahad sound which adds impressively modern electronic beats to their neo- prog approach. Recorded with the aid of Karl Groom at Arena's Thin Ice Studios, something of the darkness of Arena's Contagion creeps in during the more guitar-heavy moments, whilst Dean Baker's very modern approach to keyboards this time around offers up sounds and textures of a sort not usually found in neo-prog. Despite the presence of a remake of an old track from Sleepers as a bonus track, this is clearly a band with one eye on the future and who are attempting even twenty years after their debut to evolve and progress their sound.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#844395)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The album's beginning - the militaristic orchestral intro, followed by elongated vocal exercises and a blast of crunchy guitars and powerful chorus - immediately introduces the new Galahad. Heavy, melodic and dramatic. Pretty catchy stuff, if you can stand the over-done vocals. Too bad Arena already did this 12 years ago. This feeling of uneasiness permeates the rest of the album. Even during the more restrained passages you expect to be blasted by loud guitars and powerful chorus. The album ends strongly with two of the longer songs. Seize the Day incorporated some techno beats and another sing-a-long chorus. Sleepers is a remake from 1995. Basically what they did is reinforce the edges. The industrial-ish intro became even more industrial (and unneccesary, in my opinion), the laughing bit more maniacal and the ending long solo even more typically Pink Floyd-meets-metal sister bands like Arena and Threshold are fond of.

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Send comments to Progrussia (BETA) | Report this review (#1107105)
Posted Saturday, January 04, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars British neo-prog veterans Galahad's latest album, Battle Scars, did not disappoint me in the least bit. Battle Scars is an album that from the first moments is full of melodic atmosphere, rocking vibes, and great hooks. For prog this is definitely on the catchy side, but in a good way. The vocal melodies are memorable, but perhaps what most grabs me about this release is how it sounds both incredibly modern while still sounding very neo-prog. Lots of heavy guitars, crisp production, and fantastic inclusion of less conventional elements (for prog), such as loads of electronic music influences. Ultimately, this album is all about 'songs.' Don't expect some majestically deep ocean of sonic waters or on this one. But, DO expect a great album, one that you can rock out to, and for the musicians, one that's really fun to jam along to as well!

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Send comments to Progulator (BETA) | Report this review (#1287590)
Posted Saturday, October 04, 2014 | Review Permalink

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