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Steve Hackett - Metamorpheus CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett

Eclectic Prog

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4 stars This album is AMAZING!!! I received the promo (my review is online at Magazine) from the label about a month ago, and in the beginning it didn't really capture my attention. However, after a few auditions, it really caught me. In this album, Hackett plays classical guitar, acompanied by a small orchestra. The music is the closest you can get to classical, in the begining of the 21st century. The album is based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus. Steve's classical guitar playing is awesome and I'm really surprised at the ease with which he coulours his sound, which is a very rare thing among electric guitarists who at some point pick up the classical guitar (I play classical guitar myself, so I tend to be disappointed with a guitarist when he just plays everything flat). The arrangements are very good, the compositions are amazing (references to the clasics exist) and Hackett shows an impressive talent in describing the very feelings of Orpheus in every part of the story: from the happiest, to the blackest (his descent to Hades). I'm really impressed with this album - recommended.
Report this review (#34563)
Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars First of all I have to say that this classical piece is done very well and has nice themes. What you get is a black cd with a small picture by kim poor on the front. So all is made very tasty. But now to the important part of the whole thing: the music. Everything is done well. I like Steves Guitar playing but I think that his solos are often the same solos as played on "A Midsummernights Dream". And at the moment you think "I've heard this once before" 'Under the World ~ Orpheus Looks Back' starts. A very, very, very nice orchastral thing. It sounds as if Genesis would do classical music. Much more better than any of the tracks on Tony Banks new CD (which I like very much too). But I have also to say that one thing is missing: A link to the story. Ok - the booklet has a printed story (a part of the story under every trackname). But if you hear the music just without knowing which it is all about you would think that there might is no related story. Maybe a storyteller would have been great here. Another thing is that on a few parts of the CD you know what Hackett plays next and I as a classical composer by myself have to say that this is not very good BUT Hackett developes his style. And he is getting better all the time. Listen to 'Severance' and you will know what I mean. This IS the thing. And beside all negative aspects and all positive aspects it is a wonderfull peace of music written by a very talented musician and played by a very talented orchestra. Please fallow that way, Steve.
Report this review (#34564)
Posted Monday, April 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars More genre bending action from accomplished guitarist Steve Hackett. Some might like to think that of all of the Steve H's in the Progressive Rock world, Steve Hackett is the most accomplished classical guitarist, but this album gives Mr. Howe a run for his money. This classical album is among many of the diverse genres that Hackett has dabbled in.

The music is very pretty throughout the album. However, it all sounds too similar at times, and they can get boring in the middle. Hackett's guitar work shines throughout the similarities, though. The orchestra album plays with precision and is utterly perfect, but again, it all sounds too similar.

Overall, this isn't one of Hackett's best, it certainly is good, but not his best. Nothing I would recommend to someone just getting into Hackett, but an overall solid effort. 3/5.

Report this review (#38529)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Actually you could erase an half star at least, if you regard of the middle -a bit repetitive- section,but nevertheless it's one of the finest albums the former Genesis guitarist has ever produced-especially since He decided to perform his solo works all over the world (do you remember his concerts played together with one of the most skilful classical guitarists, such as Maurizio Colonna,my favourite musician of this music genre?!)...well -as a matter of fact- his melodic lines are perfectly coupled with an orchestra, but also his simple but effective harmonic solutions are excellent...his execution is much inspiring, despite of being not equal to such an incredible performance like that one by M.Colonna (above all from the technical point of view).Anyway,coming back to the present issue, Hackett's Underworld Orchestra -including John Hackett on flute- is always remarkable, but it's composed by eight elements only;however these latter are able to reproduce a full symphonic orchestra and for me that's enough, in order to be astounded and gratified too!! In particular I like track #14 and #15 ("Return To The Realm Of Eternal Renewal" and "Lyra"), because the guitar work is exceptionl here and complex as well, but you can't forget all the other tracks drawing from the ideas of some Russian composers from 20th Century, by means of a small "home-made" orchestra, which is delightful!!

Check it out, even though the album cover picture reminds us of an horror movie!!

Report this review (#43098)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hackett has become as mellow as his former bandmate Tony Banks has become in the recent years. And they both released two classical albums-- Banks using the full orchestra and Hackett partially using orchestra. Now this is not a true prog rock. The theme 'Metamorpheus' invoked an expectation of dramatic musical scores. I was disappointed. On the other hand, this is a good album (if I ignore my initial disappointment). I also believe Hackett has remained loyal to himself when he chose to be completely mellow and classical. I appreciate sincere music and this is one.
Report this review (#52931)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Considering that progressive music listeners are people with mind open for various music genres, and of those who know to enjoy good records of any kind, I therefore recommend this CD to them. Talking about style of music present on it, instead of term "classical" which is reserved for "dim and distant past" before XX century, I think that more accurate term could be "serious" music. Billed as Steve Hackett & the Underworld Orchestra, named upon legend that music is following and trying to describe to imaginative listener, in which Orpheus went to Underworld in search of Eurydice, more proper name would be The Underworld Orchestra with Steve Hackett, because most of music consists of strings and some woodwinds orchestration, with guitar (acoustic, of course) played quite enough not to forget that this peace is composed for guitarist and small orchestra.

The music is deep and emotive, nicely flowing, and is functioning very good, even without knowing that is based upon ancient legend, it could be used as good soundtrack for a movie, as it changes from calm and mellow to dramatic and vice versa as the story goes, leaving enough place to other senses. It's not overproduced like some other musicians' trip to unknown territory and is easy to listen to many times. I would dare to say that it would get decent reviews from people involved in classical and serious music.

Someone who would try to find traces of Genesis and Steve Hackett older solo efforts, would stay empty handed. Just forget that this is Steve Hackett record, and enjoy!

Report this review (#78785)
Posted Friday, May 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album was extremely well put together with some very beautiful melodies and harmonies. I play classical guitar and I find this album a very wonderful experience. The music is very serene and calm. It is quite a bit different from his works in the early years of Genesis but there are some influences such as primitive sounding rhythms with the orchestra and continuously changing moods. It is simply a masterpiece and I would highly reccomend it.
Report this review (#79840)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another wonderful classical effort from Mr Hackett. This time he uses the Underworld Orchestra to create, along with his distinctively atmospheric guitar, a superb musical drama that has fast and slow pieces, along with happy and eerie moments. It is an album that creates a thoughtful yet beautiful world all of its own. In many ways this is a companion piece to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', and is just as good. The packaging, as usual, is typical Hackett, with illustrations by wife Kim Poor. All the tracks merge into a smooth, sinuous whole, and I can heartily recommend this to fans of both classical guitar and fans of Mr Hackett's acoustic playing. It once again showcases his special talent for composing. His diversity seems endless and I have to say that over the passing years he has become stronger and stronger - not something that can be said about many of his contemporaries. Not pure prog, but a classical adventure of epic proportions. Music to relax with on winter nights. Lovely stuff.
Report this review (#96010)
Posted Friday, October 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars As Steve Hackett mentioned, this is a musical expression of the legend of Orpheus and his passage through the Underworld. This album represents his second orchestral album and fifth classical album overall. As the musical approach is classical music, Hackett uses nylon guitar (classical guitar) as his main instrument, backed with the eight-piece orchestra. The Underworld Orchestra provides full support of Hackett's interpretation. Those of you who are classical guitar freaks would benefit much from this album as Steve Hackett blends his guitar virtuosity with orchestra arrangement. This album might not serve well for those of you who like heavy rhythm music like prog metal. The music flows seamlessly from one track to another. When I spin it I didn't realize that it's already track 4 "One Real Power" without going noticed.

"The Dancing Ground" starts off with excellent string arrangement. You might imagine yourself enjoying a honeymoon at Venice while listening to this music. Hackett's guitar insert only happens in the middle of the track. Show this music to your wife, I think she would like it and ask you to go to Venice for a second honeymoon holiday! It's quite nice, I'm telling you. "The Vast Life" is the longest song from this album and you still might consider that this is a logical continuation of previous romantic track "The Dancing Ground". This time, Hackett demonstrates his expertise in dancing his fingers at the nylon strings of his acoustic guitar. The string only serves as background to accentuate the nuance that he is trying to shape. "Under The World - Orpheus Looks Back" is a bit dark music with soft orchestration. My best favorite track is "Severance" (3:04) where the string section plays dynamically. It's a great arrangement, I believe. "Elegy" (3:17) is a nice song as well, backed with touchy orchestra melody. The concluding track "Lyra" (6:35) is an excellent outfit as well. The interaction between nylon guitar and string section happens beautifully.

Overall, this is a very good* classical and orchestral work by Steve Hackett. This album serves very well for those who want to enjoy classical-based music through acoustic instruments: guitar and string section. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

*) On a "right" mood, you might find that this album is a "masterpiece" - especially for those of you who have grown up with classical music.

Report this review (#96440)
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Yet another classical-minded albums from Steve (I've lost count of just how many he's done) and personally I don't find this one anymore essential than the previous one he's done in that realm. So Steve is in this album alone up against a string section, which includes Brother John. So a collection of pieces amalgamated to make a story of Orpheus' trip to the underworld as stated in Greek mythology. Outside this "concept", a lot of those pieces actually follow one another rather nicely, but I don't think you would ruin the album's feeling should you push the "Random" button in your remote control.

Actually there are a few tracks which suffers from symphonic strings backing, which has a tendency to make them sound rather cheesy and in some case like a second-rate soundtrack to some of John Wayne's old movies endings. But on the other hand, tracks like Charon's Call hold a little something that is nice enough to retain for a while, some other tracks are clearly reminiscent of his previous works as well. But if you are to listen to Severance (the best track on the album), you will hear that Hackett's rock themes are pervading into his classical music more and more: is this not a bit of a subtle reworking of Clocks - The Angel Of Mons? The closing Lyra is also a strong end to the album.

Although a good album to have your quiet moments with the mistress (who will not likely be in distress after such an album), if you already own Sketches of Satie, Midsummernight's Dream, Bay Of Kings or a few others of his solo acoustic works, I doubt you will find this work really essential. But it will not appal you either, by any means. Just that more of the same feeling.

Report this review (#122175)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A stunning, magnificently beautiful work of art. Music of supreme grace and sublime lyricism. This is soundtrack to Orpheus' voyage through the underworld, and it really takes you on a musical journey. There are echoes of Gustav Holst and Vaughn-Williams, but also a lot of Hackett...and a nod to Segovia. Of the Genesis alumni Steve Hacket has perhaps evolved the most of all. Through-out his career Steve's instrumental technique and compositional skill have continually move forward. He has such a refined touch on his guitar, his fingers just dance about the fretboard. There are few other "rock" guitarists who have anything close to his ability on a nylon string. Bravo...encore... !
Report this review (#266935)
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Metamorpheus is the second album where Steve Hackett has the opportunity to play with a real orchestra instead of being forced to use new-age sounding synths that make the music sound plastic. The music here is much more full of energy and is overall more orchestrated than A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is fantastic. This suite is very strong, and often darker than the previous orchestrated suite. I sometimes here elements of T. Takemitsu, but definitely not as experimental. The sound is still very much baroque/classical-inspired contemporary classical guitar, but with a profound amount of English impressionism found in the music of composers like R. Vaughan-Williams, F. Delius, or A. Bax, which is a connection that may very well be true considering Hackett's apparent love for classical music as well as being from the United Kingdom.

Another orchestrated masterpiece by the master of contemporary classical guitar.

Report this review (#431206)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars As suggested by the title, this particular Hackett offering (one of his classical guitar albums, featuring contributions from a chamber orchestra) is a musical interpretation of the Orpheus myth from classical mythology. I won't go into extensive detail about the story in this review; if you're not familiar with the basic story (there are some variations on it in different contexts, but the core story is pretty standard), you should take the time to become familiar with it. Suffice it to say that the story is a classic, featuring love, loss, near recovery, loss again (after an epic failure to follow instructions as given), and eventually a disembodied singing head. The Greeks were awesome.

The first half of the album is nice, with some lovely themes (some of which get reprised later in the album, most notably the main theme in "To Earth Like Rain"), but because it covers the part of Orpheus' life before he experienced pain and sadness, it's a little monotonous in its cheeriness (and it doesn't even cover his time spent with the Argonauts). The only real moment of tension is in "The Dancing Ground," which breaks up a cheery minuet with a disturbing premonition of Eurydice's; otherwise, it's all happy happy happy, culminating in the upbeat but still overlong 12:27 of "That Vast Life." At least this track moves through several ideas, but it never shifts in tone, and thus it becomes more background-ish than I'd prefer for something with its length.

Naturally, the story gets darker once Eurydice dies and Orpheus descends into the underworld to try and get her back, but I like that the music goes beyond formula in depicting these passages. Look, if you're going to make a musical depiction of the Orpheus myth, the quality of your presentation will ultimately rest on how you handle two parts: the attempted ascent from the underworld with Eurydice, and Orpheus' eventual horrible death at the hands of the Maenads. Given this, Steve's decision to write "Under the World - Orpheus Looks Back" as a clear homage to "Mars" strikes me as nothing elss than brilliant. The inecessant rhythm gives a maddening tension to the track, and the ascent portion, first moving in darkness, then briefly moving into triumphant cheer, then briefly moving into doubt, then clearly showing the moment where Orpheus screws up, gives a perfect depiction of the story. And "Severance," well, that's just fun dramatic darkness, hinting at but not fully playing up his horrible death; it might not be great by the standards of classical, but it's just fine by the standards of a rock guy writing a small amount of classical.

The album then works through the happy ending of the story: Orpheus is buried, Orpheus' spirit is reunited with Eurydice, Orpheus' head keeps on singing, and his lyre becomes a constellation (with reprises of happy themes from earlier). Overall, then, it's not an amazing experience, but it's definitely one I like more than his 80s classical guitar albums (as of this writing I haven't heard the other classically-oriented albums he'd done in between those). Steve definitely shows himself as much more adept at writing for a classical ensemble than most rock musicians would be, and the presence of a coherent (and classic) story ends up providing a beneficial framework. Plus, a lot of the music here could have been reworked for use on one his "conventional" albums without a lot of fuss. If you're into later-period Hackett, this is a worthy purchase.

Report this review (#963110)
Posted Monday, May 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Metamorpheus" is transposed into music of the myth of Orpheus. Steve embraces the classical guitar, accompanied by Underworld Orchestra and John Hackett on flute, draw a mythological world of past, the pursuit of sound, prompts the author to record every instrument of the orchestra alone getting a clear sound and powerful, as is rarely heard before, a meticulous process that takes a year of hard work to be completed The work reflects the heritage of all the previous acoustic experiences: from " Bay of Kings " to " Momentum ". The maturity of the guitarist allows to direct the orchestra in the first person; "Metamorpheus" is a timeless masterpiece following ideal previous work "A midsummer night's dream ", in which the guitarist caught the attention of critics. the first piece entitled " the Pool of Memory and The Pool Of Forgetfulness " and already from the start we realizes that we are in the presence of a tragedy anticipated by a Spanish mood guitar. "To Earth Like Rain ', the rhythm changes, the instruments seem to forget rejoice in the dark notes of the previous piece, chasing the rapid descent of the protagonist towards human misery. "One Real Flower", when he meets Orpheus and Eurydice falls madly in love. The sense of joy expressed by " The Dancing Ground" with the orchestra said that the time in a whirl joyful, and sometimes fleeting intervention guitar . "That Vast Life" which shines through the melodic vein of the musician. The following " Eurydice Taken", takes the tragedy.Taking advantage of a moment of absence of Orpheus. The Gods adverse Eurydice putting it in flight, as he runs through the fields is bitten by a snake. It seems that the music picture these events, and the orchestra reinforces the content changing mood, when the snake sinks its teeth into the flesh of young love. "Charon 's Call " is the first orchestral piece, the prayer of Orpheus Charon, the ferryman of souls because it leads to underworld, where he can turn his heartfelt prayer to Pluto . "Under The World - Orpheus Looks Back ", our hero finally arrives in the presence of Pluto and his court. Eurydice back to life once out of the underworld. "The Broken Lyre", with harmonic passages of incredible sensitivity and beauty. Overcome by anguish and loss. Orpheus gives up, himself, nature, music, then chooses a destiny of complete solitude . Finally "Elegy ", brings the serenity in the listener, something is going to change, it is realized in the procession of the melody. "Lyra" is the closing track of this exceptional work, a piece where the guitar describes events in our distant, the constellation that even today we see in the night sky, will forever be a witness to the events narrated in other eras, and reported life in all its beauty from one of the greatest contemporary musicians: Steve Hackett .
Report this review (#1085551)
Posted Wednesday, December 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars In Metamorphous, Hackett continuous line of acoustic works in medieval tone as good Bay of Kings (poor production and sound), Momentum and also enjoyable A Midsummer Night Dream. This is the most compact and solid, at least the ones I know, I do not know Momentum.

It's an album that lasts as necessary, and anything missing. Every detail is carefully contemplated, executed and orchestrated by Hackett and Roger King. There is enough variety, obviously in the field of gender inclined to medieval folk, with symphonic touches. Here we find beautiful and introspective melodies, some of which reach a peak in musical orchestration.

Although for lovers and classical music specialists I do not think it's a great contribution, for an artistic work of this kind, I think it is a very good option.

Warning: Far from the Hackett´s rock experimentation focused on their albums in that direction.

Report this review (#1106809)
Posted Saturday, January 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars Sorry Steve, but this is just dull!

I am an enormous fan of Steve Hackett's career, from the incredible albums he did with Genesis in the 70's through his illustrious solo career spanning five different decades. One of the things that I appreciate so much about Hackett is his eclectic approach fusing influences from Classical, Folk, Jazz, Blues and (progressive) Rock into new and interesting forms. When this eclectic aspect is missing and Steve concentrates on a single style only for a whole album, the result is a lot less interesting. This was the case when he did a pure Blues Rock album in the 90's called Blues With A Feeling, and it is the case with his several purely Classical outings. Metamorpheus is an example of the latter. This album is 100% Classical music throughout and it has absolutely nothing to do with progressive Rock or any kind of Rock.

Another thing that I admire and appreciate in Steve Hackett is his unique and distinctive signature guitar sound on both acoustic and electric guitar. I particularly like when he incorporates both his acoustic and his electric sides on the same album or in the same live performance, or even within the same piece of music. Of course, there are no electric guitars whatsoever on this purely Classical album, but the deeper problem is that Steve's acoustic playing here is not recognizably his own. There is nothing here that reminds me of the Steve Hackett I know and love. He has reduced himself here to just a regular Classical guitar player - a very skilled one for sure, but one without a distinctive sound and style all of his own.

Yet another thing a like about Steve Hackett's Rock albums, such as Defector, Guitar Noir, To Watch The Storms and Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth, to name a few of my favourites, is his skills as a creator of memorable instrumental music. This aspect too is missing on the present album, as this seemingly goes on endlessly without making any kind of lasting impression on me. Frankly I find it dull and find it difficult to sit through it all, and believe me I've tried on numerous occasions.

The reader should keep in mind that I am not a fan of Classical music, but a Rock fan through and through. I cannot properly judge this album for what it is, an album of Classical music. I happily concede that I lack the experience and knowledge to judge it as such. Judging it as a Prog album is however impossible as it does not contain a single trace of anything progressive or anything Rock. I can hear that it is not of low quality by any means, but it simply does very little for me.

But why be so harsh as to give only one star to one of my all time favourite artists? The answer is that I've previously given Bay Of Kings (Steve's first Classical guitar album) and Momentum (his second such album) two stars, and these earlier albums are both clearly better and more memorable for me than Metamorpheus even they are too one-dimensional to merit more than two stars and are clearly less interesting than his Rock albums. Also, even the weakest of Steve's many Rock albums (such as Till We Have Faces, for example) that I've given two stars in the past at least contain a few worthwhile moments and are much more enjoyable for me than the present album. Sorry Steve, with all respect, this just isn't my cup of tea I'm afraid.

Report this review (#1231962)
Posted Sunday, August 3, 2014 | Review Permalink

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