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Galahad - Following Ghosts CD (album) cover





3.10 | 98 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars Rejuvenation is easier said than done

While it is fully possible (though not quite appropriate, in my opinion) to dismiss Galahad's earlier albums as typical, derivate Neo-Prog that doesn't take things any further beyond Marillion (and similar recurrent accusations), any such dismissal can hardly be extended to Following Ghosts. The band probably felt that they had taken their brand of Neo-Prog as far as they could with the superb previous album, Sleepers, and here they opt instead for something altogether different. Stuart Nicholson might still sound a bit like Fish, but overall this album is nothing like traditional Neo-Prog.

Never content to stay in one place, the band incorporates lots of new and surprising influences into the present album. Whatever you might think of the end result, you must give them that they have a bona fide progressive attitude; the band's sound "progresses" with each new release. Following Ghosts might not be Prog as we know it, but it is surely both experimental and eclectic. The new influences include Metal, Folk, World-Music, Electronica, Pop and even Dance music! Now you are probably thinking that this will sound like an incoherent mess, and sadly that is occasionally true! But there are some very successful moments as well.

The album opens with an extremely silly spoken word passage thanking the listener for buying the album and encourages us to turn the volume up to 11! After such a ridiculous start, the first song kicks in with a vengeance with a riff that is heavier than anything the band had done up to that point. The tempo slows down considerably before the first verse on which Stuart Nicholson delivers a strong vocal over acoustic guitars. The chorus is pretty strong too and the heavy riff returns to form the backing for a fast paced violin solo just before the end of the song!

The following two songs tones things down significantly. Imago starts with tasteful Spanish guitars and Nicholson provides a strong vocal once again, this time supported by female backing vocals. The lyrics are some of his best too, this particular number being about how we all are shaped and moulded by our genes (I think?). Bird noises over the sound of a flowing stream introduces the next song which is another soothing, acoustically based number again with strong vocals. Here we are also treated to some lovely flutes and (what sounds like an) accordion! This one is part one of a two-part song, the second part comes later on. Karma For One introduces the newfound electronic influences, but we also get some Folk and World-Music influences here with some nice flutes and Indian percussions. The Indian influence continues discretely on the next song which features some elegant Sitars. The song itself is, however, a rather straightforward Pop song in structure.

Next up is the album's centrepiece, the 14 minute Bug Eye. This brilliant composition belongs to Galahad's best ever and it is, in a word, unique. Here the many disparate influences of Following Ghosts peacefully coexist in one epic, well-structured piece. The electronic sounds and Dance beats might scare some Prog fans away (like they initially did me), but the sublime vocals and guitars are bound to bring them back (as again they did me). When hearing this I am often reminded of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells III which similarly combined Dance beats and electronic sounds with soaring electric guitars and delightful melodies. The sampled spoken voices are very Pink Floydian. It cannot be enough emphasised how different this track is compared anything the band has done before or since, but it is a Galahad classic and it has established itself in the band's live set till the present day.

Part two of A Short Reflection Of Two Past Lives follows with Mellotron, saxophone and electric guitars. Obviously, this sounds very different from Bug Eye and you might even wonder if it is the same band! Following Ghosts is indeed a sprawling collection of songs and the band seems to be unsure of which direction they should go in, so they opt for every direction! (Which is another feature that reminds me of Mike Oldfield!).

Ocean Blue is an upbeat, poppy song, again with a Dance beat, but very much lighter and "friendlier" than on Bug Eye. This one almost sound a bit like a Pet Shop Boys number! At this point you start to wonder why on earth the album is 73 minutes long! The album as a whole would unquestionably benefit from dropping a few songs out, and Ocean Blue, Rejuvenation and Easier Said Than Done would be good candidates for being cut as they add nothing of interest. The second epic song of the album still holds some promise though, but sadly it does not quite hold up for 14 minutes despite a strong opening. There are simply too many "grey" areas in this otherwise good song.

To sum up. This album is a bit of a roller-coaster ride that takes the listener in a multitude of directions. Indeed, too many for its own good! As such it is an interesting album but also a bit disjointed. While undoubtedly a big step forward for the band in terms of experimental and eclectic spirit, some of the compositions are not quite good enough. There are some excellent bits here, but with a running time of well over an hour you might rightly wonder what was going on in the quality department! I guess this is one of those love-it-or-hate-it releases, and as usual when it comes to such releases I fall down somewhere in the middle!

Interesting for sure, but with the exception of Bug Eye, certainly not an essential release. In my view, the band peaked with Sleepers. But their subsequent releases, including the present one, are not bad.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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