Bear with me as I start this review with a little Galahad fanboy rant. I’ve been a fan of Galahad since “Battle Scars” in 2012. Since then, we’ve only gotten one other album from this band, which is admittedly not all that bad of an output for a prog band. Still, the band has only been able to release remakes of older tracks lately, as their guitarist leaving the band abruptly has stunted the creative process. Many times these remakes lead to amazing results, but these releases are still just remakes, and I’ve been craving a fully new album like “Battle Scars” for some time. “Quiet Storms” is the new release from this band, but it is mostly made up of older tracks remade into softer form, plus a couple covers. Honestly, that doesn’t really excite me all that much, but I understand that this isn’t really the band’s fault. My feelings are decidedly mixed.
My Galahad fan rant is over now, possibly. Galahad is a band with a rich history stretching back to the 80’s. I would have at one time put them in the neo-prog subgenre of progressive rock, but nowadays they are merely modern progressive rock with lots of orchestration and electronic elements. They really do sound modern and relevant, and I love that about them. Now, the full band does not seem to be active on this release. Stu Nicholson is back on vocals, and we also have Dean Baker on keys, programming, and orchestration. Spencer Luckman handles percussion, Sarah Bolter provides woodwinds, and various other guests provide vocals or other instrumentation. Christina Booth of Magenta, for example, guests on one track.
You might think that the list of players here seems sparse, and you’d be correct. This new album is meant to be a look at Galahad’s softer side, so the full band is not present. Now, the band has never been heavy, so to speak; but they do know how to write a riff and also how to pack lots of sounds in a song. However, this album generally just features Stu’s stunning and instantly recognizable voice alongside keys, orchestration, and some electronic elements. In other words, it’s an album of ballads, albeit very progressive ones.
That is part of my issue with this album: It is quite one-note. Galahad has always provided variety on their albums, from epics to ballads to oddly structured tracks. This album, for the most part, drags on quite a bit. There is very little in the way of guitars or drums, as the music is pretty much exclusively led by keys. That isn’t really a problem per se, but it can definitely put you to sleep. Also, at over an hour long, “Quiet Storms” feels much longer than it really is because the music is almost all played at a snail’s pace, as beautiful as it is. In other words, this album is difficult to finish before your brain starts to crave something with more of a beat.
I think that’s enough complaining for now. As much as I crave a new Galahad album in all its glory, “Quiet Storms” is still a very good release for the band. The music is gorgeous and mixed very well, and it truly is interesting to see these songs in a new light. Stu sounds absolutely fantastic and as transcendent as ever, and Dean’s expertise on keys, orchestration, and programming is quite apparent as the melodies weave and flow in captivating fashion. There are definitely moments on this album that will hypnotize you with their beauty. I must also mention Sarah’s woodwinds, as she utilizes flute, clarinet, and soprano saxophone to elevate some of the tracks in a very special way, adding a whole new dimension to the Galahad sound (I hope they pursue this jazzier side in the future).
I do have some favorites on this release. “Iceberg” is definitely one of the most interesting tracks on the album. It has some beautiful orchestration and some stunning flute, as well; and it transitions into this dense fog of choirs and keys that is totally sublime. “This Life Could Be My Last” sounds wonderful, especially the chorus, as Stu totally carries this track. “Easier Said Than Done” sounds fantastic with the lush orchestration, woodwinds, and keys. “Melt” is strongly laced with electronics, and I love it. “Shine” is a longer song with a wonderful progression to it, though it’s actually shorter than the original version. “Guardian Angel (Hybrid)” is the second version of this song on this release, but this version is somehow completely different and also completely awesome with the only electric guitar and real groove on this album.
There are a couple new tracks here, too. “Weightless” feels somehow exactly like its name with all the keys and orchestration, and the percussion in the last half really elevates this song to glorious levels. “Willow Way” is a fantastic folksy track that is short and sweet. There are also two covers, “Mein Herz Brennt” is a cover of the Rammstein song, and “Marz (and Beyond)” is a cover of a John Grant song, though it is longer and quite different than the original.
All in all, this is another solid release from Galahad. Yes, I’m disappointed in it because it’s not a full new album from a band I’ve come to love, but it is objectively a great album with some phenomenal moments. Stu sounds better than he ever has, and the production here is incredibly slick. I’d advise you to go buy “Quiet Storms”, and maybe the band can use that cash to give me the brand new album I’m craving.
***UPDATE*** Stu from Galahad reached out to me. The band is releasing a full new album in 2017 called “Seas of Change”, which features a brand new guitarist who hasn’t been announced yet. I can’t wait to hear the results!
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