I’ve been a Hackett fan for several years, and I would even say that I enjoy his solo output much more than anything Genesis ever produced. Inside Out Music is quite lucky to have a relationship with him, in my opinion. His string of high quality, classy albums continues on January 25th with “At the Edge of Light”.
Per the usual, Steve has a huge line-up of musicians with him on this album. Steve himself plays guitars, but also the oud, charango, sitar guitar, and harmonica, while also providing vocals. You will also hear Nick D’Virgilio, Gary O’Toole, and Simon Phillips on drums; Jonas Reingold on bass; Rob Townsend on sax, bass clarinet, and duduk; Christine Townsend on violin and viola; and Roger King on keyboards and programming. Many other musicians are involved, as well.
Steve offers progressive rock, yes, but I would say that he is globally-minded in his approach. Steve always writes thoughtful lyrical themes that celebrate humanity and cultures from every corner of the Earth. He does this not only in writing lyrics, but also in incorporating the music from their respective cultures, too. The results are albums that feel hopeful, though often dark; emotional and varied, though still structured and purposeful.
I’ll come right out and say that this album has not jived with me quite as well as the last few he has released. That said, it is still a solid work of progressive rock. I would say this album is even more guitar-driven than the “The Night Siren”, as that album seemed to be a return to Hackett’s guitar-centric style. This album especially feels more technical and kinetic than Steve’s past works, with some guitar sections feeling ambitious and intense. I would also point out that the Russian tone in many of the orchestrations reminds me of “Darktown”, and the gigantic scale of the overall sound reminds me of “Beyond the Shrouded Horizon”. It’s an album that combines various sounds that Hackett has explored in the past.
There are a few highlights on this album, as well as a couple of low points. For the high points, “Beasts In Our Time” leads the charge. It is a raging piece of desperation and transition. I love the sax that floats in near the beginning, and the fomenting guitar work near the end gets the point across well. “Underground Railroad” is a great track with dark Gospel soul accents. I rather like it. “Golden Wings” is something of an epic, with lots of transitions in style and tone. “Shadow and Flame” has this awesome Middle Eastern groove that provides a strong touchstone in the album. “Peace” is a beautiful ending to the album with choir vocals and elongated guitar work. It may be my favorite.
I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of “Under the Eye of the Sun” or “Descent”. The former has this bright and sunny tone to it, almost like a celebration. I like that aspect of it, but the overuse of the group vocals and the lack of any real structural changes just makes it feel a tad bland. The latter is an instrumental transitional piece. I do see the need for it as it leads into the last two tracks, but there is simply not much going on outside of an annoying drumbeat. I do like some of the guitar work that fades in near the end, though.
Overall, this will not be considered Steve’s greatest album, but it still offers some truly stunning guitar work and the typical Steve Hackett variety that I have come to love. “At the Edge of Light” has more energy and intensity than many younger bands have to offer, and so I’m glad to see Steve continue to offer new and exciting music that never falls into a rut. For that reason alone, buy this album.
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