“Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Music is essential and life would not be complete without it, where words fail, music can always express what we are feeling and Galahad have always had that uncanny knack of resonating with me on a sub conscious level. This long revered band have a new album in the offing and I was extremely honoured to have a very early listen and plenty of time to gather my thoughts before writing this review but, first, a short bit of PR…
This latest opus, Galahad’s twelfth studio album, was recorded before, during and after the recent Covid emergency, and, as was the case with the previous album ‘The Last Great Adventurer’, was recorded at several locations over the last couple of years by the various band members and was finally edited, mixed and mastered, as usual, by our engineer/producer supreme Karl Groom.
The album features the same line-up as TLGA of Stu Nicholson (vocals), Dean Baker (keyboards), Spencer Luckman (drums), Lee Abraham (guitars) and Mark Spencer (bass guitar).
As usual, a variety of topics are considered and written about on this album, some very personal, including the title track in which the ageing process and the difficult and tricky subject of early onset dementia is tackled, hopefully with a certain amount of poignancy.
Those familiar with ‘The Last Great Adventurer’ will feel that album’s vibe immediately on the classy opener Behind The Veil Of A Smile. An elegant intro of Lee’s guitar and Dean’s keys leads you on a willing journey into superb prog infused metal, it’s not dissimilar to Threshold but couldn’t have come from anyone but Galahad as it’s much more intricate and ‘proggy’. The song really takes off when you hear Stu’s distinctive vocals, especially on the ever so cool chorus. There’s a brilliant keyboard solo that put a huge grin on my face and the song ends with a short but extremely satisfying solo from Lee, the band have certainly picked up on where they’d finished on TLGA and their creative abilities are still firing on all cylinders! A techno/electronica hue (I never thought I’d write those words about a Galahad release!) is all over the intro to Everything’s Changed, a more subdued piece of music than the opening song but one that is still full of the band’s signature sincerity, especially on Stu’s elegant vocals. There’s a world weary atmosphere to this nostalgic feeling song, it’s full of a wistful, almost melancholy, sentiment for the ages, mainly imbued by Dean’s contemplative keyboards, and blossoms superbly on another bewitchingly catchy chorus. It’s another stylish piece of music and the almost orchestrated ending is a touch of genius. More echoing, dynamic keys dominate the extended opening to Shadow In The Corner before Lee’s punchy guitar enters the fray and adds some drive to the song. Stu’s slow burning vocals add a touch of mystery and suspense to the track before a flowering chorus adds a cinematic, widescreen effect to proceedings. There’s a lush feel to the keyboards and guitar riffs and Lee gets to shine on a superb, funky solo that really gets under your skin. Once again I have to applaud the musicianship, Galahad certainly brings the best out of Lee Abraham who is on extraordinary form on this album especially but everyone is at the top of their game and Stu’s vocals are as immense as ever.
Now to the elephant in the room, the utterly brilliant, but totally left-field, The Righteous And The Damned. This epic piece of music really shouldn’t work but it does and brilliantly! Imagine System Of A Down crossed with ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and you won’t be far wrong. It is one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year but does need perseverance as it doesn’t click immediately. Stu said that,
“Oddly the intro melody for ‘Righteous’ came to me whilst we were in the Jewish quarter in Krakow a few years ago listening to the street musicians, it’s an incredibly atmospheric place. It will a marmite track for sure.”
The band have imbued that feel and atmosphere into an incredibly entertaining and engaging song that has touches of brilliance throughout. The violin is mischievous as hell, Lee’s riffs jump all over the place and, yet, it is still demonstratively a Galahad track. Stu sounds like he’s having the time of his life, Mark’s bass is funky and jazzy as you like and Spencer’s drums have never sounded as complex, it is just amazing and the band should be complimented on delivering a piece of music that could alienate some of their fans, although I would be very surprised if it did!
The final song on the album proper (we’ll come to the CD bonus tracks in a bit) is the glorious, heartfelt and emotional journey that is The Long Goodbye, It’s a wondrous musical journey that tackles the ageing process and the difficult and tricky subject of early onset dementia with pathos and the poignancy that the band intended and it’s one you never want to end. There’s a serious feel to the song as it breaks out from the thoughtful, almost mournful, introduction, Stu’s vocals delivered with calm gravitas and the music slightly subdued but still delivered with feeling. The softly delivered refrain of “I don’t know who I am, I can’t even remember my name, I don’t know what I’ve ever done, I don’t know where I’ve come from” brings home the seriousness of the subject matter in the most dignified of manners. This beautifully constructed piece of music will, at times, bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye but it’s the breathtaking final six minutes that take it to a whole other level as Lee delivers some gorgeous guitar, including a sublime soaring solo, and the stunning orchestration from Dean and Mark begins. Stu says he loves this part of the track and you can see why, it is utterly stunning and finishes the song and the album on the highest of high notes.
If you order the CD version then you will get two bonus tracks, Darker Days which harks back to the style of the first three tracks on the album, that high energy, dynamic sound with edgy guitars, pounding drums, forceful bass and compelling keyboards. Add in Stu’s charismatic vocals and another memorable chorus and it has everything you need. Open Water is another matter entirely, it’s a more sparse, sensitive and somewhat reflective track that has an almost ethereal quality with Stu’s laid back vocals, Lee’s exquisite guitar and the celestial piano and keys. Stu says it is probably the newest piece as it was written during lockdown and, to echo Stu’s sentiments, provides a relatively low key finish on the CD after all the bombast.
I chose ‘The Last Great Adventurer’ as my album of the year for 2022 and, in a fast paced world that never stands still, Galahad haven’t rested on their laurels. They have returned with ‘The Long Goodbye’, another wondrous musical journey that mesmerises and bewitches from beginning to end, and even surprises in places. Could this be another contender at the end of the year, I definitely don’t see why not!
Released 23rd October, 2023.
Pre-order direct from the band here: