Steve Hackett returns with an album packed with not only sounds but, atmosphere, style and emotion; all condensed into 13 tracks, which is no mean feat. Along with Steve are a collection of fantastic musicians and the always steadfast Roger King, who engineered and produced the album, managing to convey Steve’s thoughts into a huge tapestry of many themes.
Some of these tracks are full blown Rock, others are melodic and calm which propel the listener further inside the mind of the artist. Every track seems to be the listener viewing through thirteen postcards of journeys from the creator, in this case Steve.
From the vast expanse of space with the track “Turn This Island Earth” to a rather earthy feeling in “A Place Called Freedom” this album is very much a journey album. Not only does the listener feel like that they are in the company of Michael Palin or Bill Bryson and travelling around the world, but the listener is also taken to the past in a song like “Looking For Fantasy” which takes a look at characterisations from the 60s.
Although I know there is a Deluxe Version out there, of which I have heard a few pieces of at Steve’s home, I shall focus this review on the standard edition.
An eclectic opening with clever use of guitar and sustain, joined by strings (which sound realistic) followed by a quiet moment before the beast awakens. A pulsating bass line runs through as a very distorted guitar signifies this part of the journey has begun. Around 1 min 43 seconds listen for a slight reprise with the Darktown guitar sound and industrial sounding drums.
Steve then begins to sing over an acoustic passage, about a yurt and the waves of Loch Lomond. I sense that this is a multitude of places that he is singing about, he is joined by Amanda Lehman who is deployed fantastically adding a gentler touch to the words in places. Some sort of auto harp or mandolin also features. Steve croons ‘Love song on the surf, should I believe the words? Since when were you on the shores of Loch Lomond’ which holds on delay and reverb. The swirling reverb is interrupted by a string of cellos. Loch Lomond is represented by Bagpipes which in my mind could paint a ghostly pipe band leading a band of men off to into a battle. The sound concludes with a reprise of the opening distorted riff which then hits a frozen reverb. An acoustic guitar concludes the song and cunningly shifts onto…
The Phoenix Flown
Steve remarked how a strange feeling came over him and he was at one when he played the lead guitar line in this song. I must admit, I like it too! It seems rather positive and you could imagine a Phoenix rising from the Ashes to this song. A guitar effected by an accidental wah (see our Interview) is the lead piece on the song over a moderately tempo’d progressive rock background with long drawn out drum sections and reverbs. Once again the frozen reverb echoed from the first track concludes the song with a staccato crescendo of strings which reminded me of the end to ‘A Day in the Life’ by The Beatles.
Steve starts with acoustic guitar and a tasteful amount of reverb which gives the listener the visuality that he is playing in a cave or amphitheatre all on his own. As an instrumental, the title coyly refers once more to this idea of travailing and journeys.
Til These Eyes
Sympathetic strings start this wonderful piece which continue the guitar from Wanderlust. Maybe there is a character who is world weary and no longer bothers pursuing the things that most other people chase in life, love, marriage, children, parenthood etc. The song is very gentle and feels like a very mournful passage of lost dreams and love.
A gentle start with what could be Uilleann pipes as an electric guitar which is being played with the volume knob/pedal swelling the start of each note. As the drums kick in the guitar becomes the main focus of the song, listen out for the harmonica joining the guitar! A slightly ‘Learning to Fly’ swing to the song with some 16ths being played by Gary O Toole on the drums. The song turns into a blues romp with one of the most ‘hookable’ lines and a precarious gap that really makes the song. As the guitar fades out and an acoustic jangle guitar fades in we move onto…
A Place Called Freedom
Steve told me in an interview that he was part inspired by a story he read by Jack Kerouac, but then Steve made it his own with the tale of an American Native Indian, a very warm feeling song with lots of (excuse the pun) freedom. The song utilizes the acoustic and electric guitar which are both in fine balance, I swear I can hear a 12 string acoustic guitar in there and a Jaw Harp! A rather interesting tale listen carefully to the words. The movement of pioneering spirit is rife through the tune with a ripple of Steve’s and Amanda’s and Gary’s singing ‘A Place Called Freedom’ in harmony. The song culminates with a fade out as the rhythm of a train becomes apparent.
Between The Sunset and Coconut Palms
An acoustic guitar opens this piece and a vocal effect, similar to “Man Overboard” that appeared on Darktown. This song paints a picture of an impending ship wreck with sounds akin to a Theremin being used maybe to represent a siren on the rocks? Listen to the beach scene at the end complete with Banjo! Another interesting tale is sung to us!
Waking to Life
An electric guitar starts this piece, with tabla percussion creating the main rhythm as an electric sitar fulfils the space in the song! The Eastern flavour is emphasised with Amanda Lehmann singing. Her voice is used to great effect rather enchanting! Could this be India? Could this be Egypt or maybe closer to Europe? Maybe even a Moroccan theme in places. Almost the soundtrack to a Bollywood film in places with its demanding percussion and flow. If this is performed live it would be one of the instant classics amongst a Steve set.
Two Faces Of Cairo
Steve had the chance to visit Egypt and of course Cairo, he explained that he stood by the Sphinx and he heard a multitude of sounds and he was bombarded with ideas. This song opens with a chord pulsing infinitum as percussion and drums effected by the sound of a small amp of some sort starting thin in tone which is gradually expanded. Strings join in as does an electric guitar a rather different take on the Egyptian theme that Steve first tried with the excellent “Valley Of The Kings” on the album Genesis Revisited. Steve has made good use of the musicians around him, listen out for the Piano and tuned percussion, a flute closes this song.
Looking For Fantasy
Steve sings this song quite well, he manages some incredibly low notes vocally, he sets out the stall and at first you would think it was one character when in fact its many that he knew in the 60’s. Listen for the line “Who vaguely resembles a young Jimmy Page”
A rather gentle song – that is similar in vein to the song ‘Everyday’ – about people who maybe had too many drugs and saw things that where not real to us but were real to them?
The song also covers characters that sought the answers in life through crazy notions like a commune in California. It’s still rather gentle.
Another short acoustic guitar piece which opens the Summer’s Breath and Steve takes us on a journey. Birds and waves flutter as the guitar feels more Mediterranean in it’s scale and structure. Strumming away and plucking in flamenco the song suddenly becomes…
… has a similar feel in rhythm and pace to “Still Waters” but that’s where the similarities end. Is the song about Cats, or just women who have far more control over men than they should? Steve is joined by Chris Squire and Simon Phillips on this rather rocky song, listen out for Steve trying to get his guitar to sound like two cats copulating. Fun and lively. Steve’s voice sounds appropriately strained with a guitar that sounds like half a harmonica at times.
Turn This Island Earth
Steve is a big fan of “This Island Earth” a Sci-Fi movie from 1955. This song has taken a lot of inspiration from the movie along with other moods and feels from Sci Fi in general. It is an incredible song with Rock elements and then Orchestral elements. A strange chopping tremolo effect on the vocals and guitars early on in the track paves the way for the tale. A range of emotions and then a tiny piece of Green sleeves brings humanity to the proceedings.
Steve and Amanda provide vocals, and everyone who worked on the album appears to have been included, it’s a complete odyssey! It’s in the similar vein to Jeff Waynes “War Of The Worlds” but with Steve and Roger King going at this with a wholesalers of sounds and ideas. It reprises a coda from Prairie Angel and I think I hear other slight codas from the album featured.
The song completes the orbit of the Earth we have taken from the album already. The 11 minute epic is a fitting end.
Maybe we could start a conspiracy that the 11 minutes and 51 seconds of the song perfectly fits the last scene of “This Island Earth” and Steve composed it along to the film. Sorry, that may have just been ‘Echoes’ (Pink Floyd) and 2001: Space Odyssey. Then again, an album about journeying and being an odyssey in itself maybe that isn’t such a crazy theory.
From the mysterious album cover and title to the range of emotions and feels that are awaiting the listener inside the album, it would seem that the album price is more to do with the price of a ticket to join the Steve Hackett tour of the times and places he and his very well assembled team are going to take you, from the Shores of Loch Lomond to the Plains of America, through time to 1960’s London and then via Morroco and the Eastern side of Europe to the foot of the Sphinx and eventually to some far off planet in an yet undiscovered part of space with a final trip home.
Steve Hackett has released an album that is better than Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth, which was a valiant return from the wilderness, and now the two albums compliment each other. The seem to flow in a bigger tale. Out Of The Tunnel’s mouth is an escapist record, Beyond The Shrouded Horizon is about what happens after the escape.
It would seem with “Beyond The Shrouded Horizon” the listener is being treated to a merging of what could have been an Orchestral project that Steve was going to embark on mixed with a Rock and I use the term Rock loosely because Steve’s heavier albums are more than just Rock, project into an Alloy an Alloy album with the combining of two projects into one album.
If you liked any of Steve’s work ever then you will like this album. It is a more rounder album than “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth”. I have just ordered the Special Edition, so what’s stopping you?
Many thanks to:
Sharon Chevin at The Publicity Machine
Steve Hackett and all who appear in this album!
To order your copy please head over to the Official Steve Hackett website