Galahad - Seas Of Change,
So, last year I went back to the UK for the first time in five years, and arranged to stay with Stu and his wonderful wife Lin for a night. It was something of a shock to discover that he had been admitted into hospital, which of course warranted a trip over to Poole, so instead of sitting in his living room imbibing on the odd Hobgoblin or three we instead made do with a coffee at his bedside (and I drank his Hobgoblin later that night). It was while we were visiting that he told me that Roy had left the band again, this time presumably for good. I can remember back when he told me that Roy had left previously, but after some time he had been coaxed back into the band he founded, but this was more permanent and they had already found a replacement. Knowing that Karl Groom (Threshold) had assisted on the last release, for a minute I wondered if it might be him but couldn’t work out how he could commit the time, but I think I was even more surprised when Stu told me that it was multi-instrumentalist and solo artist Lee Abraham. But, it did make sense as Lee had already been a full member of the band, as bassist, but what would this mean to the overall sound? Also, this was going to be the first electric release featuring Tim Ashton on bass, whose last “proper” album was ‘Nothing is Written’ before he left the band to travel to Japan.
Stu sent me some edits to whet my appetite (which are “bonus” songs on the CD), telling me that the new album was going to be a single song clocking in at more than 40 minutes. Over the years Galahad have moved from neo-prog to prog metal, have dallied with both acoustic and dance, even brought some trance into what they have been doing, so what was the new album going to sound like, bearing in mind that three of the five last recorded together in 1991?
Just one guest has been brought in, Sarah Quilter, who has played with the band on and off since the Galahad Acoustic Quintet album, again adding flute, clarinet and soprano sax. Her touches are delicate and richly enjoyed, but this is really about the five guys this time around, who sat down and ripped up the Galahad playbook and have produced something that no-one really expected, namely a back to the roots neo-prog album which is a concept, a view on the political shenanigans surrounding Brexit, and musically one of the most diverse they have ever released. This latter is in no small part to Lee, who is approaching the guitar parts with a fresh mind, playing acoustic or electric as the need arises, soloing when he needs to but often letting everyone else take centre stage and staying more in the background than some of their more metallic releases. Dean is enjoying himself by using a larger variety of sounds than previously, Tim sounds like he has never been away, while the use of Karl as a producer has yet again captured just how important Spencer is to the overall sound of the band, and just how much variety he offers in terms of technique. Then there is Stuart, who still hits the notes with ease, and sounds as if he is having an absolute blast.
How does this fit within their canon? Well, in many ways it is the logical album to follow ‘Sleepers’: it certainly doesn’t sound as if the band have been releasing music for the last 20 years, as if they had been able to produce the former without all the issues they suffered at the time, then this would have been a logical follow-up. Here we have a line-up of some guys who were there in the (relatively) early days, one who has been there before and has returned, and Dean who is by far the longest-serving keyboard player and who has seen the band through many musical changes. He provided the music and arrangements, Stu provided the lyrics and vocals, and all five of them have provided the most complete and wonderful album of their career to date.
That it is a masterpiece is not in doubt, that it will be viewed as album of the year by many is also a shoe-in, while the understanding that in many ways this is the most important release of their career should be taken as read. Let’s hope that they capitalise on the success this is already garnering, and gain the plaudits this so richly deserves.