Galahad - Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria,
Whichever way you look at it, this has been an incredible twelve months for Galahad, with the release of this their second new studio album within that period, as well as a tenth anniversary reissue of ‘Year Zero’ and a double CD set of Whitchurch adventures from the Nineties. But on top of all of that is the loss of Neil Pepper, who passed away from cancer not long after the recording sessions for the album was completed. To say that everyone involved with the band has been on an emotional rollercoaster is something of an understatement, and yet they have kept it together and here is the latest part of the story.
Dean Baker has had a huge impact on the overall sound of the band since he joined, and nowhere is this more obvious than on the first number, “Salvation I – Overture”. It is totally keyboard driven, with elements coming in from dance as well as Jean Michel Jarre, yet when Neil and Spencer join it takes on a new life and when Roy starts riffing it becomes obvious that this was a beat driven rock number all along. If ever there was a song that hearkens back to ‘Deconstructing Ghosts’ then this is it. If anyone may be concerned that the band has decided to become Pet Shop Boys (and it has to be said that there are elements of that on “Salvation II – Judgement Day”) then don’t worry as in many ways this is the heaviest I have ever heard the band, although part of that heaviness is due I’m sure to the lack of guitars in places so when they come crunching back they really hit home. I’m sure that Karl Groom must have had a smile on his face as he turned the faders up and allowed Roy room to breathe. What makes this song (and in fact the album) is the interplay between the guys. They are so tight that you feel that they are a multi-headed progbeast. There are times when Neil and Roy are providing incredibly quick complex runs that one just can’t believe that this is two guys and not one – the note structures are immaculate.
Galahad have moved a long way musically over the years, but they still don’t forget their roots. Today’s prog test is what Genesis number is alluded to near the end of “Guardian Angel”? The song starts with a classic Roy riff, with Neil and Spencer driving it along until Dean takes control and moves it into another direction. Just near the end is the musical nod, which apparently was accidental on the part of Dean but Stu and Karl heard the sound and knew here was an opportunity to bring a smile to the face of progheads. It only lasts a few seconds, but you’ll know it when you hear it – not a steal at all, but a homage to one of the band’s musical influences.
I love this album, from start to finish – but something very special is the closing number. To celebrate their 25th anniversary Galahad decided to re-record a ‘classic’ for each album, so “Sleepers” appeared on ‘Battle Scars’ and here we have “Richeleiu’s Prayer”. What makes this special is that Mark Andrews makes a recorded appearance with Galahad for the first time since ‘Nothing Is Written’, and the first time with Neil in Galahad. Mark originally wrote the song, and was great friends with Neil and although they had played with each other in certain projects, they hadn’t recorded together in Galahad as Neil joined after Mark had left. Stu pointed out to me that they had never played together in Galahad, but actually he’s wrong as at Stu’s wedding reception it was the first (maybe not last?) time that Galahad performed with two keyboard players (Mark and Karl Garrett). There is some extremely delicate piano on this, and they have managed to move it to a new level while retaining some of the original feel from 20+ years ago. This is a song that I always associate with a gig at King Arthur’s Court (somewhere in another lifetime) where Stu passed out some party poppers to the usual suspects who he knew would be in the front row and asked us to all release at the same time when he sang “like a timebomb”. It has always been one of my favourite songs and Stu shows that all these years on he has lost none of his range and his power and note control if anything have improved.
So, to sum up. This is one of the finest prog albums that you will ever hear, no matter what name is on the cover, and is certainly Galahad’s finest work to date. The guys are all on top form, and Karl Groom has captured the very essence of the band and distinguished the instruments so that even when everything is blasting away there is still perfect clarity of what is taking place. I have been an advocate for the band for 20 years, and know that I am always going to be biased. But I dare anyone to play this and not honestly give it top marks. Album of the year? I should bloody well think so.