REVIEW: STEVE HACKETT – “At The Edge Of Light”
For a younger generation of prog/metal enthusiasts, learning about the genre’s original principles is essential to understanding the innovations that were introduced, from technical efficiency through adapting sounds and instruments from different cultural traditions to creating sonic universes that push sound barriers effortlessly. Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett has been doing all of the above throughout his long career and continues to aim high now in his late 60’s.
The ex Genesis axeman has crafted at times some exotic solo albums that capture the spirit of his travels through America, Mexico, India, Jordan, Australia and Peru to name a few destinations. In the last few years his records have reflected his yearning to connect to places of spiritual significance such as The Grand Canyon, Chichen Itza, the Ajanta Caves, Petra, Uluru and Machu Pichu. Hackett’s soon to be unveiled 26th L.P ‘At The Edge Of light’ is no exception; it is world music that truly unites cultures from around the globe. The title and the lightning bolt on the cover art reflect a seismic shift that needs to take place if humanity wishes to avoid its darkest times and pending doom.
When you listen to the album’s opening track “Fallen Walls and Pedestals” you are immediately transported to the Middle East on board some of Hackett’s soaring guitar phrases. The most enchanting composition on the album is without a doubt “Shadow and Flame” a tribute to Hindustani classical music. Other stand out tracks are “Under The Eye of the Sun” a classic Genesis sounding song that would have worked well in their heyday and “Underground Railroad” that takes on a new sonic direction for the guitarist, celebrating Americana music, harmonica, dobro and all; the song is based on the story of African American women Harriet Tubman who helped slaves escape through a series of safe houses known as the underground railroad in America’s pre civil war era.
Hackett’s view on the state of current affairs is also expressed on “Beasts of our Time” a chilling ballad accompanied by saxophone and orchestra that plays on the words of prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s unwise statement (Peace For Our Time) just before the start of the Second World War. The song is also a reflection on the rise of far right politics in the west and a reminder for all citizens who care for their fellow humans to reject the misguided philosophy of nationalism and closed borders.
The last three songs “Descent”, “Conflict” and “Peace” bind up the ideas that Hackett is evoking thematically. Descent plays on the sound of an intense march towards war reminiscent of Ravel’s “Bolero” but much, much darker, “Conflict” takes the listener to the most thrilling moment of a spy thriller soundtrack and “Peace” is the buoyant resolution that concludes the premise of the album in a very British sounding style.
The only disappointing tracks on the album are “Hungry Years” a song that sounds out of place and might be just a filler and “These Golden Wings” a long, slightly self indulgent composition that is heavily orchestrated and despite some superb playing ultimately doesn’t really satisfy.
Like Hackett’s former band mate Peter Gabriel, he’s taken on music that allows him to experiment with ethnic sounds and instruments and merge them successfully with his electric guitar playing. There are certainly some intriguing ideas and compositions that live up to his pedigree but ‘At the Edge of Light’ seems to borrow a lot of the same musical and lyrical themes to his most recent releases. If you’re eager to add this album to your collection when it drops on January 25th it might also be worth giving ‘Wolflight’ and ‘The Night Siren’ a listen if you haven’t already.