This newly packaged reissue of Satellite from Esoteric Recordings is a superb little set, it contains brand new cover artwork and comes with two discs, the CD contains the original Satellite album, whereas the second disc is a DVD containing a new Satellite promotional video and the Little Satellite EP tracks that were previously only available on a limited release from the band directly. If you missed out on these tracks originally, this reissue is a great way to pick them up, the only shame is that they are not additionally available on the CD as well as the DVD.
Following on from 2008’s Visionary Position, Satellite established Panic Room as one of the leading bands in the new wave of British Progressive Rock. The album was recorded “live in the studio” and differentiated itself from its predecessor by being more commercially-orientated and radio friendly. One could argue that its sound is more in league with Pop music than Prog, especially with songs like Sunshine, however, unlike a large majority of modern day Pop music where lyrics and subject matter tends to heavily rely on relationships and love far too often, Panic Room do not find themselves as lyrically limited.
A great example of this would be Picking Up Knives. It remains a very ambiguous and interesting track written by Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards which when first listened to ostensibly tells of the death of a young boy. With numerous narrating voices provided by an intrusive and omnipresent narrator, Picking Up Knives may leave you feeling uncomfortably conflicted when trying to establish what it is trying to say. By having numerous character perspectives present, Edwards and Helder are able to provide lyrics that mingle thoughts of fear, pride, love, violence, foreboding, excitement, expectation, pain, loss and grief; this is arguably an ironic and perhaps deliberate representation of the emotions that a single person may experience when faced with losing a loved one. The most discomforting lyric throughout the track has to be the apparent intrigue with “young blood” lining the streets, “A crimson tide among the grey” – this speaker, possibly the narrator, seems to be sarcastically implying that violent, bloody death is exciting to other people in a typically dull and boringly “grey” part of town – which is highly discomforting. However, with the final two verses spoken in the first person, Edwards and Helder provide confirmation of the omnipresent narrator, who like the mother has been “watching” everyone else from a window. This could naturally steer the track away from being a song about the death of the young boy and could be seen that it is and always has been about the narrator dealing with the racing thoughts of grief. This idea can again appear cemented by the realisation of death in the final verse:
“And I’ll never understand
Never see him as a man
There was beauty in his eyes
And I’ll never say ‘goodbye’.”
Such is the power and ambiguity of the lyrics in Picking Up Knives that each person who listens to the track has the opportunity of making up their own mind regarding the identity of the narrator and the nature of the events.
For those that do not yet own this album but enjoy Classic and Hard Rock as well as Prog, Satellite definitely deserves your attention this time around. The tracks that will likely grab you upon the first listen will almost certainly be the playful and addictive I Am A Cat, the grand choruses and heavy riffs of Dark Star and the title track itself. Freedom to Breathe is another high-quality rocker, it clearly demonstrates why Anne-Marie Helder was voted Best Female Vocalist in the 2010 Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine Reader’s Poll; her vocals still sound gracefully crisp and refreshing on this track which serves as a great opener to the album. Freedom to Breathe seemingly deals with problems of being famous, and little touches like the sounds of snapping cameras after lyrics “Another camera in my face” and the unforgettable purring at the end of the fun and highly entertaining I Am A Cat provoke the senses, generating memorable mental images which gives power and longevity to the tracks.
If it’s a chugging guitar sound or a heavy riff you are after, track five; Black Noise could be your thing, it would not be so out of place on a latter day Dio album such as Master Of The Moon; bold statement, yes, but turn this one up loud and try to resist nodding your head whilst imagining Ronnie James Dio singing. Yasuni is another intriguing song, not only musically but lyrically. The lyrics express concern for the future survival of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador which sits on top of large oil reserves; a slow yet catchy song with a real warning and haunting lyrics, “Stealing the life from where we belong.”
The most striking track on the album remains the title track that closes it out; Satellite is so incredibly addictive due to its harmonious melodies and soaring choruses (not to mention Paul Davies’ guitar) that if you find yourself not humming along to it shortly after listening to it you should probably visit the doctor; Blue Öyster Cult might know his number. A last but not least mention must go to Into The Fire, it has some excellent guitar and bass work as well as powerful lyrics with vocals that really have a great hook which will have you going back to this album again and again.
Overall, Satellite remains a stunningly good album which is home to superb music and definitely deserves room on your CD shelf. In all honesty, the album is worth buying for the title track alone, the addition of the DVD is also a really good reason to pick this re-issue up.
01. Freedom To Breathe (5:33)
02. Picking Up Knives (5:10)
03. I Am A Cat (4:37)
04. The Fall (6:16)
05. Black Noise (3:59)
06. Yasuni (5:14)
07. Sunshine (6:02)
08. Into The Fire (5:00)
09. Dark Star (5:11)
10. Muse (3:43)
11. Satellite (8:05)
Total Time 58:56
DVD: Little Satellite
01. 5th Amendment [Audio Only] (4:17)
02. The Great Divide [Audio Only] (5:30)
03. Go [Audio Only] (4:07)
04. Sandstorms [Audio Only) (10:08)
05. Satellite – Promotional Video (8:10)
Total Time 32:12
Anne-Marie Helder – Lead/Backing Vocals, Electric/Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards & Piano
Paul Davies – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Alun Vaughan – Bass Guitars
Jonathan Edwards – Keyboards, Piano & Fender Rhodes
Gavin Griffiths – Drums
Record Label: Esoteric Antenna/Esoteric Recordings
Year Of Release: 2014
Original Release: 2010