Surrender of Silence. Even the title sounds a little angry. All Steve Hackett albums offer something, some take a time to settle in, this one is no different. The Obliterati is definitely angry, and whilst my personal leaning is toward the classical stylings and pure notes, this angry opener hits the right buttons. If you have seen Steve live, the capability of turning out a metallic track will come as no surprise, anger apparent, but so is the skill with which he executes the track; tapping, shredding, nothing missed out and no control lost. It is, however, a track that I think requires repeated listens before you become familiar with it. The bass line is initially so low as to make your teeth ache. The tempo and/or temperature grows before segueing into Natalia.
Prokofiev meets Tchaikovsky with some vintage Hackett thrown in. This could be a real crowd pleaser if achievable live, it has made me smile every time, a story and lyrics that rhyme in the sublime. Russia meets the home counties without any involvement of Novichok. Natalia is the current single from the album, following on from Fox’s Tango.
The sharks are suitably chilled until the feeding frenzy kicks in; though more a demonstration of our artist’s guitar prowess, there are subtle passages here. Relaxation Music for Sharks (including Feeding Frenzy) is a piece of fun, the sounds of bubbles pervade before some tight drumming and frenzied guitar work. It seems like a gym workout as strings are tapped and bent to the musicians will. A gentle fade and it is gone. The rhythm is one often heard on a Hackett album, more of a familiar friend than a repetition.
Wingbeats is a counterbalance from the African continent, a darkness dispels and everything soars, with a rhythmic tribal beat. Steve’s vocals have strengthened over the years as I guess his confidence in his voice has grown. The lyrics reflect on memories I think, backed by a warm and pleasing African choir. It is an album of global inputs, none displeasing.
The Devil’s Cathedral; a slice of the Gothic with a hint of ‘Hammer House of Horror’. Tunes are big and cinematic, the open and ending church organ top and tail the track with a heavy atmosphere. Centrally, the lyrics relate a tale of dark doings, key changes and slow passages all adding an air of mystery.
Held in the Shadows is a brilliant piece of rock that would grace any a good metal band’s repertoire, some great riffs and again stunning guitars, and it ends far too soon. Whitesnake and Deep Purple seem to be influences here and at odds with expectations.
Shanghai to Samarkand sees us journey with our host further east, oriental instruments mix with western, blending in a kaleidoscope of sounds. Sung words flow with the tune like a river narrating the journey. At times it is like an oriental Kashmir, but the blend goes beyond the orient, Indian rhythms featuring as well. Guitar ranges across the geography, from Spain to Katmandu. It is complex and pleasing.
Fox’s Tango was the first single release from the album, an indication of the guitar being heavier than previously. There’s lots of solo guitar work, with solid rhythm laying the stage for it to hold the spotlight. This was the first track I heard and saw; Steve has readily used YouTube to promote this album, with videos and chats to camera about what he feels the songs are about.
Day of the Dead is not what I was expecting; my assumption was for something more Mexican. I am pleased that it isn’t. It’s not the strongest piece on the album, but that said, you don’t want to skip it either. I suspect this is what leads an album from good to great, that pieces grow on you over time and the pleasant becomes integral. I think this may be one of those tracks.
Scorched Earth, and the guitar steps back as an elegant piano leads us into the song, the guitar returning with a solo at the bridge. After the heavier elements of this album, the eloquence and elegance of the track is very welcome.
The short and beautiful Esperanza brings the album to a close. Though I always enjoy a Steve Hackett album, this one sits at the stronger end of the spectrum. It has warmth and familiarity, but also a bit of steel. Fans are strange beasts, they will call out for some resemblance to what they have heard before, then decry an album for bringing nothing new to the table. I think Mr Hackett has done much to please both camps here, new but respectful of his past albums.
It is a worthy addition to a vast canon of work, and a good reason to part with a few groats to bring it to your collection. Nice cover and, like the last couple, I always see the outline of a face and guitarist in the cloudscape. But that might just be me. I’m looking forward to seeing Steve perform in Plymouth in October, shame no meet and greet, but hey, other times. The final question I have is the title, Surrender of Silence? Is it anger at a world that fails to stand up to the wrongs that are visited upon people? Just curious.
It is a Steve Hackett album, it does what it says on the tin, but personally I think this one is great.
01. The Obliterati (2:17)
02. Natalia (6:17)
03. Relaxation Music For Sharks (featuring Feeding Frenzy) (4:36)
04. Wingbeats (5:20)
05. The Devil’s Cathedral (6:31)
06. Held In The Shadows (6:20)
07. Shanghai To Samarkand (8:27)
08. Fox’s Tango (4:21)
09. Day Of The Dead (6:25)
10. Scorched Earth (6:03)
11. Esperanza (1:04)
Total Time – 57:41
Steve Hackett – Guitar, Vocals
Roger King – Keyboards, Programming, Orchestral Arrangements
Rob Townsend – Saxophone, Clarinet
Jonas Reingold – Bass
Nad Sylvan – Vocals
Craig Blundell – Drums
Phil Ehart – Drums
Nick D’Virgilio – Drums
Amanda Lehmann – Vocals
Durga McBroom – Vocals
Lorelei McBroom – Vocals
Christine Townsend – Violin, Viola
Malik Mansurov – Tar
Sodirkhon Ubaidulloev – Dutar
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 10th September 2021