Album Review: Steve Hackett - 'The Night Siren'.
An incredible twenty-five albums into his career, and Steve Hackett is back with what is quite simply, another stunning work. Following on from 2015’s excellent ‘Wolflight’, ‘The Night Siren’ finds the guitar legend returning in a similar style; both musically, and in many ways, thematically. Exploring what the former Genesis man calls a “pan-genre approach” ‘The Night Siren’ once again melds rock, pop, classical, and world music to create something that is uniquely Hackett.
Utilising his myriad guitar playing styles and techniques to a huge array of musical textures, and with a variety of collaborators, ‘The Night Siren’ conjures moods that range from melancholic to joyous, via such unlikely avenues as psychedelic pop, high-tension flamenco, and Celtic mist.
The nocturnal ‘Behind The Smoke’ kicks things off. Setting the scene for what’s to follow, this musical rollercoaster veers from understated eastern strings to driving, heavy riffage. Adding signature melodic soloing, it’s an epic opener.
It’s countered by the jaunty harmonious prog pop of ‘Martian Sea’, which follows. Improbably catchy, thanks to its layered vocal melodies, it’s Hackett’s alien-esque solo that add the touches that mark it as truly out of this world.
Conjuring the still of the night with its seductive guitars and pulsing bass lines meanwhile, ‘Fifty Miles From The North Pole’ changes the mood significantly. With his incredible nimble-fingered skills taking centre stage elsewhere, it’s easy to forget what a distinctive vocal Hackett possesses. On this understated track however, it shines, even against the choir which enhance sections of the song.
Despite traversing multitudinous musical soundscapes, it’s Hackett’s guitar playing that holds it all together. Rightfully taking centre stage across all eleven tracks, its moods range from the beautiful (‘The Gift’), to the abrasive (‘In Another Life’), while elsewhere his playing is lusciously melodious, and in the case of ‘El Nino’, rhythmically melodramatic.
Offering up another surprise, the contagious ‘Anything But Love’ shows yet another side to the virtuoso. The album’s most infectious moment, it fuses melodic pop with acoustic guitars and propulsive beats, and with more glorious harmony singing creates an earworm that is simply merciless.
Adding twists and turns via the use of English folk, the strains of Indian sitar, Middle Eastern tar and oud, Peruvian charango and the haunting Uilleann pipes, it’s anything but predictable.
Ultimately, there is a lot to digest, but it is none the less, a beautiful journey, and the album’s multiple layers mean that there is more to be discovered with each play. If 2015’s ‘Wolflight’ proved that Hackett is still at the top of his game despite his over four and a half decades in making music, then ‘The Night Siren’ only underlines this further. Sublime.
By Eamon O'Neill On 24th March 2017.
'The Night Siren' is available now, via Inside Out Music.