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Monday, 18 May 2015

Karnataka - Secrets of Angels Review

Review – Karnataka – Secrets of Angels

KARNATAKA – Secrets of Angels

Let’s face it, change is inevitable. Evolution is about gradual change, we must evolve to grow. This is beginning to become something of a moot point when I discuss music and, especially, progressive music.

If something doesn’t progress it will become stagnant, lifeless and listless yet when you talk to some music fans abut progressive rock all they can talk about are the halcyon days of the 1970’s and the likes ofYes, King Crimson, Van Der Graaaf Generator and Genesis to name a few. How then is that progressing, moving forward and delivering something new?

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow, if we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

It has been said by minds more sage than mine that progressive music is dying. It isn’t growing and, therefore, not living.

It seems that the artists and musicians who are thriving in the current music scene are the ones who can re-invent themselves, like a Phoenix from the flames, and be reborn as something different and, potentially, something better.

This metamorphosis into something new will often come about because the current iteration of that particular band has run its course and come to a close with some members wanting a change and thinking they have nothing more to offer. What emerges from the musical chrysalis is, hopefully, new and exciting and, maybe, superior to what preceded it.

“Things end because something else is ready to begin’.

The eclectic British band Karnataka have been through more than one re-birth and re-invention in their time, formed in 1997 they have, up to now, released four studio albums and 2 live albums.

Over the years, the band have undergone many line up changes and now consists of five core members, Hayley Griffiths (lead vocals),Enrico Pinna (guitars), ‎Çağrı Tozluoğlu(keyboards), JimmyPallagrosi (drums) and original founding member Ian Jones (bass).

Could this new, stable line-up finally point to the re-birth of this long standing and popular group and would their new release ‘Secrets of Angels’ prove to be the Phoenix from the flames that many were hoping for?

Recorded at the legendary Real World Studios and featuring guest musicians Troy Donockley (uilleann pipes and low whistles), Seána Davey (harp), Rachel van der Tang (cello), Clive Howard (viola) andLynn Cook (violin), the initial rumblings were that the new album would have a heavier and more symphonic feel than their earlier, Celtic inspired, sound.

After quite a lot of listens (well into double figures in fact) I feel I can now deliver my definitive opinion on the new album so let’s get started……

“Mystery unfolds, Road to Cairo Calls..”

The album opener Road to Cairokicks in with a fantastic violin introduction before Enrico’s first heavy riff kicks in and almost knocks you sideways. A heavier sound? You betcha! Hayley’s vocal sings out the strident verse and things have well and truly begun. Instantly connecting with me, this track is superb from the incredibly catchy chorus through the dynamic keyboards and the pulsating, driving rhythm section. The orchestral arrangement by ‎Çağrı is an absolute delight and gives the track its mysterious eastern promise and the simplistic yet eloquent solo is superb. What a start!

“And it’s all because of, You turned your back on tomorrow..”

I’ve heard comparisons to Within Temptation levelled at this release and on Because of You there is a slight similarity with its definitively symphonic sound. The delicate piano introduction gives way to another thunderous riff from Enrico Pinna and that orchestral note drives it on. Hayley’s cultured vocal pares things back a bit until the forceful and charismatic chorus, complete with some superb backing vocals, really grabs your attention. The song has an overlying powerful emotion to its core, especially on the coruscating and potent guitar solo, yet still feels intimate and heartfelt and you find yourself committing to the music, even at this early stage.

“The blood in my veins runs cold, strangled by no self control..”

That powerful symphonic note driven along by the strings is at the heart of Poison Ivy. Another song with a heavier and more direct feel to it. The vocals have real dominating energy to them and invest the song with a real heart and soul. There is a warped feel of a Wagner opera to the song with its high energy backing vocals as it gallops along at a breakneck pace. The shortest track on the album, it leaves you feeling like you’ve been hit by a benevolent hurricane as it comes to a close.

“Nothing’s ever as it seems, release me from these forbidden dreams..”

Çağrı’s solemn piano and Hayley’s delicate vocal introduce Forbidden Dreamslike an Arthurian tale before the forceful guitar of Enrico urges the song into more demonstrative territory. Often the unsung heroes, Ian and Jimmy may be in the background but their compelling and assertive rhythm is the heartbeat of what this album is all about. Another ebullient and addictive chorus sticks in your mind as this determined track rushes on to the the tune of the orchestra and that aggressive guitar.

“You crossed the borderline, the secrets and the lies..”

An ominous, dark introduction, full of foreboding introduces Borderline, perhaps the heaviest track on the album. Strident strings, a forceful guitar riff and a thundering bass and drum lines give the track a life of its own. Hayely gives her best impression of a rock goddess and you a in pure late 80’s Heart territory as this anthemic track powers towards the horizon. The chorus hooks you into its slipstream as it spurs this energising song along. There is a cultivated pause for you to get your breath back before Enrico delivers another polarising solo and the fleet of foot run to catch this intriguing musical train.

“Searching for one wish, unlocked by your kiss..”

It’s time to mention the ‘B’ word. The piano and orchestral introduction allied with the heartfelt and sorrowful vocals would seem to indicate that Fairytale Lies is going to be a rock ballad and you would not be wrong. Full of powerful sentiment and affection it really pulls at your heartstrings. The velvet vocals and lush strings wash over you and you can’t help but be caught up in the strong feeling of sentiment and ardor. Enrico delivers a solo dripping with sorrow and ardor and you feel emotionally drained as the song comes to a touching close.

“Gonna love like I’ve never loved before, feels like I’ve come home for sure, baby you’re the reason..”

The gentle and ethereal plucking of a harp introduces the most mainstream, yet uplifting, track on the album. Feels Like Home has a touch of 80’s ballad style refreshed for a modern audience. It skips across your synapses and infuses you with such a feeling of love and joy that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Unashamedly commercial in its outlook, it is so full of a joi de vivre that you can forgive it almost anything. The inspirational chorus lifts your soul and Enrico gives his most passionate solo yet, a song of absolute wonder.

“The ghost of you, my heart denied. Your sacrifice, now broken lives. Still searching for a reason why, your shadow haunts my darkened sky, Secrets of Angels..”

Now to what could become known as the band’s Magnum Opus. The seven part, twenty minute epic title track Secrets of Angels. The song begins with a throwback to the band’s Celtic music roots with the Uilleann pipes sending a shiver down your spine and the harp adding its sophisticated accompaniment. Hayley’s voice joins in an ululating fashion and takes up the narrative. Like a storyteller from days of yore her honeyed vocals yearn for days of innocence. The tension builds with the percussive arrival of JimmyPallagrosi and in no time at all the powerful edge of this epic saga is released. Exhilarating, stirring and inspirational, this is where every member of the band gets to show their individual skills yet they all join together to deliver a seminal musical experience. The song pulsates through its many sections, powerful and exalted symphonic rock blend seamlessly with the profound and sincere, a magical musical tapestry delivered to your senses. Highlights of the first half are the instrumental parts (iii) Last Dawn and (iv) The Battlefield along with the exquisite vocal part (v) Requiem for Lifebut the way the whole track blends seamlessly into one edifying whole is a thing of genius. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and the song has always been leading up to the final part (vii) Secrets of Angels where everything concludes and culminates with such brilliance that you feel it has been touched by a higher power. Enrico finishes with the most polished and commanding guitar work I have ever heard him deliver and Hayley powers out her final words with such depth of feeling. When the song finally comes to a close I just sit in silence mentally applauding what I have just heard and experienced.

Karnataka have been reborn as a heavier more focused band with touches of symphonic rock, touches of progressive rock and a total belief in what they are doing. Yes, it probably is more commercial and mainstream than what has gone before but that is no way a bad thing. ‘Secrets of Angels’ is a masterpiece and a triumph and something that the band should be extremely proud of, long may it continue.

Rating – A must buy, this belongs in your collection.

Release date – 6th March 2015


Secrets of Angels
CD - £9.99

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