Not quite the seven year gap between albums this time - just the five... as I noted on my last review for KARNATAKA. Though in their defence the group had all moved on (as they had done previously!) but this time the phoenix has risen faster - perhaps they have learnt from the experience...
This is a good album; a very good one if the previous one were not taken into account, which was (imho) a far superior album, this one is too 'samey' and hasn't really progressed, as a result a sense of d'j' vu pervades.
Ian Jones and Enrico Pinna have managed to maintain the status quo and the shrewd addition of Hayley Griffiths cements this, as she has a very similar style to her predecessor, Lisa Fury. We even have the uilleann pipes making a return.
Whilst this all might sound overly negative, I do feel that after THE GATHERING LIGHT this group would struggle to surpass this epic. And I stand by this; but any group having gone through the transition that KARNATAKA has been through would inevitably struggle, but here they have done something that is close to being miraculous - the sound, the direction and the feel is identical - in fact was it really a lapse of five years?
I just hope this reincarnation remains stable and can make the natural progression to their next release...
However, like the predecessor, I will play this a number of times and hopefully it will grow on me.
Karnataka has been around for more than a while. As with other bands orbiting around the Celtic folk-influenced mellow prog aesthetic, this band has been doing their work at a steady pace - releasing very pleasant, if not very pretentious albums once in 3-4 years, getting the response of their small but quite loyal fan base...
... until now, I hope. I have to admit, Secrets Of Angels is a smash. Being familiar with Karnataka's music yet still having other favourites in this scene, I expected an atmospheric, mellow album with discreet folksy nuances - what we get here is much, much more than that. Of course, we still get most of Karnataka trademarks, like excellent vocals and a nice atmosphere, but boy, what an energy!
Ever since Road To Cairo kicks in, songs bombard us either with sheer energy, or in their calmer moments, with very beautiful vocal melodies that catch your breath anyway. Music is all very colourful, never succumbing to the snooze factor which hangs upon many such releases. Besides the opener, Poison Ivy, Forbidden Dreams and Fairytale Lies seem the brilliant highlights of this very strong selection of songs. They all utilise the same weaponry of killer melodies, but when things work so well, there's no need to change.
And at last, we have the title epic - this in all honesty, is one of the best new music pieces I've heard in recent years. Here's everything Karnataka is about - Celtic intro, haunting harp sequences, achingly beautiful, versatile singing melodies, brilliant performance... And it all is connected by elaborate composition skill that goes from mood to mood, dynamic to dynamic.
To put it short, this is an exceptional, near-perfect release from Karnataka. Very accessible (could even be used as toe-dipper into prog for Celtic music crowd), but very refined, flowing with creativity. 4,5 stars from me, rounded up to 5 and I think we have a very strong contender for the-best-album-of-the-year throne.
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