SECRETS OF ANGELS
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Karnataka released a rather momentous album in 2010, the stunning 'The Gathering Light' that garnered rave critical and fan plaudits, and after a rather long hiatus (5 years) that saw them slightly alter once again their line-up with the departure of the sassy lead singer Lisa Fury, drummer Ian Harris and keyboardist Gonzalo Carrera, they are back with a fine effort indeed. New lead vocalist (and quite ravishing lady) Hayley Griffiths, French drummer Jimmy Pallagrosi and Turkish keyboard master Cagri Tozluoglu add to the tradition of sensational voice, booming percussion and sweeping ivories, keeping the Ian Jones-led Karnataka ship in fine form. Guitarist Enrico Pinna is also back to provide some blistering leads and never disappoints. Again, they opt for another extended epic (as with the preceding album title track 'The Gathering Light', which clocked in at 14 minutes+), the whopping 20 minute opus 'Secrets of Angels' seeks to stamp the proceedings with unmistakable prog-rock credentials.Vivid pieces like the cinematographic opener 'Road to Cairo' set the mood from the get-go, introducing unpretentious, highly melodic nuggets that have all the elements to please, solid drums pushing and egging all the others forward, the melodies that infect you the very first time you perceive them, a bit like being smitten by love at first hearing, light yet resonatingly profound. From that moment on, each track seems to flow into the next, like riveting chapters in a racy romantic novel, further intoxicating the listener into a miraculous emotion- drenched fantasyland. After returning from Egypt, a delicate piano and orchestral drama on the emotionally heavier 'Because of You', slashed by a monster axe solo awaits the longing listener. A gorgeous love song. Contrast that with the slick 'Poison Ivy', a raging and tempestuous lullaby, led by a choked Griffiths vocal and diseased love lyrics. The swirling symphonics and choir elevate this to a palpitating level, tossing in a venomous verse, just to remind all of us that humans can veer from sweet to bitter in a nano-second. Both the insistent and persistent 'Forbidden Dreams' and its companion, the stormy 'Borderline' offer up instantaneous airs that do not meander in molasses-like slosh, quite the opposite really as the bombastic melodies, mammoth choruses and penetrating verses resonate with power and emphasis.
'Fairytale Lies' is a stunning little jewel, served by a classic melody, sung by a siren-like a voice that would make you feel 'reborn from the ashes' and underpinned by a Pinna solo (hihihi, as Kati would say!), a soulful Griffiths vocal that sears the skies. On a delicious track like 'Feels Like Home', the ingenuity of simplicity comes shining through, a soulful, honest internal reflection on the myriad little mosaic tiles that form our daily routine. The massive title track is deliberately kept at the end, a majestic and grandiose finale that leaves a huge impression of contentment. Brilliantly constructed with recurring Celtic themes (under the leadership of Troy Donockley) , seasoned with delicate pipes, whistles, harps and strings, and garnished with colossal orchestrations, titanic choral effects and opera-like vocals from Hayley , owner of a spectral voice that will raise the hair on your back. It's all there, folks, a heady mixture of expert playing, buzzing bass in tow, tectonic drum blasts, shimmering guitar phrasings and overpowering keyboard colorations that will leave one breathless and content. This is easily one of the finest epic pieces that one will enjoy in 2015.
As with the entire Karnataka catalog, this is not technical wizardry or complex multi-suited symphonies that many demanding progressive fans are constantly searching for but a delightful prog-folk that serves as a meticulous stargate into the prog world for the uninitiated. Accessible yet superbly orchestrated, the feminine style is ideal to woo the gentler sex, propelled by the sultry and passionate lead vocals and founded on compact melodies that will adhere to your soul forever. If you enjoy bands like Panic Room, Mostly Autumn, Harvest and a slew of similar female vocal fronted bands, Karnataka is definitely a pioneering band in this style. Team players they remain firmly, there is never a feeling of overt show-off tendencies that may be offensive, as every note is a slave to the spellbinding melody. Every song is a highlight, a lithesome pearl shining in the emerald waters of sound, gliding over well-beaten rocks like a vivid stream searching for some outlet to the faraway sea. Their best effort yet.
5 Clandestine cherubs
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