Music has always been a unifying force and that is pretty much the premise of Steve Hackett's new album, The Night Siren. After 2015's acclaimed Wolf Light, Steve returns with an album that has been recorded all over the world with musicians including Hungarian trumpet player Ferenc Kovacs, Nightwish's Troy Donockley, Arabic singer Mira Awad and Israeli Kobi Farhi. The variety of world musicians on the album is proof enough (if you ever doubted) that music is indeed a great breacher of defences.
The album was recorded in fits and starts and such a jigsaw could have easily become disjointed, but in Steve Hackett's capable hands the album becomes a masterpiece of modern progressive music. In terms of tone, it comes across very much like a concept album, with reoccurring musical motifs and themes. It's very symphonic in scale with vocals ghosting in and out of the album creating a sense of the ethereal.
Behind the Smoke is a powerful opening that is inspired by personal and universal themes of a 'ravaged world'. Drawing on his own ancestor's flight from the Pogroms of Eastern Europe the track broadens out to include the timeless travels of those fleeing and those seeking a new life. The undulating bassline and wide orchestral moments conjure up images of Bedouins in sand dunes walking towards the unknown and beginning their perilous journeys. Here the vocals are tempered with middle eastern intervals before clicking into a Kashmir inspired juggernaut of drums and guitar; it's heavy but hopeful.
On Martian At Sea, the sitar easily sits alongside western style pop rhythms and more unusual progressive textures. The track wouldn't be out of place on a George Harrison LP.
The seven-minute opus, Fifty Miles From the North Pole is inspired by a performance Steve's gave in Iceland – fifty miles from the Arctic Circle. The music creates the atmosphere of a vast landscape with a James Bond style score helping to enhance the thrills and dangerous beauty of the Arctic. A discordant saxophone (Rob Townsend) deliberately disorientates us on our journey. The conceptual overtones of the album continue as the string chords strike in El Niño. Like Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds, there