Galahad - Year Zero

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Avalon Records
Catalog Number: GHCD8
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:05:00

As it's the start of a new year, I was wondering which album to kick off with, when I read an interview with Galahad's main songwriter Stu Nicholson in which he referred to their new album Year Zero as a concept loosely based on new beginnings, new dawns and reflection on the good times and the bad times which give you a sense of perspective. Given my current feelings about the year ahead and learning from the experiences of the previous year, this seemed an appropriate album to ring in a new year of reviews with.

Year Zero is Galahad's first release in a while, but the lay-off has resulted in the band delivering one of their most satisfying albums. While I've enjoyed each of their previous releases, it's always been on the basis of particular tracks that stood out rather than each album as a whole, but with Year Zero I'm happy to say that they guys have addressed this and come up with a collection of pieces that work best when played consecutively and in one go.

The one thing which particularly impressed me across the whole piece was the imaginative use of the keyboards, which I always felt were a bit workmanlike on previous albums. Here, however, they grab the listener from the opening notes and bring colour and diversity to whole composition. The deep bassy synth loop in the overture is very effective and I would hazard a guess that this makes for a great intro tape for the live shows. Likewise, the phased keyboard intro to "Democracy" brings drama and tension before the hesitant guitar chords usher in the main riff, but just when you think the song is heading in a prog-metal direction, the synths rise up through the mix and ease the song into territory more associated with Tangerine Dream.

That's not to say that the guitars are kept in the background though, as they make a solid contribution throughout the album, with some juicy riffs on the heavier tracks, while the more introspective pieces benefit from a lighter touch, with guitars and keyboards complementing each other and bringing balance to the overall mix. Some listeners might feel that the guitar work is a little pedestrian by today's standards, but I found the "less is more" approach a refreshing alternative to some of the more frantic stuff that I've been listening to lately.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Galahad album without Stu Nicholson's lyrics and singing, and Year Zero's success owes a lot to Stu in both regards. I liked the positive and optimistic slant to the lyrics, albeit with the occasional wry acknowledgement that our actions seldom match the lofty scale of our aspirations ? "We're whiter than white, most of the time anyway." The words and concepts of the album are both heartfelt and witty observations on our outlooks and perceptions, but they never come across as preachy or pompous. Similarly, the singing is never forced, with Stu sticking to a comfortable range, and choosing interesting phrasing which puts across his ideas without unnecessary complexity. "Hindsight 2 ? A Very Clever Guy Indeed" is a good example of this, and at times the combination of singing and mellotron reminded me of vintage Moody Blues. I also particularly liked the closing track with its use of a choir gradually fading into silence.

Clearly, a lot of thought and effort has gone into making this album, and it works very well as a single piece of music, with most of the individual tracks running around the 4 minute mark, keeping the album flowing along and preventing it from becoming stagnated. In fact, given the snatches you hear of each track, it makes you want to play the whole thing all over again when you get to the end. No doubt some listeners will feel that the playing and arrangements owe more to the traditional prog style rather than the sophistication of contemporary bands, but I always maintain that you can't beat good melodies, and sometimes you need a less cluttered approach to let songs like these breathe. And at the end of the day, however you choose to categorize Year Zero, it's still a very enjoyable album which stands up well no matter how many times you play it.

I. Year Zeroverture (4:45) / II. Belt Up (3:47) / III. Ever The Optimist (3:43) / IV. The Charlotte Suite (1:06) / V. Dementia (2:26) / VIII. A Deeper Understanding? (3:51) / IX. The Jazz Suite (1:42) / X. Take A Deep Breath And Hold On Tight (1:35) / XI i. Hindsight 1 ? Piano And Clarinet (2:14) / XI ii. Hindsight 2 - A Very Clever Guy Indeed (5:40) / XII. The September Suite (3:45) / XIII. World Watching (2:25) / XIV. Deceptive Vistas/Postscript ? Perspective (4:44)

Roy Keyworth - electric and acoustic guitars, bass (VI), noisy effects and ding dong
Stuart Nicholson - most of the main singing, lots of background singing, ethereal choiry stuff, all the words and a teeny weenie amount of keyboard mayhem
Spencer Luckman - drums and all manner of strange percussive interludes
Dean Baker - an old but perfectly formed Fender Rhodes piano, steam driven Mellotron, reasonably stable Mini Moog, Taurus bass pedals, assorted modern digital synthesizers and rack mounted trickery, sampling, programming, wedding and 'glamour' photography (e-mail for prices)??we jest not!!!
Neil Pepper - bass guitar and Lord Lucan impersonation

In A Moment of Complete Madness (1993)
Nothing Is Written (1991)
Other Crimes And Misdemeanours (1992, cass.)
Sleepers (1995)
Classic Rock Live (1996)
Other Crimes and Misdemeanours II (1995/1997)
Decade (Best of) (1997)
Following Ghosts (1998)
De-constructing Ghosts (1999)
Other Crimes and Misdemeanours III (2001)
Year Zero (2002)
Empires Never Last (2007)
Battle Scars (2012)
Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria (2012)

Resonance - Live In Poland (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: January 12th 2003
Reviewer: John Stout

Artist website:
Hits: 1936
Language: english


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