May 14, 2015 Steve Hackett – Wolflight (Album Review)
Steve Hackett is most well-known in the Rock scene as the guitar meister of Genesis during the English band’s intricate Progressive Rock phase in the 1970s. He was instrumental in shaping the splendid sonic structures of the early music of Genesis, specifically in six of the band’s albums—starting with the third, 1971’s Nursery Crymes, up to 1977’s Wind & Wuthering—a musical indulgence that complemented original vocalist Peter Gabriel’s equally adventurous lyricism and musical vision. Hackett’s proficiency and prolificness simply carried over onto his solo career, which began as early as his last two years with Genesis. He unleashed his first solo masterpiece, Voyage of the Acolyte, in 1975; and since leaving Genesis in 1977, he never stopped playing and making music on his own and in collaboration with other artists. To date, he has released more than twenty solo albums; collaborated with countless fellow proficient musicians that included Yes members Steve Howe, Geoff Downes, Bill Bruford, Chris Squire, Trevor Horn, and Rick Wakeman; and explored a variety of electric and acoustic-based music that revolved around Progressive Rock and Classical.
Remaining as creatively active as ever before, Hackett recently released the new concept Wolflight on March 30, 2015. It is his twenty-fourth solo album and it may be regarded as another self-offering of sorts; for, as always, Hackett bared his sonic soul and aesthetic spirit and put his heart, mind, hands, and voice into the whole album. Wolflight lives up to its visionary’s creative standards and stands at par with its debut predecessor as well as the last one, 2011’s Beyond the Shrouded Horizon.
Wolflight opens with the howling and hauntingly driving “Out of the Body,” which immediately showcases Hackett’s prowess and predilection for melodic and textured guitar orchestration. Following is the title track that has a breezy introduction of rustic and folksy guitar plucks, with somber lyrical verses that are separated by symphonic interludes and slowly lifted to the end by a buildup of heavy guitars and wailing vocal stylings. “Love Song to a Vampire” is definitely a Power Metal ballad interwoven with Satrianic echoes and Spanish midnights. Maybe regarded as Wolflight’s highlight, “The Wheel’s Turning” is a mélange of circus music, Cirque du Soleil–style, anthemic Glam Metal guitar adlibs, and catchy choruses oozing with Pop sensibilities. “Corycian Fire” is a seeming reprise of the title track in terms of arrangement. It also harks to the Classical Turkish musical influence that Hackett last explored in his 2009 album, Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth, in the song “Last Train to Istanbul,” in particular. The Classical nylon prelude “Earthshine,” on the other hand, shines back to “Lost Time in Córdoba,” from Hackett’s Spectral Mornings of 1979. “Loving Sea” is the near-end breather—a relatively short and simple acoustic guitar ballad that pays homage to ’70s Folk Rock. “Black Thunder,” however, is surely the album’s rocking blaze of glory—what with its introductory interlude that evokes images of the Appalachian Mountains and a hypnotic guitar adlib in the coda. Another progressively arranged instrumental, “Dust and Dreams” takes the listener on another journey; this time to the sultry yet sensual and strange allure of the Western deserts—and then it flows smoothly to Wolflight’s finale: “Heart Song,” a sweet surrender to love.
Overall, Hackett’s latest oeuvre is a smorgasbord of sonic styles sure to satisfy enthusiasts of classic Progressive Rock and Glam/Power Metal, making it a sure treat not only to both old and new fans but also to those who love Hackett’s guitar wizardry that inspired other guitar magicians like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Van Halen, and Yngwie Malmsteen. Wolflight is not only a solid collection of well-crafted songs and instrumentals; it is a concept masterpiece. “Let me find the way to love you…,” sings Hackett in the album’s swansong. Well, with his musical passion and mastery since the 1970s, Hackett no longer needs to find his way to love his fans. He has long given so much through the beauty of his music. For all these, CrypticRock gives Wolflight 5 out of 5 stars.