Another slice of Prog, via the world 

A couple of years ago on the astonishing “Wolflight” Steve Hackett plotted the course to a more world music element to his sound.

Now, on “The Night Siren” he’s back at it, only this time it’s more pronounced, with all kinds of different strands and layers here.

Hackett has called this record deliberately multi-cultural, saying: “Right now, it seems the world has been plunged into darkness. Wherever you look, extremism and intolerance are dominant, and people are getting fed up with politicians. They are losing faith in the way they behave. But within the midst of all this, what I am saying is that embracing a multi-cultural approach gives us all a way of moving forward in the right way.”

Laudable sentiments and one’s we would hope that everyone reading this would agree with, but whatever the motives you can only really judge a record by one criteria and that is the most obvious: is it any good? Believe us. It’s incredible.

Continuing the rich vein of form he has found – whether it be with the brilliant Genesis Revisited stuff or his own studio work – there is barely an I not dotted and a T not crossed here. It took him over a year to complete and if that sounds like a labour of love then it comes through loud and clear throughout.

“Behind The Smoke” acts as a kind of overture, and in case you forgot just what a wonderful guitarist Hackett is, he proves it, together with some wonderful classical orchestration.

“Martian Sea” is as different you can possibly get. To listen to it is to be transported into the world of late 1960s and psychedelia, while there is an initial laid back funkiness about “Fifty Miles From The North Pole”, which dissipates into something altogether different. Genuinely heavy guitar lines and some  uilleann pipes from Nightwish’s Troy Donockley together with haunting backing vocals make this a real highlight amongst many.

Not for nothing does Hackett say there were no rules here, “El Nino” is tribal and primal, “The Other Side Of The Wall” is a gorgeous light and airy affair, “Anything But Love” is another that shines above the rest with its Jimmy Paige-esque guitar work at the start and “Inca Terra” is suitably influenced by South America, as well as seeing the welcome presence of Nad Sylvan (who sings in Hackett’s Genesis live shows).

And that’s before this collection takes another turn that you just weren’t expecting. “In Another Life” bringing with it a real folk element, and if the track that follows “In The Skeleton Gallery” is perhaps the most conventional Prog cut on offer and is perhaps the type of work you’d most expect from Hackett then it is no less thrilling.

“West To East” is a big, lush ballad and sums up – perhaps the vibe of the whole record and the disparate musicians he has collaborated with on “….Siren”. Just some of them are Icelandic drummer/percussionist Gunnlaugur Briem, Israeli vocalist Kobi Farhi (from Orphaned Land), Arabic singer Mira Azerbaijan plus the Hungarian trumpet player Ferenc Kovacs. This sense of inclusion is evident at every point on “The Night Siren”.

The record ends with its most simple tune. “The Gift” – a short and oh so sweet instrumental track that gives things the glorious end they deserved.

“The Night Siren” is an album that you will enjoy straight away, but need time to digest and appreciate fully. It is also proof that Steve Hackett is one of our finest talents – and that he’s even better when he follows the rule of no rules.

Rating 9/10

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