The English progressive rock band Galahad, founded in 1985, might be considered to be one of the well-established bands in the prog rock genre. At first I had hardly any interest in Galahad. I thought they didn't take themselves that seriously being a neo-prog rock band, but they have evolved into a gem. From the moment guitarist Karl Groom (Threshold) got interfered in the mixing and production process of their albums, the sound got a bit more guitar orientated with a slight metal edge. So I'm glad to notice that on Battle Scars, the latest Galahad album, Groom is credited as producer alongside the band. The album was recorded in Karl's Thin Ice Studio's. It's the last album on which bass player Neil Pepper (44) can be heard. He sadly passed away in September 2011 after losing his battle with cancer...
The title track opens the album with a neo-classical instrumental piece in the vein of the old Galahad. Then the song gradually gains power and segues into a more metal-like atmosphere. However, the vocals remain nice and melodic and sometimes Stuart Nicolson's vocals remind me a bit of those of Dutch band Casual Silence. Reach For The Sun is powerful too; it even comes near to the sound of progressive metal band Queensr˙che, purely due to the majestic guitar work of Roy Keyworth. With Singularity you can relax in your seat with fine atmospheric keyboard sounds. When the guitar and Nicholson's vocals join in the resemblance with their fellow neo-prog rockers of IQ is obvious, but the outcome is more relaxed and traditional. Bitter And Twisted starts out with some keyboard sounds that immediately reminded me of Rammstein, but as soon as the vocals join in, the song moves in another direction. Sylvan crossed my mind, but this song also contains the first attempts of incorporating modern music, upon which 'other' people like to dance. This danceable part in combination with the heavy guitars reveals a whole new area for Galahad. Suspended Animation is a prog song that takes you to the edges of hard rock or even alternative rock, with a few twists along the way to confuse your senses. These parts are really strong and are the icing on this progressive cake.
Beyond The Barbed Wire is a more airy piece with strong vocals, steady drums of Spencer Luckman, nice atmospheric keyboards by Dean Baker, but still heavy rock parts in the chorus. Seize The Day finishes the album perfectly with more stunning arrangements. It starts with a quiet U2 sounding part; then the keyboards almost turn the song into a kind of house party bringing the danceable parts back to the front. At first you might think that this is an odd combination, but for me it worked right from the first notes: an interesting combination for future releases. This is in fact what progressive rock is all about: merge whatever you like and make something new out of it without any restrictions. As a bonus we can enjoy a new version of Sleepers, one of the band's classic pieces. Sleepers 2012 is more powerful than the original 1995-version: fourteen minutes of impressive music with a nostalgic touch.
I'm very impressed by Battle Scars. Galahad have evolved from the beginning until now. For me personally they reached their height from the moment the guitars got a more prominent role and the arrangements slightly turned to metal. Now Galahad has written a new page in the big book of progressive music by carefully incorporating dance and bits of house music into some of their songs. I appreciate this new step since it sounds awesome. Despite the loss of one of the band members I think Galahad have set the standards a bit higher for other bands in the genre.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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