The British progressive rock band Haze were formed in 1978 and broke up ten years later. During that period of time the band released their albums on their own label Gabadon Records. In 1984 Haze released the first full-length offering called C'est La Vie. After that they toured, releasing several tapes including The Ember, Cellar Replay and the live one Warts N' All. In 1987, their second LP called Stoat & Bottle appeared and after the split Kinesis Disks released the compilation album In The End: 1978-1988 in 1993, while the album World Turtle/Haze came out in 1994. In 1996, Cyclops Records released the compilation CD C'est La Vie/The Ember, followed by Cellar Replayed in 2000 and Stoat & Bottle in 2008. Haze reformed occasionally to do some anniversary concerts of which the latest was captured on the live CD 30th Anniversary Shows (2008). As far as I know neither new nor old material has been released ever since, until lately.
Out of the blue Haze recently recorded a brand new album. The Last Battle is the first studio album in 26 years! On this album the band consist of core members Paul McMahon (vocals, electric, acoustic and classical guitars, bass, mandolin), Chris McMahon (bass, keyboards, twelve-string acoustic guitar, bouzouki, vocals) and Paul Chisnell (drums, vocals). They are accompanied by Ceri Ashton (whistle, flute, clarinet, viola, cello) and Catrin Ashton (fiddle, flute). Cat and Ceri Ashton are members of The Outlandish Knights in which the core members of Haze also participate.
While listening to The Last Battle I realized that the band's sound hasn't changed that much. However, thanks to the modern recording facilities they managed to get a much better sound than 26 years ago. In those days they were able to compose strong progressive rock tunes, but they couldn't record them properly. The album contains a fine blend of folk, prog, space and hard rock. The folk rock elements are mainly due to the two new band members that certainly work very well in the band's musical concept. Throughout the album you can also hear traces of bands that must have influenced them like early King Crimson, Hawkwind, Genesis, Rush, Jethro Tull and early Marillion. These bands more than once crossed my mind, but Haze are no copy cats because they include enough elements of their own style in the compositions.
A number of songs were already written several years ago. A song like Train was originally recorded by Treebeard, an acoustic folk rock band featuring all three core members of Haze, and The Edge Of Heaven was originally released on the debut album by World Turtle, the alternative moniker that the two McMahon brothers assumed in the nineties. The oldest song is The Red Room, written back in the eighties and performed live at the time of the band's tenth anniversary show. Balder And The Mistletoe is a traditional piece of music very well arranged by the band. Well, in fact it doesn't really matter how old these songs are as long as they contain good music that can be enjoyed by our readers. That's really the case here, because I enjoyed these old songs as much as the remainder of The Last Battle.
After listening to the album more than once I can only say: welcome back Haze and don't release the next studio album in 2039! I won't wait another 26 years to listen to new songs of a fantastic band like Haze. Highly recommended to the people who enjoy the music made by all the above-mentioned bands!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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