Prophecy is the latest studio album by Solstice, a British progressive folk rock band formed in 1980. During the eighties Solstice were one of the leading bands of the British prog scene. They are still fronted by guitarist Andy Glass, but currently the other band members are Steve McDaniel (keyboards), Robin Phillips (bass), Pete Hemsley (drums), Jenny Newman (violin) and Emma Brown (vocals). The music of Solstice can be described as an iconic blend of soaring violin and guitar, weaving around delicate and passionate female vocals supported by a driving rhythmic complexity. This album also contains three bonus tracks, which are remixed versions by Solstice aficionado Steven Wilson.
Eyes Of Fire starts with a long intro with synthesizer waves and slow acoustic guitar chords. The music and the voice of Emma Brown remind me of the heavenly sounds of Iona and early Mostly Autumn. After six minutes a Camel-like melodic electric guitar solo comes out of my speakers; the ending with the piano is just outstanding. Jenny Newman's violin introduces Keepers Of The Truth, which is a happier song in the vein of the Dutch prog rockers of Flamborough Head. About halfway the folky music morphs into a rockier sound, which leads to interesting duels between the guitar and the keyboards. The final part pleasantly reminds me of the solo albums of Jon Anderson (Yes).
Next is Warriors, an epic piece with a playing time over seventeen minutes. It represents the heavier sound of Solstice. It's quite a change compared to the previous tracks especially during the first part. The middle section is slightly in the vein of Renaissance with an up-tempo beat and several changes of pace. I may not forget to mention the beautiful synthesizer solo by Steve McDaniel supplemented by the powerful guitar of Andy Glass. In the acoustic end the influence of Yes is clearly present. It segues into the next song West Wind, which once again contains the fine sound of the keyboards and the heavenly voice of Emma Brown. After four minutes it changes into a more guitar orientated rock song with Hammond organ and violin solos.
The excellent lyrics are prominently present; they fit perfectly to the atmospheric music. This can be heard in songs like And I Will Fly, On This Lonely Wind, Hold Me, And I Will Learn To Rise Again and I Am The Last Soul. In Black Water ominous and slow sounds dominate the beginning of the song, but after a while Newman's violin considerably increases the pace. Swinging piano sounds, a humming bass guitar, cool electric guitar riffs and as always Brown's high-pitched voice. During the last part of Prophecy you'll hear the dying notes of a slow playing piano.
The three bonus tracks Find Yourself, Return To Spring and Earthsong have all been remastered by Steven Wilson. These tracks prove the excellent work of Solstice in the eighties, when the band consisted of Andy Glass (guitar), Marc Elton (fiddle), Mark Hawkins (bass), Martin Wright (bass) and Sandy Leigh (vocals). These bonus tracks all sound greatly; they are an added value to this album. Solstice surprised me a lot with this new album. As far as I'm concerned Prophecy belongs to the finest CDs of 2013!
**** Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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