Karnataka -
Requiem For A Dream

(CD 2023, 79:47, Immrama Records)

The tracks:
  1- All Around The World(11:30)
  2- Sacrifice(6:30)
  3- Look To The East(6:45)
  4- Forgiven(11:49)
  5- The Night's Dance(5:29)
  6- Say Goodbye Tomorrow(6:01)
  7- Don't Forget My Name(6:30)
  8- Requiem For A Dream(25:13)

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Requiem For A Dream is the latest studio album from Karnataka. Formed in Wales in 1997, here is a band that roams on the more melodic and accessible end of the progressive rock spectrum. They have been a favourite of mine ever since a late friend introduced me to them many years ago - The Gathering Light (2010, see review) being one of my top ten albums of all time. So it's fair to say I have rather high expectations whenever they release new music. The album's artwork perfectly captures the fragile nature of time and the lyrical themes within, whether that be with issues effecting us all world-wide (the impact global warming is having on our planet) or more personal issues (such as the limited time we have with our loved ones) it's all powerful stuff. Karnataka have gone through various line-up changes over the years, but for this album they consist of the only original member Ian Jones on bass, acoustic guitars, keyboards and bass pedals. The album was recorded along with the latest addition of Sertari on lead vocals. Special guests are Luke Machin on guitars,
Chris Allan on drums, Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes and low whistles and
Gonzalo Carrera on additional keyboards. Now with an almost completely different line-up to that of all their other albums and sometime having passed since their last release, was this one worth the wait?

Kick-starting the album is All Around The World. Coming in at over eleven minutes in length and featuring a soundbite of Greta Thunburg (a Swedish environmental activist known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation). It's a statement of intent from the band. They have something to say and they say it loud. It has all of the key ingredients. The keyboards are luscious, the bass and drums are silky smooth, the guitar solo is eyebrow scorching and the vocals are just simply gorgeous. It's an anthem! Oh, the chorus is also super catchy. What's not to love? An absolutely brilliant opening track. Up next is Sacrifice, which just hooks you right in with the sweetness of its melody. It's just one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days - "We have loved, we have cried, we have lived through all our time, to sacrifice". The Eastern seasoning of rocker, Look To The East is one of the more energetic numbers on offer and really sets pulse levels to rock-a-tronic. The rhythm section grooves hard on this one and the trade off between keyboard and guitar is a slice of genius. A live favourite of mine. You might think such a drastic line-up change would potentially damage a band's momentum, but not in this case. Three songs in and any doubt is cast aside - the creative juices have certainly been flowing. Ian and Sertari have really taken Karnataka's music to the most interesting and lofty of heights. A highlight of the album for me is Forgiven. It's big, bold and dramatic. Blockbuster music deserving of sold-out stadiums. The cinematic flare of the music combined with Satari's wonderful vocals, simply commands the hairs on your arm to raise to the sky. "Sanctus dominus et spiritus requiem". The Night's Dance is the only single they have released so far, but what a wonderful introduction to Sertari's voice. It's the shortest and most straight to the point song on the album, but still packs one hell of an emotional punch. It's a beautiful piece of music and with lyrics such as "She takes my hand, holding tight, guiding me through my fading light, I close my eyes as she whispers my name, like an echo in time", how can one resist? There's even a gorgeously gothic video (click to view) to accompany it, so be sure to give that a watch. Say Goodbye Tomorrow would make for another great single. It's a more up tempo number than that of the latter, so having both as tasters for the uninitiated would surely make for a wonderful showcase of the band's songwriting and diversity. It's a joy to blast at maximum volume. Tearjerker, Don't Forget My Name is jam packed with emotion, the guitar solo standing out as a real goosebump inducing moment. Luke's playing throughout is a real highlight for me, plus those vocal harmony lines from Setari at the end are irresistible! We're now nicely set up for the title track, Requiem For A Dream, which closes the show in unbelievably epic fashion...my goodness! The multiple sections means that various ideas can blossom, covering many emotions over its twenty-five minute play time - the longest the band have ever released. They're firing on all cylinders here with Ian's bass playing really standing out. The addition of Troy Donockley is always a highlight for me and is the cherry on top of this mammoth piece of musical pudding, adding some very welcome Celtic colour with his pipes and whistles. It's extremely difficult to choose a favourite song, as I love them all so much, but this one might just steal the top spot.

This album is pure, shimmering, musical indulgence and I can't get enough of it. It's has everything I would want from the band and yes, it was well worth the wait. It's stuffed with rich layers of melody and more musical talent on one album than should be humanly possible. The attention to detail is staggering, which helps to keep things fresh with repeated listening. I just love how they've managed to combine the best elements of both the The Gathering Light and Secrets Of Angels (2015, see review) albums on this release. There's the romance of gothic rock combined with the long-form structure of progressive rock, woven together with a pop sensibility and it all works together beautifully. I really can't wait to see where they go next. Karnataka don't do bland albums and this one might just be their best yet. I can't recommend this highly enough.

***** Rickalonius Monk

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