(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Genesis are my all-time favourite group and their particular style of progressive rock has strong links with classical music. Last year I reviewed a CD of classical music composed by Genesis keyboard man, Tony Banks, his first complete classical album. Ex-Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett, on the other hand, has a bit more of an obvious classical pedigree having released several acoustic/classical CDs during his career and having also appeared as the featured soloist with the London Chamber Orchestra. Steve's most famous and successful classical project came out in 1997, A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was generally well-received and spent several weeks in the UK classical charts. It's clear that Metamorpheus is the natural successor to A Midsummer Night's Dream and Steve has picked up his nylon strung guitar and gathered together his own Underworld Orchestra, including his brother John on flute (see elsewhere for a review of John's own rock solo album).
Steve is without doubt my favourite guitarist, in part because he seems equally at home and gifted with both electric rock and classical nylon strung guitar. Here he plays only the latter but, when he plays with such passion and skill, who cares that he's not rocking out.
But the quality of the guitar playing really goes without saying; a more important consideration here is the quality of the composition. Well, I'm no classical expert so I can only express how much the music moves me, to what extent it keeps me interested throughout, and how well the album seems to develop and flow. And my overall opinion is that this is a lush, moving and atmospheric album, with a great deal of thematic, musical and emotional variety to it.
The album is nearly an hour in length and perhaps at times struggles to hold my attention, particularly as there is a certain amount of repetition in some of the musical ideas, both within the album and also from some of Hackett's previous compositions. However, the repetition of musical ideas and themes is something common to both classical music and progressive rock, so its use here is at least justified, and indeed often works extremely well. It's also impressive that, given the album's length, it does hold my attention for as long as it does and this is as true after repeated listens as it was after my first hearing. And despite some degree of repetition, I am impressed generally with the way the album develops and tells its story (the tragic Greek myth of Orpheus), conveying a wide array of powerful emotions (from the extremely uplifting to intense melancholia) in the process.
As I wrote before, I'm no classical music expert but even I can hear the influence of composers such as Elgar, Ravel, Holst, and soundtrack composer Maurice Jarre. Of course, this is in no way progressive rock, in fact it's not rock at all, but if you like the music of 1970s Genesis and Steve's solo material then it's easy to hear the progression from the classically-tinged acoustic moments of both artists' rock albums to this full-on orchestral material.
This album is unlikely to please those of you who have to hear a least one electric guitar solo per album or those of you who wouldn't touch anything classical with even the longest of barge poles, but anyone who appreciates fantastic guitar work and isn't averse to some fine orchestral composition and performance will find much to admire and entice here.
Best tracks: There are 15 tracks and each one plays an integral, though distinct, part in the overall sound of the album, with many of the tracks flowing together very naturally. Therefore, I feel that singling out four or five tracks is neither necessary nor appropriate in this case.