Steve Hackett - The Night Siren

Steve Hackett The Night Siren cover
Steve Hackett
The Night Siren
InsideOut Music
Steve Hackett has obviously been a proponent of the early Genesis albums, but he’s also been a prolific solo artist since his exit from their ranks with numerous solo album… while I had listened to some and could appreciate that the man is an exceptional player, it wasn’t until recently that I was exposed to the largest body of his solo work, which left me mesmerized, truly.
True to his almost biyearly release schedule “The Night Siren” comes on the heels of 2015’s “Wolflight”, which was surprisingly strong, mature and focused, not that Steve’s chops or credential or credentials as a composer were ever placed in question, but it was even more so, bordering on almost too commercial, for an album that would be branded under prog rock.
A characterization which really is a bit of a pigeon hole that Hackett completely defies by not giving much of a damn about how he should build his songs, or what genre they fall under, he just make some sweet music that could probably receive a thousand different labels, if anyone would care to apply them.
“The Night Siren” as an album is incredibly atmospheric, but not in exactly the same way as its predecessor… which is a good thing. It’s awfully diverse, but doesn’t sound disjointed, as a result, which is testament to its creators gusto and ability, which allow him to create an alloy of sounds that sounds both very interesting bur also challenging and had kept him going for years on end without showing any signs of fatigue.
“Behind the Smoke” is a grand symphonic master piece that looms and glooms, considering the plight that refugees have faced through the ages… it builds for a few minutes has a slight folk interlude and then reprises before Steve launches into a fantabulous solo as you would expect anything else from the man.
“Martian Sea” is weird, trippy and poppy, which takes you a bit by surprise I suppose as it follows up a much “heavier” and “darker” piece and by some point well into its third minute, turns into world music with Sitar.
“Fifty Miles from the North Pole” manages to display many different sides, from its cool Floydesque intro, to its more theatrical middle that mixes heavy guitars, with children’s choirs, while progressing towards very experimental forms just after its middle with weird violin, saxes and percussion in an uneasy balance, that’s easily restored once the guitar takes the reigns for another inspired solo that lasts until the outro of the song.
“El Nino” is an instrumental that sounds inspired from Mediterranean folk (quite probably) with strings antagonizing, Steve’s blistering soloing in this highly rhythmical piece.
“Other Side of the Wall” is a highly symbolic piece about natural and mental divides… not pink floyed related, but very sentimental soft and atmospheric.
“Anything but Love” is a song that sounds a bit like a tune sting could never write, but “that” poppy… pretty cool with its main acoustic riff and cool sax overtones…
“Inca Terra” sounds a bit like a new age Andean jam more feel than actual substance unless the guitar drops…
“In Another Life” reminded me a more rocking and condensed version of “Wolflight” – not all that epic, but more to the point, but still pretty good nonetheless. It should be noted that on this album no songs veer into nine or ten minutes or beyond… making it a more direct listening experience.
“In the Skeleton Gallery” has sporadic vocals and jazzy jams spewn all over, in a composition that is both memorable without even having to try too hard.
“West to East” is typical Hackett, if such a thing exists, with symphonic, polyphonic tendencies, and a smooth and drifting sound that makes it a very welcome addition…
Finally, “The Gift” works like an outro, a short but rather smooth, emotional piece that concludes the album beautifully.
Once again Steve has a plead of guests to enhance his sound and give it a world flavor, ranging from a duo of singers Kobi and Mira (Israeli and Palestinian), American Nick D’Virgilio (drums, formerly of The Spock’s Beard), Malik Mansurov (Tar) from Azerbaijan & Gulli Breim (drums & percussion) from Iceland, along with regular Hackett collaborators like Roger King, Nad Sylvan, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend and Amanda Lehmann. Additional musicians who add to the rich flavour of the album are Christine Townsend (violin & viola), Dick Driver (double bass) and Troy Donockley (Celtic Uilleann), who is a current member of Nightwish.
The “Night Siren” is another successful chapter in the eclectic guitarist’s long and storied career, displaying both mastery over the instrument as well as eclecticism in the themes and great gusto in the composition department. Truly Hackett is a bit of an “inter”-national treasure and his music should reach the ears of anyone who considers themselves tasteful fans of rock, it deserves much more appreciation than it currently receives lumped over with all “prog rock” when it’s that and so much more.