"Through a glass - darkly" - Metamorpheus, the new Steve Hackett album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

Steve's muse has taken him off exploring many different fields of musical endeavour over the years some of which have left his audience scratching their heads in amusement, bemusement or amazement depending on the project in question. What then, will they make of this latest opus?

A subject as broad and far reaching as life and death is a challenging one for any artist in any medium and the story of Orpheus is exactly that; an examination of the themes of life and death asking the eternal questions: why are we here? And why do we have to die? This album contemplates those questions and the Orpheus story itself in a broad canvas of musical vignettes. Opening suitably dramatically with the tolling of a bell in which we are introduced to Orpheus at The Pool Of Memory And The Pool Of Forgetfulness before another delightfully observed acoustic whimsy describing the love of Orpheus' parents in To Earth Like Rain, a purely romantic evocation of the spirit of love… a love song without words which in this case are not needed!

Song To Nature evokes the unifying spirit of Orpheus' music in another delightfully observed performance before the love of Orpheus' life : Eurydice is wonderfully evoked in One Real Flower in which the acoustic guitar shimmers with emotion and grace.

The Dancing Ground opens in an almost old style waltz pattern picked out by the orchestra with the strings evoking the gyrations of the muses in delightful form before the acoustic guitar gives a fleeting glimpse of the lovers in each others' arms in terpsichorean delight; a delight which is tinged with foreboding.

That Vast Life… a suitable title for a contemplation of life itself . This piece, the longest track on the album moves through so many ideas and emotions it is difficult to keep track of them all. Dramatic, emotional, contemplative all wonderfully executed by Steve and the orchestra a lifetime of thoughts, emotions; desires all in one - breathtaking!

Eurydice Taken is suitably dramatic and poignant before we hear Charon's Call, death has taken Eurydice and the plaintive call picked out on the violin evokes the pathos of mourning. Cereberus At Peace opens with echoes of Holst but with a whimsical twist on the violin and an undercurrent of drama and menace befitting the character of Cerberus.

Under The World - Orpheus Looks Back, has echoes of Overnight Sleeper in the marcato strings and the processional rhythm is reminiscent of Ravel's Bolero except that this is no "blague" or joke. Orpheus is in a deadly situation emphasised by the counterpoint of the horn section and strings.

Desolated by the loss of Eurydice, Orpheus loses his inspiration and his mourning is brilliantly captured by Steve's delicate acoustic playing bringing out the sense of loss echoed briefly in a theme from his previous orchestral work: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Severance echoes several of Steve's previous works in a dramatic description of wrath and rage a truly horrific and in places discordant performance … not pleasant listening but not meant to be either!

Elegy returns us to a more civilised and restrained atmosphere almost Elgarian in style and evocative of that style of music and performance. Return To The Realm Of Eternal Renewal continues our rehabilitation with a delightfully optimistic performance which brings us to Lyra the scintilating finale. A hymn of triumph over adversity; love over death and an inspiring ending to the album.

Steve set himself no easy task with this album. Contemplating the eternal verities even if through the extended metaphor of myth is no easy task. He brings no answers to the table, for there are none. The answers to the questions asked here are for each of us to find ourselves in our own lives. What you do have here, however, is an artist who is prepared to ask those questions and present those questions and observations in a musical way which will set the listener to thinking about them themselves. Can any work of art truly reflect life? I don't honestly know, but there is more of life in this album than can be easily described - bravo maestro!

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