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Haze - The Last Battle CD (album) cover





3.70 | 36 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars "Is that it? Is that all you get? Well, what more did you expect?"

The Last Battle is the first new Haze studio album in 25 years. They have finally created an album where the production values match the quality of their material and musicianship. This is clearly the band's greatest studio achievement. Haze still consists here of its three core members in Chris and Paul McMahon and Paul Chisnell who have been at it more of less consistently since the band's humble beginnings in the 1970's. But in recent years the line-up has been notably enhanced by the inclusion of Ceri and Catrin Ashton who play a plethora of instruments including flutes and fiddles. This addition have truly added a whole new dimension to the already effective sound of the band. During their 35 year career, Haze has been becoming better and better and better.

The album opens on a high note with the superb title track. This track is partly representative of the album as a whole with its very successful blend of Folk Rock, Prog Rock, and Hard Rock. Personally, I am very fond of this style. A live version of this song appeared on the band's recent live concert DVD In That Branch Of The Lake, but this new studio version is clearly the definitive one. It has been delightfully embellished with mandolin and fiddle. Over The River, For Real, Dragon Fly, The Barrister And The Bargast, Train, and The Edge Of Heaven could all previously be heard in live format on the excellent 30th Anniversary Shows live album. Train was originally a song by Treebeard (an acoustic Folk Rock band featuring all three core members of Haze) and The Edge Of Heaven was originally featured on the first album by World Turtle (the alternative moniker that the two McMahon brothers assumed in the 90's). But the oldest song here is The Red Room, written back in the 1980's and performed live at the time (a live recording is featured on the band's 10th Anniversary Show live album; now available on CD). Here it appears in studio form for the first time. There are some differences between the various versions of these songs, but it is hard to say which versions are the definitive ones. Whether you will prefer these studio versions probably depends on how you like live albums in general.

I especially like how the piano is used on Over The River (a superb song reminding slightly of classic Genesis), how synthesiser is used on Dragon Fly and several others, and The Red Room is driven by the great Hammond organ. The somewhat Jethro Tull-like The Barrister And The Bargast is another standout. The two lovely instrumentals on the album Silent Water and Balder And The Mistletoe are pure (progressive) Folk Rock and add to the appealing variety of the album. The latter tune is a traditional piece, apparently from Greenland. While there are certainly no weak tracks here, there are a couple of less than essential ones. Drummer Paul Chisnell (who made his final statement with this album before he went into retirement) takes the lead on Gray To Blue. Chisnell is the Ringo Star of Haze and this Beatles-esque Pop Rock song is different from the rest of the album. It is tasteful but clearly one of the least interesting parts of the album. Classic Rock Bar is pretty much what its title implies, though it has some very good folky parts. On Long, Long Gone the band goes heavy to reasonable effect.

Overall, I am prepared to give The Last Battle the top rating. It is not, however, all you need from this criminally overlooked band. But it is an excellent addition to many a Prog fan's collection and an essential companion to the live 30th Anniversary Shows that contains great versions of most of the band's best songs from throughout their long career.

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |


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