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Steve Hackett - Metamorpheus CD (album) cover


Steve Hackett


Eclectic Prog

3.59 | 179 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars As suggested by the title, this particular Hackett offering (one of his classical guitar albums, featuring contributions from a chamber orchestra) is a musical interpretation of the Orpheus myth from classical mythology. I won't go into extensive detail about the story in this review; if you're not familiar with the basic story (there are some variations on it in different contexts, but the core story is pretty standard), you should take the time to become familiar with it. Suffice it to say that the story is a classic, featuring love, loss, near recovery, loss again (after an epic failure to follow instructions as given), and eventually a disembodied singing head. The Greeks were awesome.

The first half of the album is nice, with some lovely themes (some of which get reprised later in the album, most notably the main theme in "To Earth Like Rain"), but because it covers the part of Orpheus' life before he experienced pain and sadness, it's a little monotonous in its cheeriness (and it doesn't even cover his time spent with the Argonauts). The only real moment of tension is in "The Dancing Ground," which breaks up a cheery minuet with a disturbing premonition of Eurydice's; otherwise, it's all happy happy happy, culminating in the upbeat but still overlong 12:27 of "That Vast Life." At least this track moves through several ideas, but it never shifts in tone, and thus it becomes more background-ish than I'd prefer for something with its length.

Naturally, the story gets darker once Eurydice dies and Orpheus descends into the underworld to try and get her back, but I like that the music goes beyond formula in depicting these passages. Look, if you're going to make a musical depiction of the Orpheus myth, the quality of your presentation will ultimately rest on how you handle two parts: the attempted ascent from the underworld with Eurydice, and Orpheus' eventual horrible death at the hands of the Maenads. Given this, Steve's decision to write "Under the World - Orpheus Looks Back" as a clear homage to "Mars" strikes me as nothing elss than brilliant. The inecessant rhythm gives a maddening tension to the track, and the ascent portion, first moving in darkness, then briefly moving into triumphant cheer, then briefly moving into doubt, then clearly showing the moment where Orpheus screws up, gives a perfect depiction of the story. And "Severance," well, that's just fun dramatic darkness, hinting at but not fully playing up his horrible death; it might not be great by the standards of classical, but it's just fine by the standards of a rock guy writing a small amount of classical.

The album then works through the happy ending of the story: Orpheus is buried, Orpheus' spirit is reunited with Eurydice, Orpheus' head keeps on singing, and his lyre becomes a constellation (with reprises of happy themes from earlier). Overall, then, it's not an amazing experience, but it's definitely one I like more than his 80s classical guitar albums (as of this writing I haven't heard the other classically-oriented albums he'd done in between those). Steve definitely shows himself as much more adept at writing for a classical ensemble than most rock musicians would be, and the presence of a coherent (and classic) story ends up providing a beneficial framework. Plus, a lot of the music here could have been reworked for use on one his "conventional" albums without a lot of fuss. If you're into later-period Hackett, this is a worthy purchase.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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