Receiving a new Galahad album is like being a parent to a newborn child, each one a joy to behold and lately, the band has been as timely as any pregnancy, birthing successfully every 9 months, or so it seems. My fascination for this band is kind of unique as I bought both the incredible ‘Sleepers’ and the bucolic ‘Not All There’ at the same time in 1995, and have not missed a single studio, live or DVD release ever since! Faithful fan I am! I am starting to wonder what more great vintages may come from the Avalon vineyards, as the recent Galahad output has been off the charts. In fact, it’s not just the amazing music but the chosen themes have become extremely personal as well, as the preceding The Last Great Adventurer could also have been an homage to my father who had passed away in 2013 and whom I miss intensely each day.  In 2001, my beloved mother went to the heavens, shepherded by the worst guide ever, some evil villain called Alzheimer!  So, when my much-adored stepmom passed due to Covid last year, I sort of got my crimson-waxed diploma attesting to my expertise in grieving over the past 20 years. When “the Long Goodbye” appeared so rapidly behind last year’s masterpiece, I was quite emotional, as my farewells have certainly been prolonged, its as if I had some subliminal connection with this band, perhaps even accessing my mind. Throw in some thoughts on duplicity, misunderstanding, paranoia, and megalomania. Both albums contain five tracks and two bonus tracks, so, it is clearly strategically thought out.

Before diving into this opus, a quick word about Stuart Nicholson, a wonderful vocalist whose dedication to both this band and its fan base is to be commended. Owner of a terrific voice, and well schooled in the drama of theater and stage, he surely must be anointed among the truly master vocalists of the prog era, along such luminaries as Gabriel, Nichols, Fish, and company. He can hush, bellow, groove, and wail with noticeable facility, and does so convincingly. The remaining crew has been around quite awhile now, so we have a well-oiled, turbo-charged band whose sound has become even crisper, as well as infusing those trademark keyboards that span not only the prog universe but also the electronic spectrum, thus offering a freshly futuristic sheen to the material they comfortably dish out.

This phenomenal style is put to the test once again on the blazing “Behind a Veil of A Smile”, an anthemic surge of Dean Baker’s synthesized frenzy, ringing guitar shavings from Lee Abraham, Mark Spencer’s bruising bass bottom and solid (and I mean real solid) percussive propulsion courtesy of Spencer Luckman’s drum kit. The lyrical theme may be interpreted as an essay on hypocrisy, which is a vehicle for that new modern fad of lying without any hint of remorse.

Swerving synths seem to dance with the rampaging bass on “Everything’s Changed”, emphasizing a twist on that eminent French adage “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”, where ‘actions mean consequences’ (well that’s a novel thought today!) and how dreams can easily be shattered. Dedicated to those who constantly desire even faster internet service. Confusion will be my epitaph, as the orchestral finale clearly suggests.

Why are you following me? “Shadow in the Corner” deals with paranoid reactions, as Stu hushes ‘coincidences, circumstances, random or pre-ordained, who really knows’? The burping bass guitar knows! And Lee’s spiralling out of balance lead guitar solo recognizes it as well, over his shoulder, he still cannot see, only sense. A dark, brooding number that certainly evokes gloom and perhaps even doom.

A complete diversion into a handclapping by the campfire, gypsy/folk intro that winks back at “Empires Never Last”, before dive bombing into a furious rant that would make Derek Dick blush with envy, as Stu brings out his Shakespearean theatrics to the front of the stage ‘Why so many lies?” as the athletic band stops on endless shifting dimes, only to pirouette into absurdum and dizziness, a rant fuelled by bickering guitars, blaming bass, shouting synths and flaming drum gymnastics that will make all those self-righteous jaws drop to the floor. Angry older lads are a hearing to behold!

The title track is the epic and the core of the album, and perhaps one of the finest tracks ever forged by the band, on par with the previous album’s title track, thus completing the parental duo theme. Peter Gabriel’s finest lyric was one of his simplest “I don’t remember, I don’t recall, I got no memory of anything at all” and it is the quintessential thought going into this jewel of song, one that courageously deals with old age dementia, and the ugly Alzheimer scourge previously evoked. Reading the painful lyrics while embracing Stuart’s passionate delivery brought me to tears, something normal for those who have lived and seen the destruction it causes. The music is respectfully grandiose, full of skin-deep emotion, the theme elevated to surreal heights with that incredible guitar, violin patch, piano, an orchestral and rhythmic mid-section evoking raw splendour, eternally rising to the skies with massive goodbye choirs that should make anyone gulp with admiration. Stunning piece of art.

Incredibly ominous and perhaps even forecasting the current chaos, “Darker Days” is not a pretty ride by any stretch, as the world has halved into an either/or universe with no more third options seemingly. On one side, we are led to believe that we are a blessed society, loaded up with endless shopping and online gambling, while the other side is perhaps even bleaker and more evil than ever before, offering merciless fanaticism that shows little mercy, even flashing it online as if some video game. The arrangement is urgent, an endless canyon of resolute surrender as we all lie on the brink and the playing is suitably chaotic, portraying a sense of self- inflicted isolation to perfection. Buzzing guitars shred, droning synths cry, a sad piano prays, and yet Stuart tries to destroy this killing negativity, surely a hopeless fight., Stuart commends a final hurrah: “Out in the distance, I see a little light, its just a pale pin spot but it’s burning so bright”.   Forever the optimist. Time to whip out Roy Buchanan’s “The Messiah Will Come Again” and what for the ETs to show up and put some order into this miasma. A candle in the wind, may it flicker forever.

Piano and voice linger on “Open Water”, as gentle orchestra and acoustic guitar float gently towards dry land, is it ‘the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning’? as Winston once claimed. The track’s overt simplicity is immensely impactful, a serenely gorgeous song, nothing more, nothing less. And a perfect goodbye.

5 eternal au revoirs