What is most striking on this latest release from Steve Hackett is how he continues to draw from his well documented back catalogue, both as a solo performer and through his time with Genesis, and still manage to keep his sound fresh and relevant by infusing his albums with a contrasting array of cultural influences. And by surrounding himself with his tried and trusted core group of musicians, he has managed to produce yet another cohesive body of work that follows in the footsteps in many ways from “Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth”. The CD release of the album is available as a limited edition bonus disc set which includes 9 further tracks.
From the dramatic opening of ‘Loch Lomond’ the album takes the listener on a voyage through many cultures, but at no point does the journey appear contrived. Hackett himself has described the album as a “travelogue”, “audio diary” and a “…sea of stories”, and in many ways these phrases evoke the essence of the recordings. ‘Waking to Life’ and ‘Two Faces of Cairo’ both summon up the imagery, history and mores of their subject matter, but do so with a subtlety that at times leads the listener to forget they are playing an album by a Western guitarist. ‘Prairie Angel’ and ‘Catwalk’ on the other hand have muscle and depth, and a solid harmonica and distorted guitar sound that provide exhilarating respite to the journey. Possibly one of the more inspirational and heartening pieces on the album. ‘A Place Called Freedom’, has some of the spirit of mid period Genesis that will be a joy for close followers of Hackett’s career. The final track on the conventional set, ‘Turn This Island Earth’ is a 12 minute mini-adventure which utilises orchestra, treated ethereal vocals and a storming riff to bring to a close “Beyond the Shrouded Horizon” in what, in the hands of others, could seem pompous or pretentious, but Hackett never pushes the boundaries too far, and has created a cinematic blockbuster to rival anything he has produced over the years.
To these ears, the singing voice of Steve Hackett has always been problematic, as at times his voice can lack the energy and sincerity to complement the level of musicianship and the textures within the songs. This criticism should not, however, be reductionist. What Steve Hackett has released in “Beyond the Shrouded Horizon” will please the faithful and indicates that despite being in the business of releasing thoughtful intelligent music for 40 years, modern technology and techniques may be embraced to create music that has an integrity that should be a credit to his legacy. Indeed, it could be bold enough to say that this may be the release that may well convert a generation of new listeners to Hackett’s music. As he, himself, declares:
“For all you restless souls out there, tighten your seatbelts, and join me at full throttle on a ride from the shores of Loch Lomond to the Rings of Saturn”.