Studio albums from British proggers Galahad are by no means a regular occurrence; their last LP, Empires Never Last, was released five years ago. However 2012 – the band’s 27th year – suddenly sees a flurry of activity. Battle Scars is the first of two studio recordings, with Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria slated for an autumn release. Galahad epitomise the progressive band that matures and improves steadily with age. In their early days they were arguably just too derivative of the British neo-prog scene to truly stand out. However, the five-piece have become an increasingly intriguing proposition over the last decade, perhaps benefitting in part from an increasingly settled line-up.
Indeed Battle Scars sees only one change from Empires, with Neil Pepper replacing Lee Abraham on bass. Like its predecessor, Battle Scars was co-produced and recorded by Threshold guitarist Karl Groom, to whom credit is undeniably due for the album’s grit. Indeed the heavily orchestrated title track, which opens the album, and Reach For The Sun in particular rock with an intensity that would do credit to many a younger, fresher band.
While their name may conjure up preconceptions of a band stuck in the progressive days of yore, nothing could be further from the crystal clear audio reality of Galahad in 2012. There’s nothing remotely dated about Battle Scars, which marries driving rhythms (Pepper and drummer Spencer Luckman) and Threshold-style razor sharp guitars (Roy Keyworth) with influences from the worlds of ambient and techno (supplied by keyboardist Dean Baker). And while vocalist Stuart Nicholson – the band’s only ever-present member since their foundation – may not be the progressive scene’s most gifted singer technically, he possesses a commanding voice and fine turn of phrase.
Lyrically tracks like Battle Scars and Bitter And Twisted may not exude the most positive outlook on life; by contrast Seize The Day is particularly poignant. Indeed the sad postscript to the album is that Pepper lost his fight with cancer prior to its release, aged just 44. Aside from this being an excellent album in its own right, Battle Scars also serves as a fine musical memorial to him.
Remarkably, Galahad have spent their entire career toiling as a cottage industry band on their own record label. If ever there was a progressive band deserving reappraisal and an opportunity to step into the spotlight, it’s them. Whether 2012 will be their year remains to be seen, but given the quality of Battle Scars it certainly won’t be for want of a decent product.