Although 2015’s When Worlds Collide 30th anniversary retrospective had the enticing USP of being a selection of Galahad songs from across the band’s career especially re-worked and re-recorded, these hardy Brit prog perennials haven’t released an entirely “new” album since 2012’s Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria. Quiet Storms isn’t that brand new album. Instead, a somewhat reduced band – founder member and long-serving guitarist Roy Keyworth departed earlier this year – applies itself to old Galahad songs, plus a couple of covers and new tunes, but re-recorded as primarily acoustic versions designed to show “a more mellow and at times pastoral side to the band’s output”
The majority of the album features stripped back, almost stark, renditions with Stu Nicholson’s voice backed by the piano, and occasionally other keyboards, of Dean Baker. Other contributors add smatterings of sonic diversity here and there – Threshold’s Karl Groom adds acoustic guitar flourishes, Magenta’s Christina Booth duets with Nicholson on a touching rendition of Termination and a wildly different yet unexpectedly effective stab at Rammstein’s Mein Herz Brennt is given aching violin from Louise Curtis.
This acoustic approach shines new light on familiar tunes in other ways. Guardian Angel originally featured a hard-driven odd-time workout intro and synthtastic extended middle section in its Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria guise, but here it breathes and flows with tenderness and beauty. Easier Said Than Done uses layered synth string orchestrations, and Sarah Bolter on clarinet, to frame a surprisingly Beatles-esque ballad.
While the lack of extraneous instrumentation removes the edge from This Life Could Be My Last, (from 2007’s Empires Never Last) the space allows Nicholson to stretch out vocally, evoking a bit of George Michael and 90s boy band ballads, and Don’t Lose Control, from 1991’s Nothing Is Written album benefits here from a delivery far more Elton John-like than the original.
At 15 tracks, interested parties are getting generous quantities of Galahad for their buck. Of course, the game of musical compare and contrast is entertainingly diverting only if you’re familiar with the source material, which perhaps limits the potential audience. Nicholson has indicated that the next studio album Seas Of Change will be released later this year, so fan patience will be rewarded. Quiet Storms isn’t as fulfilling as some may desire, yet is more than a cursory stop-gap – it gently subverts expectations, creating a less bombastic, alternative parallel universe Galahad in the process.