Steve Hackett – Wolflight (2015)

Share this:

The sweeping success of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited II project clearly had a direct impact on his first solo album in four years — and the result live up to those lofty aspirations.

First, Wolflight had to be recorded in the moments in between shows, and that seems to have dilated Hackett’s fertile imagination. The album represents some of the best developed, most intricately conveyed work of his lengthy solo career. Second, he has returned to more Genesis-like lengths of time (the deeply involving title track, “Love Song To A Vampire”) to let those narratives unfold. Re-engaging with songs from that classic 1971-77 era in such a deep and profound way seems to have convinced Steve Hackett once more than he has a license to similar kinds of long-form thoughts.

Lastly, and this may be the most interesting part of all on Wolflight, that lengthy period of introspection and remembrance sparked some very real leaps forward in the way Steve Hackett constructs musical settings. He’s using orchestrations here (“Wolflight,” “Corycian Fire,” “Black Thunder”) as if he’d only just discovered them. They move well outside of the expected atmospherics with arrangements that often take center stage, unfolding with a musculature and power typically reserved for the rock bands standing in front of those wailing strings. The use of soaring polyphonic vocals adds striking new textures, as well.

That combines to gird what may be Steve Hackett’s most fully realized album yet, and certainly — after the solo-career re-capitulation that was 2011’s Beyond the Shrouded Horizon — one of his bravest. Combined with Genesis Revisited II, Hackett emerges from a reminiscent period reach to charge forward to the far horizons of his own restless muse.

He boldly explores a variety of world- and ancient-music elements, from the tar (an age-old lute-like instrument) on “Wolflight” and the duduk on “Corycian Fire,” to the turbulent rhythms of “Dust And Dreams.” At the same time, Wolflight — and this is what brings you back to its amazing complexities, time and again — never edges off into the academic. There’s a fizzy sense of joy (“The Wheel’s Turning,” “Heart Song”) that was missing amidst the devastating sadness that surrounded the heartbreaking 2009’s Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth, and a series of audacious moves scarcely hinted at over Steve Hackett’s last two studio efforts.

While a theme on the struggle toward freedom seems to run throughout, Steve Hackett’s Wolflight also takes time to celebrate that freedom. That, too, mirrors his time with — and now without — the Genesis Revisited project and the lengthy tour that followed. This is the sound of an artist who’s taken a loving look back, only to realize he still has room to grow.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close