It feels like the ex-Genesis guitarist has been working up to this fine collection for the last few albums.

Label: Inside Out
Time: 10 Tracks / 58 minutes

It feels like the ex-Genesis guitarist has been working up to this collection for the last few albums.  Again, it expresses his interest in peace between nations and incorporates a diverse range of ethnic instrumentation.

The title reflects where Hackett feels the political situation lies, commenting, “In these dangerous times, deep shadows feel even sharper than usual, and we find ourselves standing at the edge of light... Ultimately, this album embraces the need for all musical forms and cultures to connect, and celebrate the wonder of unity in this divided world.”

His recent passion for this interconnectedness has led to somewhat splintered tracks that change styles too abruptly, but here he has got the balance right. So the eleven-minute “These Golden Wings” contains orchestral and choral moments, rock riffs and acoustic spells alongside his classic style, but there is time for them to blend. And the Indian influence (there is plenty of sitar) in the “Kashmir”-like “Shadow and Flame” gives way to rock gradually.

Even as the album starts, there is passion, with more emotion coursing through the guitar strings in the 137 seconds of “Fallen Walls and Pedestals” than many manage in half an hour of music. And it feeds so easily into “Beasts in our Time” that it feels like the intro to a bigger track.

“Under the Eye of the Sun” is the lead single and rightly so. Energetic, with a riff that grabs you and a sprightly lightness to it, this is almost were rock meets pop – and it also boasts a quiet spell in the middle featuring didgeridoo and duduk. It is just one example of a stronger sense of melody on this disc.

On one hand, there are often times when you catch echoes of earlier releases – a splash of “Hierophant” here and “Watcher of the Skies” there. But this one has a new feature. Hackett has fortunately ditched the occasion foray into English whimsy and replaced it on “Underground Railroad” with a track that incorporates the gospel vocals of Durga and Lorelei McBroom (who have sung with Pink Floyd).

That track and “The Hungry Years” – reminiscent of ‘60s pop, but still ending with some powerful guitar – break the album up into three sections, and the final trilogy emphasises the album’s theme.

“Descent” is an orchestrally-led instrumental bolero, highly redolent of portentous mellotron moments on Foxtrot. “Conflict” and the concluding “Peace” follow, but good as they are, there has been so much class preceding them that they don’t quite fire as a climax. And I surely it is not a coincidence that the timings for the three total 11.59!

Hackett has a remarkable sense of purpose for a man of his age, and that’s good news for music fans. This is his most satisfying and coherent new album for a while.

Derek Walker