Post Prog Sopho
What wonderful things could happen in 20 years? Well, Haze’s return proves that amazing things occurred during that period. Fresh as new, they are back, paying homage to the legends of progressive music, delivering a wide and extremely interesting crossover album.
First thing to be mentioned is the great artwork of this release. The medieval epic cover is captivating, giving you a hint of what is about to follow.
I don’t usually give a track by track review but, since this one here has quite a variation, I will give it a try. “The Last Battle” title track is the opener with folk acoustics and woodwinds (you will get whistle, fiddle, flute and clarinet, all delivered by Ceri & Catrin Ashton). Tull meets Floyd, meets renaissance; this is an excellent start with some catchy lyrics. Then, there is an extended use of woodwinds and a scent of Canterbury on the next track “Grey to Blue”. Despite the tons of influences, the album flows pleasantly as the experience of the musicians helps to mend all these genres to their style. Vocals reminded me of 70's art rock but with an 80's rock legend scent. Paul McMahon’s playing on the guitar is laid-back with bluesy guitar solos and the rhythm section is groovy and flawless.
“Over the river” is folk and quite haunting, I adore the keys layers. The flute is always there to enchant you. Then, it turns epic with a distinctive neo prog sound. “Dragon Fly” cries out space rock just check the keys and the oriental riffs. “Classic rock bar”, just like the title states, explores the non prog, classic rock of 70s - 80s influences of the band, nice and cool. Heavy riffing with harmonics on “Long, Long Gone”, it is so modern and powerful. It comes as a nice surprise due to the hard edge on the guitar.
Moving to “The Barrister and The Bargast”, we return to folk. Next track and here is another surprise with some funky tunes and afterwards we are back to folk again, followed by some wonderful melodies on “The Edge of heaven”. “Is that it” has a neo prog sound with groovy wah-wahs and layers of keys, another sweet twist in the sound. “Balder and the Mistletoe” is a masterful instrumental. Finally, “The red room” sums up everything. Here you dwell in dark heavy prog. Probably my favorite moment of the album, however I would have chosen another track as a closure, to emphasize on the folk element.
A final notice about the almost flawless production, maybe it needed a wider sound on the drums, more depth perhaps. Nevertheless, If the goal was to reproduce the 70's art rock sound all around, then they definitely nailed it.
I don’t know what Haze did during these 20 years; they must have gone through many different phases but with the folk element always there. This album is the proof of it, a collection of progressive and furthermore varieties, masterfully played and carefully delivered to us. An epic release, it wins hands down a place in my top list of this year.