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KARNATAKA – REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2023) and why less can be more.

I read David West’s review of Karnataka’s first studio album for eight years in the latest edition of PROG magazine, and just had to check it our for myself. I was wondering if David’s criticisms might be a little harsh, and although I am in general agreement, in some respects, I think they were - let me explain.

Of that 2015 band only bassist Ian Jones remains and singer Sertari is the only other listed member. A vocalist like classically trained Hayley Griffiths is always going to be a miss as she brought an ‘operatic’ panorama in a style seldom heard since ANNIE HASLAM of RENAISSANCE. However, Sertari is a perfect fit for this album. The rest are guests including Luke Machin (who has performed with JEFF BECK on many sessions) whose fluid, and at times lightning-fast guitar runs elevate the music, and Troy Donockley (of IONA, NIGHTWISH and also a much in-demand session man) graces the album with his Uillean pipes.

The first track ‘All Around the World’ deals with a theme very popular amongst musicians viz climate change, including an extract from the (in)famous Greta Thunberg to the 2019 Climate Summit (You know: the “how dare you!” one); it’s a rousing start from might have benefited from being a bit more concise in terms of impact. Lack of stylistic variation and risk-taking are fair comments made by David in his “Prog” review, but I would perhaps argue that this is almost de rigueur, and perhaps expected of, melodic prog rock bands; a product also of prog bands feeling they need to fill a whole CD (translating into a double album) to make a statement. This is a case in point as it would have made an excellent single album. I keep pointing out when the subject comes up that it is difficult to think of many 10/10 double albums (I also think 100% reviews are dished out far too frequently); inevitably, the artists gets seduced by the luxury of space and the filling of it.

The 25-minute title track is a case in point. I think that, on the vinyl this is would be my go-to side as it has the most memorable hooks and choruses. The key here is production, and editing in particular: “Requiem for a Dream” is a very listenable album, but most effective when taken in small doses, as on the double vinyl LP.

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