Steve Rothery - Ghosts of Pripyat
Steve Rothery, Marillion founder, launching the Ne-Prog genre, for years, his signature sound of soul searching, emotion laden solos and refined background picking not only defined the genre but helped to develop one of the most fervent followings in modern progressive rock.
Working with best friend and fellow guitarist Dave Foster writing material for The Plovdiv International Guitar Festival in 2013, Rothery who had been considering a solo album for years was finally inspired to commit to the solo project. Funded by a crowd funding Kickstarter campaign the response was immense with the original target smashed within 24 hours and ending at over two times the original goal.
With Steve Rothery working with Dave Foster (Mr So & So) guitar, Leon Parr (Leeds College of Music) drums and both Yatim Halimi (Panic Room) and Roccardo Romano (Ranestrane) on the keyboards released Live in Rome, recorded at only their second gig ever played. Teasing the masses, warming them gently by the fire that is prog rock, before bringing out the big guns The Ghosts of Pripyat appeared clouded in an anticipatory fug amongst the progressive rock faithful. Rothery, being the Grandaddy of the genre had to deliver…does he?
It's a brief album, lasting less than an hour, but this all-acoustic offering gives songs as little as just over 5 minutes with the title track The Ghosts of Pripyat closing the show to the goliath near 12 minute Old Man Of The Sea. There was a lot of weight on this album to deliver as Rothery’s first solo offering in his 32 year career span.
Akin to modern day Marillion, Rothery and cohorts create expansive, epic soundscapes that stimulate the senses and emotions leaving the listener to wander their own path with their musical accompaniment. However and importantly so, there is one fundamental difference; whereas Marillion can be guided by the two keyboard, one guitarist formation here the guitars rule.
An entirely instrumental affair, the music is almost soundtrack like in its format, each piece forming stunning aural panorama that suit the prevailing mood suggested in its theme.
Morpheus quietly awakes from the speakers slowly developing in a mystic swirling manner to gently caress the ears, the senses and the brain. Morpheus brings the first guest; Steve Hackett (Genesis, GTR) and the pair bounce off each other, Hackett fluid and melodic, Rothery atmospheric and soul searching; mid-song duelling together in a heady riff laden battle.
Kendris chases at its heels with a song driven by Eastern Boogie, Aboriginal bass beat, Asian riffs blended smoothly with western style melodic rock; all in all a cacophony of noise with an uplifting and upbeat tone that will have you wandering around your own daydreams instantly. Romano really shines here adding a subtle tinge of colour to the melodious guitars. Enjoy the trip.
White Pass: You like your music with a Led Zeppelin vibe you say? Ok, half way through, s’all I’m saying. Melancholic and Melodious. The Old Man Of The Sea has to be the stand out piece, racking up the timer to just under 12 minutes, an epic offering that does not seem to be elongated for the sake of it. A mind swirling combination of moody tempered soloing and picked guitar highlights dominating the first half. The second half is prog music fan wank fodder; Rothery and Hackett join once more alongside Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree); all three banging out lengthy solos.
Yesterday’s Hero a warming little number with heart breakingly beautiful melodies and arpeggios that radiate over a light summery groove before a jaunty jug breaks through.
Summer’s End is initially laidback and herein lies some of the most sublimely delicious passages; juxtapositions galore with heavier, angrier guitar parts blasted out by Rothery and bolstered by the solid, hard hitting drum kills that Parr has to offer.
The Ghosts of Pripyat is the shortest song with picked steel string guitar setting the folksy tone, a beautiful acoustic guitar duo commences proceedings before it comes to life with gusto. The sprightly drums, groovy bass and key work combine with more exquisite soloing. The acoustic roots remain throughout the song using electric guitars, organs, drums, bass and synths producing a heady mix.
All in all it is a prog music lovers paradise, one that demonstrates more talent and passion than is imaginable at points. Maybe I am biased; I have seen the man live, he plays as though the guitar is an extension of him. Totally switching off to the world around him and this comes through in his music. Accessing the cerebral and tapping into the unconscious.
Words: Kat Hilton