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Karnataka - 'Secrets Of Angels' http://ns2.rocktopiarecords.com/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/b0/77/ea/karnataka-secrets-of-angels-59-1441045871.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 31, 2015    
 
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Verging on utter triumph.

Having, on many a day, been caught spellbound by their previous album 'The Gathering Light', the return of Karnataka with 'Secrets Of Angels' has been long anticipated by this particular scribbler. However, while '...Light's mixture of crunching guitars and soaring melodies, beautiful intricacies and drop dead vocals started the band down a more exuberant, confident and assured path than their three earlier albums, interestingly '...Angels' is more of a slower burn.

This is a beast willing to give up its treasures, but only at the pace and style it chooses – nuggets and trinkets of pleasure and excitement carefully placed in hidden compartments of the listener's mind to allow repeat visits to glow and shimmer in a way not initially alluded to.

Hayley Griffiths, who makes her Karnataka recording debut here, takes the role as focal point with ease; this lady with the powerful voice is "oh so comfortable" with the spotlight thrust firmly upon her. However without material worthy of her talents, the effect would be diminished to insignificance; that Karnataka have stepped up to the mark in what can best be described as quite outstanding fashion, is to their credit.

The effect is sumptuous, strings (provided by talented violinists, violists, cellists and harpists alongside the close your eyes and he's sure to appear pipes and whistle man Troy Donockley), unravelling a sound built round a Symphonic/Folk base, yet one which is raised and nurtured by the subtly stinging guitar work of Enrico Pinna and keyboards of Cagri Tozluoglu. However '...Angels' isn't some Folk-Prog retread or a Nightwished stab at Symphonic Metal.

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Instead 'Because Of You' is shaped into an engaging, rounded tale of deceiving partners wrapped in varying musical attacks – one moment dartingly elusive, the next confidently boisterous whilst 'Borderline' is an assured swagger of bombast which is controlled to such an extent that it never even hints at the overbearing fare so many attempting this style bluster upon.

'Fairytale Lies' proves this incarnation of Karnataka are equally adept at turning their hand to intimate heart-tuggings, although it is the album's seven part title track which best illustrates the outstanding arrangements each song possesses; ever varying attacks interspersed with emotional asides and splashes of colour which together create a hugely individual piece.

Unfortunately 'Feels Like Home' holds the album back ever so slightly by stumbling unintentionally into an unwelcome "Disney Princess" vibe through its staccato/busy lyric and overly sentimental arrangements.

However this slight misjudgement is the only vague misstep anywhere on an album which is otherwise verging on utter triumph. The 'Secrets Of Angels' should be proclaimed loud and proud for all to hear!

Steven Reid

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