Seize the Day (Single version) (4:02), Seize the Day (Full version) (8:31), 21st Century Painted Lady (4:31), 21st Century Painted Lady (Instrumental) (4:31), Bug Eye 2014 (8:53), Bug Eye (live) (12:12)
What can a band do to avoid losing the interest of its audience when a new album is taking longer than usual or when they need a break for a while?
There are in fact a few options:
release a live album,
go on an extensive world tour,
release a 'Best of' album, or
feed the fans with a special in-between release.
Galahad have chosen the latter and released three EPs in 2014, a real trilogy, with alternate versions of some songs from their Battle Scars and Beyond the Realms of Euphoria albums.
All three EPs are packed in a fold-out cardboard sleeve that features the credits and lyrics of the title song, and in 2015 we can expect a double CD retrospective called When Worlds Collide to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band.
Seize the Day
This EP revisits the 2012 album Battle Scars that contained the title song of this EP. With the length of what other bands bring out as a full CD, this EP gives a good offer for your money. On the other side, the true fans won't be much bothered with the first two tracks as they are just the version from the album and the single version is basically the same version, without the lengthy instrumental intro.
But at a second glance, or better said 'listen', it becomes clear that both songs have been edited, tweaked and re-mixed, so the careful listener (but only those) will notice the subtle differences.
21st Century Painted Lady is based upon Painted Lady which was one of the first Galahad songs ever written, and was first recorded in the mid 80s. The song was given an extensive makeover and was embellished with the more powerful Galahad sounds of these days. A second verse is included, which somehow unintentionally never made it onto the original recording.
The instrumental version of this song sounds rather dull, as if you're just listening to a backing track or an unfinished song. Even though the song is new to your ears, you instantly get the feeling something is missing here.
Another upgrade has been given to the song Bug Eye that originally appeared on the 1998 album Following Ghosts. The original recording had a true 80s/90s sound over it, a bit Depeche Mode so to say, and the vocals by Stu weren't so powerful as they are today. So with bringing the heavier guitars more to the foreground, partly replacing the more delicate keys, that were enhanced too, more bass and the more powerful vocals, the new version really sounds like an upgrade and perfectly fits to the current Galahad sound. The original version has been shortened by about five minutes to this more compact and balanced new version. I think I may use the words 'an improvement' here.
The live version displays the same enhanced elements, but does offer three minutes more (in the middle section) than the new studio version. I found no information at which gig this song was recorded.
Four months after the first EP in this series, came the second one, focusing on the song Guardian Angel from the band's other 2012 album Beyond the Realms of Euphoria.
Having the same song next to each other four times on a disk, quickly becomes rather boring to me. Several different mixes with appalling sound additions (often dance beats) fill the disk, without offering anything really new or really interesting (to me). I always wonder who is really interested in such alternate versions of an already good song?
I've been a huge fan of some groups in the past and even then I really couldn't be bothered with such things. At best I found them interesting, but never found these an improvement, or a version I would rather play instead of the original. The four versions of Guardian Angel on this EP have the same effect on me. Two of them (the 3rd and 4th) are just taken from the album, so offer nothing new at all. The piano version is a stripped-down version featuring only piano, vocal and strings, making it into a pure, sensitive ballad. The hybrid version is actually a mix of the regular and reprise version as featured on the album. It is "a more organic and distinctly different version" according to the promo sheet. True, but nothing really new either.
The piano version of the Battle Scars song Beyond the Barbed Wire perfectly fits to the other stripped-down songs. Featuring just piano and vocal, one can easily imagine being present at a very basic "unplugged" concert of Galahad, because half the band and all the electricity is absent.
Whilst Galahad has made its name through a more powerful sound, this EP presents them in a more sensitive and simple form as never before. Karl Groom is mentioned for playing additional guitar. I actually wonder where, since apart from the two original album songs there is not much guitar playing on this EP.
This EP is a nice gimmick for the hardcore Galahad fans, but that's really it.
This third and final EP, that came out in October, was what triggered me to review this series. Galahad covers one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands Rammstein?
"Get out of here! That can´t be right," I thought, "and what terrible mix or cover version would emerge from that?" When it comes down to terrible mixes, with awful effects and additions, Rammstein themselves already can't be beaten to be honest. The more I like the original, the more I dislike the various remixes they have released, often done by some expert on completely altering a track by someone else who really can make music.
I was therefore very curious what Galahad would make of this very powerful song. Galahad also knows how to fill the room with sound from corner to corner, but Rammstein is still a category by itself, with their hefty industrial metal. It would not be a wise idea to try to top Rammstein on output level and powerful vocals, so what was the intention of Galahad here, and why cover a song sung in another language?
Would they be able to make a real prog version out of the massive wall of sound of the original? That would be a real achievement, but would the song not loose a lot of its original impact? And how would it sound when an English singer tries to sing a German song; that's taking a big risk, with a good chance the result will be ridiculous.
Eloy is often ridiculed for their very German-accented English vocals. So how would it be the other way around? I had a lot of thoughts and worries whilst waiting for the EPs to arrive.
Apparently the idea for this cover arose when the band was jamming in the rehearsal studio and played this song for fun, which eventually morphed into several fully fledged versions. It was recorded and mixed by Karl Groom at Thin Ice Studios in Surrey. Four different versions of the Rammstein cover are presented, and reading the additional remarks behind the tracks, I already got some idea where this was going.
'Piano & violin' and 'Piano instrumental' are a clear indication that Galahad (wisely) choose to strip down the original version and make a more serene version out of it. 'Fully loaded' and 'English version' sparked some of my already mentioned fears again.
Well, time to shove the disk into the player and hear what the boys baked.
Indeed the first version made a complete serene and unplugged ballad out of the original bombastic song. Just accompanied by the piano and violin, played by Louise Braunton-Curtis, Stuart Nicholson sings the lyrics in German.
By now I had some more question marks above my head. Did Galahad hire a guest vocalist, because the vocals in German are sung so spot on, with excellent intonation, and the typical Rammstein emphasising of some letters (rolling R) and almost without an accent.
That can't be Stuart singing I thought, but yes it is. Does he have a German father or mother? Was he born and raised in Germany, did he study German, live in Germany or did he study the original version for many, many hours? I don't know and actually it doesn't matter anyway, because the result is terrific.
His pronunciation of the German words in the same exceptional theatrical and poetic way that Till Lindemann sings them is astonishing for an Englishman and very close to the original. Including those little ways in which Till plays with the words and sounds, by lengthening some letters. I had to listen very closely to spot a few minor errors, like for instance with the word "Bettzeug". Equally remarkable is the way Stuart has completely understood the way Till plays with the lyrics, using all the sound possibilities of the German language. And where Till uses his powerful screaming voice, Stuart keeps it subtle and subdued, but still with a full display of the meant intonations and emotions.
Galahad made a splendid ballad out of the song, without losing the whole atmosphere, strength and emotion of it. I am amazed. They have my deepest respect.
With the second version I feared that Galahad had decided after all to battle Rammstein with a full force version, but they luckily didn't. This version also starts serene, with just piano and vocals, but after 2:27 minutes the drums, keys and guitars kick in, but still in a less massive, bombastic way as in the original; the industrial metal sound is left out. The result is a song that still honours the original, and is half-ballad, half-rock, thus still offering a different sound to the original version.
The third version is just the first piano and violin version but with English vocals, and to be honest the song sounds way better in German than in English. Nothing wrong again with Stuart's singing, but several intended links between the way of singing and the lyrics were lost in the translation. Stuart already introduced an occasional "My heart burns" vocal in the previous two versions, and already then it was clear that it just doesn't sound as powerful as the original "Mein Herz Brennt". The German language has some harsher sounds that fit perfectly to the sound of Rammstein's music, and these are just hardly present in English.
The last version on the EP is almost a classical version of the song, as it only features a piano, stripping the song down to the absolute minimum.
As a Rammstein fan this cover really impressed me, but is in fact mainly interesting to Rammstein fans who can appreciate and understand the original and what Galahad has made out of it. For Galahad fans this EP is more a nice gimmick, and since the four versions aren't that much distinct (except the second partly), the EP doesn't offer that much for your money after all.