The Guildmaster -
The Knight And The Ghost

(CD 2020, 61:51, Seacrest Oy ‎- SCR-1028)

The tracks:
  1- Puppet Dance(01:45)
  2- Saaristo(05:59)
  3- The Hare(03:04)
  4- The Knight And The Ghost(09:14)
  5- Stranded By The Coast(05:31)
  6- Sixes and Five(01:41)
  7- The Search(07:35)
  8- Camino De Luz(05:33)
  9- Noughts And Crosses(02:27)
10- The Fairy Pole(03:46)
11- Ghost Dance/Race With The Spirits(06:18)
12- The Sun Rises Again(05:51)
13- Secret Garden(02:58)

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The Guildmaster, according to the record company information is a new Folk/Rock project which features Rafael Pacha on pretty much anything you care to name and a few things you've never heard of from every time zone and historical period; Ton Scherpenzeel is on keyboards and those Samurai Of Prog, Marco Bernard and Kimmo Pörsti make up the core musicians, joined on this release by a host of fine guest musicians.

The thirteen tracks which comprise this first release, The Knight And The Ghost combine folk music tropes from around the world, blended into a prog format to epic effect. Puppet Dance starts the affair unprepossessingly with a bit of 'hey-nonny-no' medievalism, but once past the opening bars the fun really starts as a driving electric melody line crashes the party. Saaristo and The Hare call the changes with breathtaking speed, from Celtic tinged fiddle to serious symphonic rock. Before you know it we are well into the title track, a beautifully sung extended ballad showcasing the musicians range and control to great effect. Consciously escapist, taking the listener to other lands and times, this release simply bleeds class through every bar. Stranded By The Shore is a soaring triumphant delight of interplay between guitars and keys, while Sixes and Five returns to the historical theme, but more redolent of Mike Oldfield than shoes with bells on. The Search another of the longer tracks is great entertainment. An extended Celtic duet between fiddle and penny-whistle (I think) sets the foundation for an interplay between powering guitar and flute, before serenity and elegance reassert themselves and the whole join together in a jubilant finale.

Camino de Luz rings the changes again with a Latin theme, introducing more exotic flavours, again bewitchingly sung, enticing as the way of light. The folk elements are intricately woven around the beating heart of the music. Different textures come and go while the core remains an unashamed exercise in virtuosic progressive rock with a strong classic feel to it. Unlike many who have tried this form, this does not fall into the trap of being too worthy. The Guildmaster are not afraid to have fun, as evidenced by The Fairy Pole, an exhilarating dance, redolent of drunken revels at midsummer when mystical creatures appear.

This album is great entertainment and a tonic for our times. It has class embedded in its very core and has to be, for the pure delight, fun and exemplary execution of a brave concept, one of my favourite recent releases.

**** Andrew Cottrell

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