Camp HRH, March 18 2017
It’s hard to believe that Karnataka were formed 20 years ago – and even harder to believe they’re survived the last two decades intact.
Not only has the band experienced many major line-up changes – with bassist Ian Jones the only constant – but they’ve also had long periods of inactivity and even a total break up.
Opening with Road To Cairo, from the latest album Secrets Of Angels, it was immediately apparent that the band’s musical style has shifted significantly from those early days – when they had an almost folky feel – to a much harder, symphonic metal edge.
And that stylistic change clearly suits current vocalist Hayley Griffiths. Sporting her trademark long red hair and boasting a commanding stage presence there were no nerves. And no need for any.
This line-up has been together for three years which makes it one of the most stable periods in the band’s history. And perhaps it should have come as no surprise that Karnataka’s HRH Prog V set drew exclusively on the band’s last two records – albums tailored to Griffiths.
Enrico Pinna’s guitar solo at the end of Poison Ivy was a touch over the top but went down well with a growing crowd. It’s worth questioning the wisdom of including a drum solo from Jimmy Pallagrosi during such a short set but there’s no doubting his talent.
Karnataka have always stuck with the Prog mantra that long songs are good songs but with Forsaken played out it appeared as if the exclusion of any 20-minute epics might have been deliberate. Not a bit of it.
Secrets Of Angels drew on sweeping guitar and dominated the second half of a superb set. It confirmed the 2017 version of Karnataka is built to last and if pockets of fans were disappointed that there was no nod to the band’s first four albums it was hardly surprising. This is a different beast. And different is good.