‘A Feast of Consequences’, Fish’s 10th studio album, was released in September 2013. His main co-writer was yet again bass player Steve Vantsis who had returned after a break since his partnership with Fish on the 2007 ‘13th Star’ album. They were joined by keyboard player Foss Paterson and guitarist Robin Boult who both contributed to the writing team and played on the album together with Gavin Griffiths drums. Backing vocals were by Elisabeth Troy and string section conducted by Egbert Derix.
The album received glorious reviews on release with the ‘High Wood’ suite especially attracting many plaudits for its musical and lyrical dynamic across 5 songs dealing with the First World War inspired by Fish’s visit to the Somme battlefields in 2011.
The highly contemporary song ‘Blind to the Beautiful’ was yet another Fish single that went ‘missing in action’ despite a glorious promo video filmed by David Barras with content provided by Greenpeace. Reviews of the album as a whole were exemplary and it was seen as a stunning return to form with songs such as ‘Feast of Consequences’, ‘Perfume River’ and ‘Great Unravelling’ becoming immediate fan favourites in the setlists on the following tour.
The album was engineered by Steve Vantsis with Calum Malcolm coming in as producer. Calum mixed and mastered the album.
The limited-edition deluxe version of this album comes with 2 discs and a 100-page hardback book in a slipcase with a 3000 word introduction to the album by Fish and original illustrations to all the lyrics, the main artwork and the overall sleeve design is by Mark Wilkinson.
The first disc is a CD containing the album with the second a Bonus DVD featuring live footage from shows on the Moveable Feast Tour and exclusive interviews with Fish and Mark Wilkinson about the Feast of Consequences project. Behind-the-scenes access to Feast writing sessions and recording sessions make up a visual treat and a compelling insight into the creation of the album.
The deluxe limited edition edition features:
- The album, A Feast of Consequences
- Bonus DVD
- 100 Page hard-back book
1. Perfume River Dick, Vantsis 10:58
2. All Loved Up Dick, Vantsis, Boult 5:07
3. Blind to the Beautiful Dick, Vantsis, Boult 5:12
4. A Feast of Consequences Dick, Vantsis, Boult 4:29
5. (i)High Wood Dick, Paterson 5:26
6. (ii)Crucifix Corner Dick, Paterson 7:25
7. (iii)The Gathering Dick, Paterson 4:30
8. (iv)Thistle Alley Dick, Vantsis, Boult 6:08
9. (v)The Leaving Dick, Paterson, Boult 4:59
10. The Other Side of Me Dick, Vantsis, Boult 6:08
11. The Great Unravelling Dick, Vantsis, Boult 6:31
The Bonus DVD features live footage from shows on the Moveable Feast Tour and exclusive interviews with Fish and Mark Wilkinson about the Feast of Consequences project. Behind-the-scenes access to Feast writing sessions and recording sessions make up a visual treat and a compelling insight into the creation of the album.
Preparing The Feast
DVD-2 After The 13th Star
DVD-3 Perfume River
DVD-4 All Loved Up
DVD-5 Blind To The Beautiful
DVD-6 Feast Of Consequences
DVD-7 High Wood Suite
DVD-8 Other Side Of Me
DVD-9 The Great Unravelling
Moveable Feast Tour: Pre-production Live
DVD-11 Perfume River
DVD-12 Feast Of Consequences
DVD-13 Blind To The Beautiful
DVD-14 All Loved Up
DVD-15 Crucifix Corner
DVD-16 The Gathering
DVD-17 Thistle Alley
Derek Dick “Fish” / lead vocals
– Robin Boult / guitars
– Foster Paterson / keyboards
– Steve Vantsis / bass
– Gavin Griffiths / drums
– Elisabeth Troy Antwi / backing vocals
– Egbert Derix / strings arrangements (5,9,11)
– Tanja Derwahl / cello (5,9,11)
– Linda Slakhorst-Custers / viola (5,9,11)
– Gosia Loboda / violin (5,9,11)
– Alina-Lin Merx-Jong / violin (5,9,11)
– Aidan O’Rourke / violin (3,10)
– Finlay Hetherington / flugelhorn (7)
– Fiona Lund / trombone (7)
– John Sampson / trumpet (7)
– Stuart Watson / tuba (7)
– Calum Malcolm / arranger & producer
Engineer, Recorded By, Arranged By, Mixed By, Producer, Mastered By – Calum Malcolm
Photography – Derek William Dick, Juergen Spachmann
Producer [Pre Production] – Foss Paterson* (tracks: 5, 6, 7, 9), Steve Vantsis (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11)
This album is dedicated to my mother and father,
Robert and Isabella Dick, to my grandfathers, William Dick
and William Paterson and to all those fallen, missing and
wounded in the Great War 1914 – 1918
Lest We Forget
From the sleeve notes:
“I had a couple of days off after the gig that night in Paris before the next show in the UK at Stratford-Upon-Avon and had decided to take the opportunity to visit the Somme battlefield after being offered the chance by Simon Moston, a friend who acts as a World War 1 battlefield tour guide on occasion. He’d sold the idea to me as an experience that would provoke inspiration, and as the visit coincided with my birthday it took on a certain resonance as I had always wanted to visit the WW1 battlefields where both my grandfathers had fought and survived, and which I’d traversed on many tour buses over the years but never seen. I had no idea at the time just how much the experience would inspire me.
I met with Simon and his family on the Sunday in Arras where I was to stay the night of my birthday before travelling home. The first day we were spending in a bed and breakfast between Auchonvillers and Beaumont-Hamel after a day walking the fields. I can only say it was a profoundly moving experience and my imagination was saturated with imagery as Simon revealed the history while I walked in the footsteps of men who were now ghosts. The sensations were added to as that night I slept in a house built on an area that in 1916 was ‘no-man’s land’ where hundreds had perished. It took me a while to sleep and I awoke at dawn imagining the sound of whistles blowing.
Next day I phoned my parents in Scotland and asked if they knew where my grandfathers had been stationed and what units they were in. My Dad told me his father, William Dick, was in the Royal Flying Corps and had been stationed in Arras and my mother told me her father, William Paterson, was in the 8th Battalion Royal Scots. Not only was I staying that night in the town where my paternal grandad was stationed, but I later discovered that I had woken on my birthday having slept only about 150 metres away from a trench line called ‘White City’ that my maternal grandad had dug with the entrenchment unit. By pure coincidence I had ended up in this small area of a battlefield in an area where they had both served and I couldn’t ignore it.”
“Living here mostly on my own it’s sometimes difficult not to have the TV constantly on, if just for the electronic companionship and the sound of human voices. The streaming satellite images of natural and man-made disasters triggered the Fear in me for a while and I got into some deep dark funks. I’d also started to read more and was drawn to books on Global warming, World economics and the environment as well as amassing a small library of documentaries on DVD. It was during this period that I realised that I was falling out of love with the world in general and I felt we were in an end game of our own design. In particular I read a book called ‘The Party’s Over’ by Richard Heinberg about world resources, wars and industrial societies. I think it was a turning point for me and I broke out of a gloomy apathy and started to take a new perspective on Life.
In the book there was a chapter title taken from a quote by the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. The quote penned in 1885 was: “sooner or later we sit down to a banquet of consequences”. I had the suggestion for my album title and the string of an idea on which to thread the pearls. Rather than focus on my own personal life I was going to look more outward and wrap emotions I had up in lyrics that were more concerned with the world we all live in. So ‘Blind to the Beautiful’ is more about a love affair with Mother Nature rather than a specific person.”
“Long term collaborators Mark and Julie Wilkinson had been researching and working on the album artwork for the past year as we had elected to go for an elaborate design incorporating a number of strong images. The original idea to base the principal image on ‘Perfume River’ was superseded when Mark and Julie became as captured (and obsessed) as I was with the ‘High Wood’ ideas. Their own visit to the Somme with Simon Moston fired their imaginations and the ‘tree’ was created. It provided the crossover between the now extensive WW1 content of the album and the current global perspective, inter meshing it with the idea of regrowth. This was very powerful and commanding artwork, their best ever, and I had to match it.”
Feast of reviews:
Subscribers to Fish’s excellent e-bulletin Fish Heads will have followed the twists and turns of the birth of his first studio album since 2007’s 13th Star. They’ll know about the vocal issues that threatened to silence the big Scotsman, about the fascinating minutiae of the recording sessions and, finally, the frustrating delays affecting one of its formats (not his fault, but something he took very personally). Fish Heads also offered insight into the travails of the often vexed yet rewarding existence of an independent artist.
Not that A Feast Of Consequences is tarnished by the whiff of amateurism. Nay, nay and thrice nay. With most of its contents road-tested – just the way the original Marillion used to do it – and performed by a bunch of crack, devoted musicians, the care, thought and compassion of its creation is obvious in every last note. Make no mistake, this is weighty stuff: neo-prog with a capital N-E-O. It may well take you three or four spins to appreciate fully, yet that’s part of its bewitching beauty.
Mixing traditional vocals and spoken-word parts, the 10-minute Perfume River is a perfect aperitif for the album’s myriad delights.
Mocking the shallowness of so-called celebrity culture, All Loved Up is among the record’s rare up-tempo moments. Indeed, if there’s a criticism it’s that there’s a lack of an equivalent to 13th Star’s ultra-energetic Square Go. Typically eloquent, Fish uses colourful metaphor to illustrate love turned to shit on country-tinged Blind To The Beautiful (‘The ice is retreating, mountains exposed in the sun’) and on the title track too.
But the much-heralded centrepiece is the five-part High Wood suite. Inspired by the site of a WWI battle in which both his grandfathers fought, here he unloads a variety of emotions – sadness, disgust and above all, anger. No wonder when your correspondent asked him earlier this year whether this album was more upbeat than its relationship-clouded predecessor, he guffawed: “Optimistic? Fakkin’ optimistic?! How could anything in this life possibly be optimistic?!”
Founded upon numerous changes of mood, the beguiling backing vocals of Liz Antwi, Gavin Griffiths’ artillery fire percussion and the overwhelming bitterness of the lyrics, the High Wood suite is graphic and heartfelt to the point of being utterly unmissable. It’s certainly among the most remarkably powerful pieces of music to be released under Fish’s name.
That the album’s final two tracks, Other Side Of Me and The Great Unravelling, refuse to be overshadowed by it merely confirms that A Feast Of Consequences will be hailed as one of 2013’s most essential prog releases.
It's been six years since '13th Star' first appeared. For a while another Fish album seemed in some doubt due to him requiring two operations on cysts on his vocal chords. There followed yet more domestic upheaval from a short-lived second marriage.
He regained confidence in his voice through extensive touring of an acoustic set in 2010/11 and finally, in 2012,he was ready to start work on 'A Feast of Consequences'. Important at an early stage was the return to the fold of '13th Star's' principal writing partner and bass player Steve Vantsis who had left the touring band in 2008, and here he co-writes seven of the eleven tracks, together with input from returning guitarist Robin Boult . Keyboard player Foss Paterson co-writes the other four tracks , Gavin Griffiths stays on the drumkit and Calum Malcolm produces again.
Given the near-complete continuity in personnel from the last album the unsuspecting listener might be surprised to find that this work is quite different- gone are the snarling guitars of tracks like 'Circle Line & 'Square Go'. In its place come songs intentionally built up from an acoustic base, with a rich, warm production from Malcolm. The subject matter has changed too- conscious of not wanting to get bogged down with another album about relationships Fish here covers a myriad of both introspective and observational subjects. Different too is Fish's voice, which has a clarity within its current range that is quite remarkable given the troubles he's had.
Before going through the songs though ,the other major component to this project is the artwork, especially in the 100-bage book which comes as part of the deluxe package. This time both Mark and Julie Wilkinson have produced the artwork, and a quite stunning collection it is too. Mark has done a major illustration for almost all the songs, any one of which would grace a gatefold sleeve. For any fan of Fish and of Mark's artwork the deluxe package is well worth the extra cost.
So to the music. First up is 'Perfume River'. It starts with haunting sampled bagpipes, then Fish sets off on an atmospheric journey along the Vietnamese river, lost in personal reflection " a discarded fading flower on the soporific sensual Perfume River " as he describes it. After almost 6 minutes his anger finally breaks through in a burst of guitar which subsides before the song takes off in a totally different direction, driven by acoustic guitar. Here, Fish has had the wake-up at what surrounds him in the still war-scarred country and he reels off the observations. All-in the track runs to almost 11 minutes and is a very strong opener and ,for me, one of the best tracks he's done.
Next comes 'All Loved Up', a bouncing pacy pop-rocker taking a sideswipe at today's 'get famous quick' culture ,it's almost to this album what 'Incommunicado' was to 'Clutching at Straws'. It's quite good but I prefer to play it later in the album rather than second track, as the album is at this point still taking its form and this track is different to the rest of the mood.
'Blind to the Beautiful' is an aching ballad looking partly at climate change. It's acoustic , with a violin joining the guitar and piano as Fish sings "hurricanes with children's names write our history".
The title track sees Fish address a failed relationship in a great rock track with more fine lyrics "I tear a page from the book of faces, throw your letters in an open fire" he starts. He goes on to draw parallels between the crumbling relationship and the world running out of resources.
Then comes the 'High Wood ' suite of five songs, almost half-an-hour in total. It follows a trip Fish made to the cemetery at the 'High Wood' in 2011 , scene of one of the most horrific prolonged battles in WW1, and where his grandfathers served. The words throughout this suite are emotional, at times graphic but, most importantly, respectful to the subject matter . The music features strings ('High Wood' / 'Leaving') a brass band ('Gathering') and a wall of guitars ('Thistle Alley'). It is bold and a remarkable piece of work covering a current-day visit to the site (High Wood), the initial cavalry charge ('Crucifix Corner'), the recruitment of the so- called 'Pals' battalions (Gathering) , the horror of the trench warfare as the battle stagnated ('Thistle Alley') and closes with a reflection on the devastation ('The Leaving'). Paterson co-wrote four of the songs here, with Vantsis adding the heavy 'Thistle Alley'. This suite is why for me this album is elevated to a 5* album, a reflection the work that has gone into crafting a genuinely significant body of songs.
After 'High Wood' the album might be expected to drop off but there is the introspective, emotional 'Other Side of Me', where Fish rediscovers himself after coming out a relationship. An organ note of optimism rides a wave of sunshine after a lovely understated guitar solo. Backing vocals throughout the album come from Elizabeth Antwi ( worked with Fish on 'Raingods album) and she really shines both here and on the closer, the complex 'Great Unravelling' , which features another fine guitar solo while Fish delivers a lyric looking at the threads of life .
I come at this review admittedly as a big fan of the work of Fish and am conscious that I also gave the last album 5 stars (which I also stand by) . 'Feast' benefits from repeated listening, revealing itself in layers, but the way this album has been crafted with such intelligent lyrics leaves me convinced that this work will stand as one of Fish's very finest efforts. If you like your music challenging and thought-provoking take the time to fully appreciate this.