A heroic and majestic flourish heralds the opening of Gods of Olympus and, as with so many of Clifford White’s albums, you are instantly transported to another time and place. In this case, it is the bold and courageous times of ancient lore, when gods walked the earth and heroes fought great battles for honour and virtue. Soon the music takes off at a pace, the pulse quickens, and we are given a flavour of what is to come: true heroism, the striving of purpose and an ultimate voyage into those famed mythical tales and legends of antiquity that are The Gods of Olympus.
There is perhaps no more famous an Olympian than Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty. With gentle harp and diaphanous voice she spins her somnambulent spell in this beautiful and haunting tale of love. Featuring distant strings and pipes with an almost Egyptian flavour, the piece evolves into a desert procession, as sand dunes eclipse the setting sun and wispy clouds pepper the scarlet skies. This is magical and mystical music, weaving impressions of ages past and stories long forgotten.
After the deep mysticism of the previous track, we are now propelled into a rhythmic and celebratory festival for Apollo, God of Light and the Sun. A willowy flute weaves it’s tale, joined by electric guitar and vast flourishes of rich orchestration. The key shifts up again and again, each time lifting us to a higher place where the air is thin, yet the music of Apollo plays on in glorification. An exultant and inspiring track.
This epic soundtrack takes a darker turn with the track Ares, almost as if this God of War finds himself in deep regret. The music almost seems to suggest the desolation of the battlefield, where lost souls wander across the misty moors. With a gentle military drum underpinning the music, this is a sombre and reflective piece, full of deep emotion and poignancy.
Palpitating with effort, Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt expertly conjures the power and ferocity of this deity, with a pumping and roaring energy that hammers and pounds it’s way through the piece. Similarly, whilst of a somewhat calmer mood, Athena, Goddess of Heroic Endeavour also traverses her own battle torn landscape, although ultimately emerging triumphant. Demeter, Goddess of the Earth and Fertility strikes a much lighter and more optimistic note, with an airy pan flute leading the way in this joyous and heartfelt tune. Piano and strings join the music, and one is lifted to a gently nostalgic space.
With what must have been at the very least a half-smile on Clifford’s face, Dionysus, God of Wine and Merriment drunkenly stumbles his way through this quirky and amusing track. Accompanied by the sounds of laughter, popping bottles and overflowing wine goblets this bizarre and yet delightful music sums up the energy of this deity perfectly. In stark contrast to all of this frivolity, Hephaestus, Blacksmith of the Gods is an awe-inspiring piece, blending light and dark motifs into a haunting and melancholy movement. You can almost feel the black waters of the River Styx lap at your feet, as you bear witness to the lonely figure, doomed to continue his servitude for all eternity.
The tone now lightens once again in Hera, Goddess of Women and Marriage, a Mediterranean flavoured dervish of bliss and elation. This is followed by the ephemeral strings of Hermes, God of Flight, which begin high up on carpets of clouds before breaking into a powerful mythical chant of exploration and revelation. Grand sweeping horns, strings, voices and glittering sun clouds light the way in this majestic work.
Warm sunlight and shadows set the mood for Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth and Home, in this gentle and joyous tune. Light and contented melodies interweave in this peaceful track, which speaks of comfort, safety and well-being.
The final two pieces on this album are epic tracks within themselves, beginning with Poseidon, God of the Sea, an anthemic oceanic voyage, complete with heroic brass melodies, lofty strings and powerful chanting, almost in worship of this legendary aquatic God. The final track Zeus, King of the Gods thunders along with a pulsing bassline and deep choirs, before an audacious brass melody leads the music in triumph. Grand bells join the celebration, and the orchestra plays in unity to the climax.
The Gods of Olympus is perhaps composer Clifford White’s most ambitious project to date, and he pulls it off with great expertise. Fourteen tracks of pure musical innovation, traversing a wide variety of moods and contrasts, yet remaining true throughout to the concept Clifford began with: to accurately explore and reflect on the quality, tone and mood of each particular Olympian God and Goddess. On The Gods of Olympus, Clifford achieves this spectacularly. A crowing achievement.