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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Pallas

XXV

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve never been a huge fan of Pallas. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked them, but never been blown away by them – until now that is. When it comes time to put together my list of best discs of 2011, this one will probably be there. It’s incredible. The blend of modern and classic prog elements along with some metal in a mélange that’s original and entertaining just can’t be beat. In addition to the CD, this version features a DVD of some clips of the band. It’s just sort of the icing on the cake because this CD is spectacular all by itself.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Falling Down

Little bits of found sound are merged with keyboards to start this. Then it powers out into an almost metal motif. From there, though, it becomes more purely progressive rock and resembles some sort of merging between old Rush, Yes and some Eastern tones. It drops down to a more stripped down arrangement for the verse and feels a bit like Dream Theater. It powers out later into near metal territory. The cut teeters between the more metallic and the more pure progressive rock oriented as it continues along dynamic and powerful musical road. This is an incredible tune and a great way to start the set in style. There are some really tasty keyboard solo moments in this number.

Crash and Burn
Keyboards and a processed rather mechanical voice start this in a motif that wouldn’t be out of place on a Hawkwind album. As it jumps out of the introduction, though, it’s in a killer jam that’s part prog and part jazz and very much like both Yes and ELP at different times. When it gets a bit more sparse for the verse this is a bit closer to something from Kansas, but there’s a cool swirling keyboard bit still there that calls to mind ELP a little. They take it a bit more metallic later, but even then, the crazed time signatures and other elements keep this purely progressive rock.
Something In The Deep
This starts sedate and melancholy with just keyboards. It never really rises up from that level for the first five plus minutes. Then symphonic elements rise up to take it in new directions. It never really takes into a new musical direction fully, but rather serves as an extended outro.
Monster
There’s a lot more of a mainstream rock element to this, but it’s got some prog built in, too. This seldom rises to a point anywhere near metal, but it’s also less purely prog, too. At times, though, this calls to mind Kansas and at other points Pink Floyd. I also make out Deep Purple occasionally. There’s a cool instrumental movement with an expressive guitar solo built into it.
The Alien Messiah
This has a tendency towards the metallic, but it’s also quite dynamic and diverse and, at its core, it is purely progressive rock. It’s a killer piece of music that features a lot of different moods, modes and sounds.
XXV Part I
Twentyfive Good Honest Men - This deftly combines all the types of sounds found on the rest of the album. It reminds me at times of Pink Floyd, but that’s just sort of a starting point. This covers a lot of musical territory and is one of the strongest pieces on show.
Young God
Here we have the most metallic cut on show. In fact, if the whole disc were like this it would qualify as progressive metal. Dramatic and a bit theatrical, this is a strong rocker with some cool moments built into it. There is, however, a killer keyboard solo segment in this number.
Sacrifice
A riff driven number, there is some metal on the plate here, but it’s more a killer classic rock tune than anything else. There’s a great instrumental section in the middle of this, featuring both some killer keyboard and some smoking guitar work.
Blackwood
A short piece, this is a pretty, sedate and quite symphonically oriented number. It’s basically an instrumental, although there are some non-lyrical female vocals.
Violet Sky
Coming out of the previous piece, this comes in balladic and builds up gradually. It’s still rather symphonic, but with more of a moody classic rock texture ingrained. It is quite an evocative number and the vocal performance seems really packed with emotion. This is one of the mellower tunes on show, but it’s also one of my favorites. We get a cool piano dominated segment later that borders on jazz.
XXV Part 2 - The Unmakers Awake
Carrying the  musical themes from the last piece, this comes in with acoustic guitar. Shortly, though, that drops away and dramatic, soundtrack like music rises up to take it in new directions. Around the two minute mark it powers out with heavier musical elements. It just keeps building in intensity and this is another of the highlights of the set. Around the four and a half minute mark it drops to a classical sort of soundtrack element. That takes it to atmospheric space, which eventually takes it out.
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