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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Pendragon

Passion

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say that before this album I haven’t paid that much attention to Pendragon. If this disc is any indication, that’s a real mistake. These guys have a sound that’s modern, but rooted in traditional progressive rock. In addition, they are rather crunchy, but still quite prog. You can hear bits of Marillion, Pink Floyd and others here, but it’s all delivered in a style that’s uniquely Pendragon. This CD comes with a bonus DVD that’s a “progumentary” of the making of the album. That’s just icing on the cake, though, because this is a great disc – with or without the DVD.

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
Passion

Rhythmic elements start the track and they build out from there. At first that building is rather purely melodic. Then some crunch enters. As the vocals join, though, the song is focused pretty purely on progressive rock and not metal. A little before the two minute mark, though, it powers out to a more metallic jam. This is combined with sort of a Marillion meets Yes element to keep it progressive rock. There’s a connecting section that makes me think of James Bond music and it works out to mellower prog motifs from there. They power back out to harder rocking sounds after a time, though. This is really a killer tune with a lot of changes and alterations built into it. There is a real mellow and moody movement that serves to end it in a rather Porcupine Tree like fashion.

Empathy
Pounding out, this comes in with a dark and brooding metallic fury. While the motif doesn’t alter it becomes more prog oriented as it continues, in a moody modern prog way. Comparisons to Radiohead would not be out of the question. The chorus movement, drawn from the previous piece, has an almost Beatles-like sound, but is still quite Radiohead-like. Along the four and a half minute mark it drops to a new section that’s closer to Porcupine Tree merged with Radiohead. A little later it shifts to a percussion section, but that is merged with musical elements, a bit like modern prog meets reggae as it continues. Then it resolves to pure prog from that point, but the other sounds seem to merge in after a while. As it continues it becomes a bit like a jazzy version of the later era of Pink Floyd. It gets quite dramatic, involved and powerful. There’s actually a bit of a rap over this backdrop after a time. Around the nine and a half minute mark it drops back for a piano solo. A half minute or so later it turns to synthesizers as the keyboard soloing continues. It becomes dramatic and symphonic in nature as that moves forward. That motif eventually ends the number.
Feeding Frenzy
There’s a mellow introduction to this, but from there it powers out to something that’s like a cross between Hawkwind, modern metal and Rush. There are some frequent Eastern tones built into this and a real early Rush-like riff driven segment later. It is quite a dramatic and intricate song that’s very modern in its approach.
This Green And Pleasant Land
They bring this one in with something akin to Fish era Marillion with a little Hawkwind built into it. There’s a movement towards Pink Floyd like material later. Then it fires out in some new directions with a definite Marillion-like (Fish era) jam ensuing later. It continues to expand and transform, but more by revisiting and expanding on the various sections as it continues. This is arguably the most dynamic and strongest piece on show here. The vocal arrangement is particularly compelling. After the nine minute mark they take it out into a new high energy jam that’s frantic, smoking hot and just a little metallic. Around the eleven minute mark it moves out to a keyboard dominated movement. Then some yodeling and other incidental singing shows up rather in the background as the music shifts more towards textural territory.
It's Just A Matter Of Not Getting Caught
The best way to describe this one is a combination of old school Marillion, Pink Floyd and some modern metal.
Skara Brae
The same elements as shown on the previous tune are on display here, but this one delves more into metallic territory, too. Around the six minute mark, though, it moves out towards more melodic progressive rock, but still with a lot of energy and power.
Your Black Heart
Mellower and rather moody, this is pretty, but suitably dark. It combines Genesis and Marillion with some real classical and symphonic stylings. It is a very dramatic and powerful piece of music. In many cases it makes more sense to end an album with an energized, hard rocking piece, but in this instance, the number really works as a closer.
 
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