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Gandalf's Fist - A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer CD (album) cover

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A UNIVERSAL WANDERER

Gandalf's Fist

 

Neo-Prog

4.01 | 59 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars Crunch time! And we have a winner! After a supreme first success with Road to Darkness, there was, in my opinion, a letdown with the follow-up, last year's "From a point of Existence'. So what was going to be next, something fabulous or a train wreck?

After an initial spoken introduction, the CD kicks into overdrive with the splendidly cloudy and intoxicating nearly 8 minute epic, "The Nine Billion Names of God", setting the tone with a Roxy Music (sax sex) vibe massaged into a suave space excursion, hushed vocals and glittering musical elaboration. Luke Severn is the owner of a high-pitched whisper that drips atmospherics, a style I particularly care for (New Musik's Tony Mansfield, Steve Wilson, the Church and Vienna Circle come to mind).

But it's the next trio of tunes that seal the deal for this release: With a classic-like delivery, the sensational "Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet" blasts forth in unchallenged confidence , displaying a thrilling harmony of sounds and colors, all supported by near-perfect execution. A bold guitar line carves out an addictive melody which will govern accordingly. Severn's vocal hush is even more shimmering here This track has all the hallmarks of an eternal prog classic and will be getting heavy rotation on my daily machines.

This is followed by the transcendent "Somewhere Beyond the Stars", a world-class anthem of sheer delirious female vocal ecstasy, a mostly piano and voice duet that should be a future standard, something similar to the spectacular Emeli Sande's Read all about it . A delicate guitar caresses the soul, while the female vocal just transcends any sense of normalcy, the lyrics poignant and touching. I have been humming this all week !

Finish up with majestic "Orphans of the Sky", an Eloy-like space romp that verges on the jaw-dropping! There is pulse, determination, sweet vocal luxuries of genius, solid melodies and even driving beats mixed in with some spooky soloing! Tremendous seven minute cosmic romp that will stand the test of time, there is a sense of total control over the arrangement that goes beyond just pleasurable. We are talking memorable, here! The audacity to toss in some "Maggot Brain"-like guitar clanging in the mid-section, well that just does it for me, thank you! (You tube Funkadelic-Maggot Brain, OMG!). Dean Marsh is killing it! Just because these three songs are exceptional does not mean the rest is chopped liver on pumpernickel!

A few snippets of some of the finest narration lines ever recorded, loaded with steamy tones like from 50s crime cinema, black and white eeriness, a la Hitchcock. "Maze of Corridors" is also a wild sonic ride, blowing into a hurricane of devilish proportions, as if an Iron Maiden vibe had taken over. Pretty convincing especially with the unrelenting chorus of 'Madness', a delectable heavy metal guitar solo to close up, what a musical ride up to now!

On "Universal Wanderer", Luke Severn returns with his high-pitched whisper , in a near segue to the opening jewel "The Nine Billion Names of God", this time with a harsher riff assault and relentless battery, like a harder Rush or even another nod to Maiden. The scintillating melody and chorus are to expiate over, having to fill the swear jar later with a month's worth of savings! Gandalf's Fist wear all their influences well and adapt them to a wholly original style that I particularly crave. The "whoa, oh oh" is a well-trodden classic formula but its wholly appropriate here.

"Nexus" is a similar rocket of moody psychedelics, noodling into Floydian territory, a trait they do rather well, adding Beatles?harmony influences to the heady mix. Dean Marsh is a serious candidate for prog idolatry, manning all the main instruments with studied yet creative aplomb. His guitar playing is exemplary if not even more so, the keyboard textures are cinematographic, the bass playing technical and the drums, with some outside help, are thunderous. The female voice does once again a great pilgrimage to the loftiest heights.

The brief "North of the Wall" has that quirky Morgan Freeman-like narration at the end, after a formidable opening section. But the other outright killer track is undoubtedly the crown jewel melody of "The Battle for Tannhauser Gate", a luxuriant tune where stunning violin and ornate mandolin intertwine with utter harmony, knitting in another flexible female vocal, a perhaps proggier version of Blackmore's Night. The momentous chorus arches over the horizon with assurance, a deadly Oldfieldian guitar underlines the theme, accessible yet potent material of the highest caliber.

"Wanderer Goes South" pulls down the curtain on this "chef d'oeuvre", a rambling epic and longest track here, underlining the theme of this album, as per quote on their website" Those lucky enough to intercept the signal on their primitive terrestrial audio-decoders, will be treated to a cosmic jam across space and time exploring a mythical figure from the 26th Century ? 'The Universal Wanderer' - who's legend tells of a figure who has wandered the cosmos from the birth of existence to the end of time" . Things get Wagnerian with a heavy bombastic symphonics, yet upbeat and playful, breezy and refreshing. Wow!

A preposterous achievement and total success, Gandalf's Fist are to be commended for such a technically salivating album, a total joy to revisit over and over. The 2013 year of quality releases continues unabated, another treasure to add to the trove. More Neo-prog of the highest pedigree!

5 Ivan Denisoviches

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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