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Pallas - Beat The Drum CD (album) cover





3.64 | 143 ratings

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4 stars Beat the Drum was Pallas's first album in a decade, and somehow, somewhere along the line, the band became serious. Or rather-commanding of respect. Perhaps it is just looking back on a very odd decade (the 1980s), and seeing the hair, synths, and sci-fi concepts, but it can be hard to take such a pompous prog band of such an era seriously in retrospect. But with Beat the Drum, all of that changed. It is hard even thinking of the two eras as being part of the same band. The differences are immediately apparent; Alan Reed's vocals are the most powerful and compelling of all major league Neo Prog acts; the music has evolved from New-Wave influenced, brash, similar to Twelfth Night but with a science fiction twist to a very modern sound similar to Pendragon but with less importance placed on guitar solos and keyboard washes and more on guitar-led themes. I think the progress Pallas made in this album is tremendous and worthy of congratulations, but at times, the band seems indistinct from other modern Neo bands, especially Arena and Pendragon. They would flesh out this new sound on the following two albums, The Cross and the Crucible and The Dreams of Men, and the success of those recordings is in part to better songwriting. In fact, the only time Beat the Drum really falters is on indistinct songs slightly past the half point. These songs are not unlistenable, but you can easily see how uninspired they are compared to the onslaught of brilliant songs right from the get-go.

Let me take time now to shine the spotlight on Alan Reed, because he really deserves it for his work on Beat the Drum and subsequent albums. I don't know what happened in that Pallas-less decade before this album, but his voice is one of my favorites in prog, not because he can hit high notes or wail like Bruce Dickenson, but because his voice is utterly commanding. It compels action on "Beat the Drum" and offers the most tender and sorrowful lyrics on "Blood and Roses" without sounding trite or false. I will not lie, his voice is unique and takes some getting used to. Maybe not as much as Peter Hammill's voice, but it needs time to settle in. This applies to all Pallas albums after Beat the Drum as well, in case you decide to start with Pallas at a later album.

Since I don't have the vocabulary capacity to due each track justice in a track-by-track analysis, I will offer my final opinion. This is the weakest album of Pallas's second era. Every aspect of this record would be improved upon with the two subsequent records. Nevertheless, I cannot turn away from Beat the Drum. Certain songs such as "A Call to Arms," "Beat the Drum," "Insomniac," and "Fragments of the Sun" (a good portion of the album, by the way) are classic Pallas songs, and I would not want to go back to a time when I did not know them. So, please give this album a try if you are interested in Neo Prog in the least (and try not to be put off by the term). If you know and like any other Pallas material, you must try this album. And if you still have nightmares about The Sentinel, you must listen to Beat the Drum. You owe it to yourself to know Pallas for more than their 80s material.

stonebeard | 4/5 |


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