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Pallas - Beat The Drum CD (album) cover

BEAT THE DRUM

Pallas

 

Neo-Prog

3.65 | 102 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Out of the Wilderness Years

With no less than 12 years between "The wedge" and this album, Pallas fans could have been forgiven for thinking that all hope of new material had been lost. To their credit, the band persevered over that period, only losing drummer Derek Forman (replaced by Colin Fraser) along the way. Indeed not only did the band survive, but they returned with a wonderful new sound and a new found energy. While the first two albums had been competent and enjoyable, "Beat the drum" is a whole new ball game in terms of quality and in terms of prog.

Right from the opening appropriately titled "Call to arms", we are presented with a resounding new confidence, the tracks being a succession of elaborately arranged, highly melodic mini-masterpieces of neo-prog. The 9 minute title track is placed right after "Call to arms", this powerful epic being a blend of all that is great about bands such as Marillion, IQ and Pendragon. Ronnie Brown's symphonic keyboards lay a solid basis for the superb vocals of Alan Reed and some fine lead guitar by Niall Matthewson. The track has delicacy, subtlety, drama and a memorable hook, all rolled up in an exciting, pulsating wall of sound.

The 7 minute "Insomniac" has a similarly rewarding structure, the track sounding a little like Marillion's "Grendel" at times (with a bit of "Masquerade Overture" too). Reed displays the full strength of his voice here while Ronnie Brown adds some mesmerising synth runs. "Spirits" is the most atmospheric song of the lot, Reed really surpassing himself vocally against a haunting backdrop of moody ambience interrupted by dramatic intrusions. The track is rounded of with the swirl of the bagpipes, bringing a lump to this throat at least!

Other longer songs include the 8 minute "Ghosts", another finely crafted piece which builds gradually throughout and the closing "Fragments of the sun" (also 8 minutes). The latter draws the album together in a suitably grand manner, the track building to a fine crescendo.

Some of the 11 tracks here (the album runs to over 70 minutes) are more accessible pomp rock numbers, "Hide and seek" for example is reminiscent of Marillion's "Punch and Judy". "Blood and roses" on the other hand is a delightfully orchestrated (by keyboards) delicate ballad. "Wilderness years" is the hardest (in terms of rock) track on the album, the pounding beat seeing Colin Fraser beat the hell out of the drum.

These days I tend to be rather mean with five star ratings. "Beat the drum" though justifies such an accolade with ease. This is a truly stunning album.

Easy Livin | 5/5 |

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