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Pendragon - Love Over Fear CD (album) cover





4.07 | 364 ratings

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5 stars After spending the 1980s with one foot in neo-prog and another foot in poppier material, with all the stylistic shifts that such a stance implies, Pendragon would shift gear in the 1990s and establish what many think of as the "classic" Pendragon sound - a melodic style of neo-prog in which Clive Nolan's synthesiser textures create a dramatic backdrop against which Nick Barrett's emotionally resonant guitar work unfolds.

This is a style that premiered on The World, was perfected on The Window of Life and The Masquerade Overture, and in retrospect you can see Not Of This World as the close of this phase of the band. Believe, whilst it still had significant elements of this style, saw the band incorporating fresher ideas into their toolbox, whilst Pure, Passion, and Men Who Climb Mountains have all sounded very different from their 1990s material.

Now, after a long percolation, the new album comes - Love Over Fear - and I feel like in years to come we'll look at this album as the fruition of the process of musical experimentation and development the band began after Not Of This World. Not because it is the furthest they have gone from their 1990s style - but because it's the closest they have come to a return to it since that album came out.

However, don't be fooled - this is not Pendragon taking a step backwards. Rather, like the spiralling wave (with a heart at its centre, naturally) on the front cover art, this is Pendragon coming full circle whilst still moving forwards all the time. In essence, my feeling is that the intervening albums between Not Of This World and this represent a cathartic process of renewal and development that Pendragon had to accomplish before they tackled this task. The Pendragon of 2001, who'd just done Not Of This World, would not have been able to make this album - not out of any lack of musical ability, but because they needed to exercise other muscles and let other aspects of their style rest a bit to rejuvenate itself before they harvested those fields again.

And even here, there's little departures here and there; the opening track, Everything, sounds like a psych number from the 1960s in its early stages before it shifts gear into more typical Pendragon fare, whilst elsewhere the band feel happy taking moments to step back and go for a more minimalist approach (as on Starfish and the Moon). It really feels like there's nods to all the different shores that Pendragon have washed up on over the years, whilst keeping the heart of the material rooted in their classic style at least in terms of following the "melodic, emotional neo-prog" niche they had carved out for themselves, though they approach that mission statement with a greatly expanded musical palette at their disposal and so execute it with more finesse than ever before.

It took a long while for Pendragon to really find their audience - in particular, we should really thank the Polish prog scene for being such stalwart supporters of the band at a time when other markets didn't want to hear it - and I recall that when I started following prog online in the late 1990s/early 2000s, many looked down on them for following their particular style. They've proven those naysayers wrong over and over again from Pure onwards, but Love Over Fear may well be their grandest artistic statement yet.

Warthur | 5/5 |


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