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Pendragon - Love Over Fear CD (album) cover

LOVE OVER FEAR

Pendragon

 

Neo-Prog

4.08 | 408 ratings

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mental_hygiene
2 stars Love Over Fear came to my attention early in 2020 when it was one of the early contenders for album of the year, dominating the progarchives charts for the first few months and still (as of 5/26/21) at a considerably high rating, even among Pendragon's more recent albums. I haven't listened to much from them, as I've had to buy their albums from bandcamp. Which, by the way, you should absolutely consider buying their earlier works that are some of the defining 90s neo-prog albums. It took me a while to get to this, but I'm just so saddened to say that this is just not a good album.

I really don't like giving overly negative reviews unless there's something very fundamentally wrong. But that's how I feel about this album. The musicianship is good, Pendragon are experienced and have aged very well in terms of their general arrangements and sound, especially coming from a band that uses a lot of cheesy synth sounds. There are many points on this album that are actually really good. There are points that sound truly vulnerable and emotional, especially the second track.

That said, my first problem is composition wise. Like I said before, there are awesome riffs, but they get completely decimated by repeat after repeat with added arrangements that don't seem to build anywhere. Sometimes there are good instrumental moments, but it's otherwise scatterbrained or overly simplistic in a way that doesn't sit right. This is a fundamental flaw, but it's not really what I would pick at this album for. Neo-Prog is a pop inspired genre, and I can't get mad at them for doing just that (even when I think they don't do what they're going for that well).

Second, the production. It's atrocious. It's compressed to oblivion at times (not a unique problem, but again, these flaws, I would argue, all stack high). There's this cheap sounding reverb that doesn't decorate the soundstage as much as it throws glitter on a cake, rendering it inedible. This album sounds pretty bad at times. The synth choices are highly questionable, but that didn't get in the way of how I like the masquerade overture. To my ears, it feels like an unconscious flaw rather than a conscious aesthetic decision.

Third, and most importantly, the lyrics on every song are bordering on meaningless. I tried hard for the first half of the album to stop being cynical and have fun. There are fun moments, like that "all aboard" part early on, that's the kind of zany character that I love to hear in neo-prog. The lyrics to this album are competent but way too heavy handed at best, and complete idiom soup at worst. I mean, read the lyrics of Water. Sometimes Neo-prog lyrics can be heartwarming in their naivete when it's executed properly (I mean, that's literally Misplaced Childhood!). Wolf at the door, yadda yadda yadda. It means absolutely nothing, and it's executed vocally like it should mean something.

This album feels extremely superficial to me, like it's the kind of music that is the reason why I've been radicalized to listen to prog. I know there may have been some harsh sentences in here, but I wouldn't say them if I didn't at least think they held up (especially on an album with an extremely high standing). First, this is not excellent, I think Love Over Fear fails to add up to excellence in any sense. Here's the tricky part, I think this is a competent album. On an objective level, based on my own experience as a prog listener and a musician, I could never take that away from Pendragon. At the same time, if you asked me a yes or no question: "is this a good album", I would say ehh. I wouldn't want to give this to someone who's asking for a good modern prog album. I feel like fans of Pendragon are really the only crowd who could get something from this.

In summary, the unfocused composition style, bloated production, and incoherent lyrics drag Love Over Fear down to two stars.

mental_hygiene | 2/5 |

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