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Pendragon - The Masquerade Overture CD (album) cover





4.00 | 619 ratings

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3 stars I remember getting The Masquerade Overture after my supply of Marillion albums began to run dry and I felt the crave to explore other Neo-Prog acts. I don't have the exact recollection of how I stumbled on Pendragon but my guess is that it had to do with the band's release of Believe that received a great deal of attention on Prog Archives at the time. Since Pendragon's albums were pretty hard to come by I settled for the only release I could track down not realizing that this also happened to be the band's most popular record at the time!

I'm pretty sure that I already owned some of my Arena albums but still failed to recognize the familiar name of Clive Nolan among the credits. This might have made me reconsider my initial valuation of this music since I honestly didn't think much of it at the time. After about 3-5 weeks in my portable record play this album was swiftly replaced by Dark Matter from IQ making me almost forget that I heard The Masquerade Overture all together. I did in fact return to this album on a few occasions like the time when I had huge Arena rediscovery with the purchase of Contagion and the time when I took a spontaneous leap of faith by purchasing Pure. Those revisits did make me reconsider some of my original thoughts and now I actually started to enjoy The Masquerade Overture to a certain level even if I still consider it to be a rather flawed Neo-Prog release.

My initial reaction to the album-titled intro piece was a positive such since it reminded me of my old Power Metal albums. This operatic composition was of course an interesting choice of introduction to the record even if it made much less sense after hearing the rest of the material. As Good As Gold and Guardian Of My Soul are pretty decent songs although not really among my personal favorites. It's as if the band always keeps a safe distance between itself and the listener without fully engaging me with their music. All the right Neo-Prog elements are in place but they don't add up to that excellent experience that this album receives its recognition for. Paintbox gets closest to a great composition but even here I lack more of a personality from Pendragon's performance. Playing it safe is one thing but doing so while keeping a safety distance makes thing just even more difficult.

The album's criticized short interlude titled The Pursuit Of Excellence has always sounded a lot like Dire Straits' song Brothers In Arms and I'm sure you'll understand what I'm talking about if you try to hum the tunes. The albums concludes with two longer compositions which seem to be the highlights of the album and, based on the later live releases, Pendragon likes to perform them in a live setting. These two pieces do very little for me, featuring many different song fragments that never seem to stick together as self-sufficient compositions. Masters Of Illusion is definitely the biggest sinner in terms of stalking a bunch of ideas together without paying much attention to the big picture. The Shadow is slightly more consistent and I'm finally beginning to see some of its charm, although there are sections that still sound too cliché even for Neo-Prog.

This album has never been a favorite of mine and even if I can't exactly dismiss it for being a poor effort from Pendragon, but there are quite a few moments that make me question its praise. The Masquerade Overture is a good, but non-essential record that will most probably remain as such for me.

**** star songs: The Masquerade Overture (3:04) As Good As Gold (7:15) Paintbox (8:39) The Pursuit Of Excellence (2:37) Guardian Of My Soul (12:41) The Shadow (9:56)

*** star songs: Masters Of Illusion (12:51)

Rune2000 | 3/5 |


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