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Pendragon - Passion CD (album) cover





3.74 | 516 ratings

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3 stars If Passion does one thing right, it proves that Pendragon is still an innovative force to be reckoned with in 2011. Even 33 years after their formation in Stroud, England, the band still hasn't succumbed to treading on previously broken ground. Passion shows the famed neo-prog quartet with their heaviest, darkest, and possibly most unique album to date - whether or not that's a good thing ultimately depends on the listener. I happen to miss the light-hearted and symphonic atmosphere of masterpieces like The Masquerade Overture, but any band that would sacrifice innovation for album-repeats won't last long in this industry. As much as I appreciate Pendragon's heavier new direction on this album (I'm a die-hard death metal fan, after all!), I feel that it lacks part of what made them so enjoyable in the first place. Hopefully in future efforts they can find a way to merge the heaviness of this album with the memorability of their earlier efforts - that would make for one great album, to be sure!

Don't be mistaken by me calling this album 'heavy' - it's nowhere near the likes of the modern progressive metal leaders. But in comparison to the light-hearted, feel-good symphonic prog of their albums from the early 90's, this may feel like a radical departure for some. Heavy guitar riffs and a sleek modern production are the name of the game here, and Clive Nolan's once-dominate keyboard arrangements take a bit of a backseat on Passion. There are plenty of distinctly neo-progressive sections here, but I am more often reminded of Porcupine Tree and Riverside than I am of early-Marillion and IQ. This album takes the modern-edged Pure and strips away that last bit of 'eighties vibe' from the overall sound. For those hesitant to neo prog, this is by all means a good thing. I actually have a great appreciation for this newfound direction on Passion, but I feel the songwriting pales in comparison to the band's earlier masterworks. 'This Green And Pleasant Land' is by far the best track here - this is truly an excellent modern prog epic that will undoubtedly be remembered among the best of 2011.

Of course, as we're used to from Pendragon, the musicianship is outstanding across the board. Although I'm a bit disappointed by Clive Nolan's general lack of presence on this album, it just gives Nick Barrett's fantastic guitar work more room to shine. He's truly among the best in progressive rock - a perfect mix of Steve Rothery and David Gilmour, sure to satisfy prog rock enthusiasts. Peter Gee's bass playing provides a perfect foundation for the band and Scott Higham is also a mightily impressive drummer. These guys are simply a joy to listen to. The production is equally excellent - the sleek, modern sound suits the music perfectly.

When all is said and done, Passion isn't an album that's completely won me over. But that's what often happens when experienced bands experiment into new territory - they've released an impressive effort, no doubt, but it falls short of living up to their earlier masterpieces. This isn't the best starting point for Pendragon newbies, but it should satisfy fans of sleek, modern prog rock. It'll be interesting to hear where Pendragon heads next; this heavy, modern sound is one that Pendragon should undoubtedly master in the coming years. Passion is a good, but not outstanding, effort worthy of 3.5 stars. Although I'm a bit disappointed by this album, I don't deny quality - which is exactly what we have here.

J-Man | 3/5 |


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