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Pendragon - The Masquerade Overture CD (album) cover

THE MASQUERADE OVERTURE

Pendragon

 

Neo-Prog

3.95 | 500 ratings

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stonebeard
5 stars The Masquerade Overture is one of the best albums I've ever heard. Perhaps even the best. It has no flaws that really get to me. This is an album about reality, shattered hopes and dreams, temptation, Good and Evil and everything in between. It is a complete masterpiece.

The Masquerade Overture starts off with the title track. A gentle synthesizer introduction soon becomes a grandiose, booming, and epic hymn. The lyrics are in Italian and I have no idea what they mean, but that makes no difference. You get the feel that you're in a late Renaissance-period cathedral, hearing the congregation booming a hymn laden with forboding. The song sets the stage for the album: Epic, emotional, and a bit overwhelming, but in a good way.

"As Good as Gold" is a beautiful, personal song that paints the picture of a young man encountering a cruel world and struggling to survive. The song's introduction is simply the best I've ever heard. The chord sequence in the first minute-and-a-half is stunningly beautiful. When the echoing chorus of voices joins Barrett's at the line, "I open up my eyes and look up to the skies and I dream," it always gets me. The following guitar solo is genius and completely memorable, which I crave in the music I listen to. The rest of the song is perfectly structured to keep the listener's attention and the chorus nearly brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it.

And so we arrive at "Paintbox," a song of striving to achieve one's dreams and destiny amidst turmoil. The song starts off with on a solemn vibe, which serves as the perfect soundtrack to the image of a desperate young man trying to make a future for himself. The song escalates and eventually, the guitar and keyboards go into a recurring musical theme that encapsulates the heart-wrenching emotion and desperation of the song. In a word: Beautiful.

Next up is "The Persuit of Excellence." A short piece at only 2:36, it provides a story of an immigrant trying to achieve hope and opportunity in America. The song has a Celtic feel to it, which I absolutely love. I'm a big (prog) folk fan and this is just the kind of music that I like to listen to every now and then. The song is unique because of a slight oddity: lyrics of longing and determination are prevalent, yet the song has a very sad and solemn feel to it. A true gem.

A funky, tribal drumming feel starts off the next track, "Guardian of My Soul," but soon dissipates into a song of dashed hope, making references to the Greek myth about Icarus, who flew too close to the sun on wings of wax, and fell to his death. This allusion is profound in how it relates to how the storyteller is crestfallen and that his dreams are shattered. And yet he is glad that there was someone there by his side to guide him through dark waters. At first, this song definitely has a darker feel in both the lyrics and the music, but soon becomes more upbeat, as though the "guardian" is seeing the troubled one through to the light.

"The Shadow" begins as a piano and acoustic ballad turning out some great acoustic guitar-keyboard interplay and yet another well-crafted electric guitar solo. The song continues the theme of hopefulness in light of insecurity and adversary. The ending is especially moving though, with a guitar soloing over the harmonies of Barrett and special guest Tracy Hitchings, slowly moving back to a soft and slightly uneasy piano line.

"Master of Illusion" ends The Masquerade Overture on an upbeat musically, but on somewhat pessimistically lyric-wise, the Master of Illusion being Satan, tempting us with great things with only deception in his mind. Sections of the song sometimes echo the memorable chord sequences on "Paintbox," an interesting tactic that I very much enjoy every so often in music. The guitar solo concluding "Master of Illusion" is completely perfect. Coming in at 9:46 and going on to conclude the song, I could describe it as emotive and ethereal beyond comprehension, but words can only go so far. Imagine the guitar solo from Pink Floyd's "Time" going on for three minutes without ever becoming dull, instead remaining completely relevant and atmospheric and you'll be somewhere close. This song is the perfect way to end this album.

A Note: I know I can get a bit carried away with my love of solos, but they fit so well in all of their situations in these songs, that they deserve all the credit I give them.

The Gist: If you like progressive rock, own this album.

stonebeard | 5/5 |

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