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Pendragon - Not Of This World CD (album) cover





3.90 | 514 ratings

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5 stars Pendragon were riding high in 1996. As well as releasing The Masquerade Overture, another very popular album in a similar vein to The World and The Window of Life, the band also recorded their best live album to date (Live In Krakow) - which I actually think is a much better rendition of the Masquerade material - in honour of the successful tour to support their Overture.

Then, however, things went awfully quiet, with only compilations and archival releases trickling out of the Pendragon camp - all in all, their longest period of inactivity since they founded their own Toff Records label. What had happened to cease the steady trickle of new studio and live recordings that the band had been issuing from 1991 onwards?

Sadly, it transpired that the band's activities had been disrupted due to Nick Barrett going through an emotionally devastating divorce - a process which was sufficiently messy and financially draining as to take up all his resources for some time. Eventually, however, the band got back together to produce Not Of This World, which I consider to be the last of a quartet of studio albums beginning with The World.

Part of the reason I look at it this way comes down to its musical style, which is still very much in the school established with The World - Floyd-influenced, highly emotional melodic neo-prog is the order of the day here. On top of that, the album has a particular atmosphere of looking back at past experiences - not in a nostalgic way, more as a sort of taking stock of where you've been and what you've endured and what survived the process and what got lost along the way.

Lyrically speaking, it's clear that Nick Barrett's divorce was high in his mind at the time - really, could anyone seriously expect that he'd be thinking of anything else? - but rather than merely wallowing in self-pity Barrett takes the chance to sift through his feelings, examine them, come to terms with them and, through the songs here, depict the process of moving on. There's a hint of the sense of hurt and betrayal that comes with divorce, of course, but there's also an acceptance that things weren't to be, and that it's best for both parties if they can move on to a new phase of their lives. It's tempting, on that basis, to suggest that this is neo-prog's answer to Peter Hammill's Over.

However, whilst the theme of Nick's personal loss keeps cropping up, his subject matter is somewhat broader than that. There's a healthy dose of self-examination here and there, as well as consideration of issues of loss and failed dreams in a more general sense. On the whole, in fact, I think this is one of Barrett's best works as a lyricist, and it helps craft the album into a sort of spiritual twin of The Window of Life, which in its own way was very taken with themes of bereavement and loss and looking to the future. (Perhaps that was Pendragon's reaction to the deaths of Twelfth Night's Geoff Mann and IQ's "Ledge"? After all, IQ's own Ever came out in the same year and also was stuffed with bereavement themes for those exact reasons.)

Combine this with the band's strongest compositions since Window, and I think it's hard not to give it full marks - yes, it's the fourth album in what is essentially the same style, but I think it is the most mature, sober, and sophisticated application of that style the band ever attempted. What better way to close off this very successful phase of the band's existence and move on into uncharted waters?

Warthur | 5/5 |


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