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4 stars Legend - back with a bang!

It is approximately 15 years since UK progressive rock band legend delivered their stunning "Triple Aspect" album with it's blistering guitar solos, driving rhythms, catchy melodies and operatic female vocals. Now at last we have the follow up, "Cardinal Points" - originally conceived as long ago as 1998, but following the loss of their label, Pagan Media Ltd in 1999, the project was consigned to the hands of the Gods, where it has remained ever since right up to the early part of last year (2010). And thus at last, with a re-jigged line up featuring no less than four previous contributors, Legend the band was reincarnated, and the material that was to have become "Cardinal Points" all those years ago thrown back into the cauldron, the witches summoned - and the spell was re-cast...

And how!! - "Cardinal Points" is billed as a concept album exploring the 4 points of the compass and their relationships to the Elements of Western Mysticism; Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The four epic tracks are linked together by the sounds of wind and thunder, & the album is designed to be listened to as a complete entity rather than the collection of individual songs which made up the band's previous works.

"Carved In Stone" opens with a snatch of birdsong and what sounds like a didjeridoo, before the drums, new vocalist Kerry Parker, and finally the rest of the band join in. The track builds slowly, alternating between the stripped back sound we heard at the start, and the band in full flight. When I said Kerry was a new vocalist, she was actually involved in the very embryonic stages of the first incarnation of Legend, but was not able to continue to record anything with them at that time. Eventual vocalist Debbie Chapman's unique vocal style was very much a hallmark of Legend's sound on the first three albums, and whilst Kerry has a very different range, she sets to the task with much aplomb here - helping to give the album's sound a much darker edge than the previous ones had - a sound perhaps more fitting to the subject matter upon which the songs are based than was previously the case.

Legend Mk1 were regarded as a neo prog band, but their new sound to me is something much more than this. There are elements of world music thrown into the mix, many changes in tempo within the songs, some magnificent purely instrumental sections in each of the four tracks, and Kerry's excellent vocals - sounding not at all unlike Heather Findlay, who used to front the prog-folk band Mostly Autumn.

Each track is written around one of the four elements - track two is called "Whisper on The Wind" and starts with just the sound of the bass (and the wind!) before the rest of the band join in. It is quite an up-tempo track for the first 2 and a half minutes, then it slows right down into an atmospheric instrumental section with a slightly Eastern flavour to it until Dave Foster gives his guitar a bit of a workout and the tempo picks right up again.

It is the wonderful variety within each song which helps maintain interest throughout, and allows these quite long compositions to work so well, & it is quite easy to imagine the closing instrumental section of "Whisper On The Wind" being blasted out to raise a cone of power at a pagan ritual!

"Spark To A Flame" is probably the most complex track on the album musically - certainly regarding its ever-shifting time signatures, and it contains a beautiful ethereal mid-section where drums are absent altogether - we are treated to some wonderful organ sounds here before the "dark" aspect takes over again with some brief chanting leading us back into a repeat of the song's main lyric, and finally the most amazing full-on instrumental ending - brilliant!!

"Drop In The Ocean" finishes the album off. This is another track with ever changing moods and nuances - this one above all others gives Kerry the chance to show what a fine voice she has - there is no chanting in this song - the vocal parts are slow and deliberate, and she sings them beautifully. There is a quiet acoustic interlude with just a guitar and a synthesised wind instrument (possibly a flute?), and a full symphonic ending during which Kerry sounds just like Anne-Marie Helder; indeed it is quite easy to imagine you are listening to Panic Room here! The album ends with the sound of crashing waves.

Overall an excellent album, full of twists and turns & well worth the 15 year wait, though for anyone expecting "Triple Aspect II", this isn't what we have here at all. Legend have moved on since then, and in my opinion gained in stature even more. The album deserves to do well, and I hope the band enjoy some long-overdue success in the UK with it.

Digital release via iTunes, Amazon etc. was on 4th April 2011, and the CD itself is due for release on 21st April.

4 and a half triple moons! - enjoy!!

Report this review (#428324)
Posted Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars Full points!

15 years after their previous studio album and some 20 years after their debut comes Legend's fourth studio effort, Cardinal Points. I was very excited to hear the new album by this excellent band so I downloaded the album from iTunes even though I had already pre- ordered the CD months earlier. I didn't mind paying for this music twice at all as I am thereby supporting an outstanding and much overlooked band. The physical CD eventually landed on my doorstep yesterday, but I have already been listening to the contents of the album now for several weeks and there is no sign of me losing interest in this brilliant music. On the contrary, it keeps growing on me with each new listen. I am always very careful about awarding the masterpiece rating, but after many listens over some time I am confident that this album has the necessary staying power. This is a brilliant piece of work indeed!

Work on this album begun already in the years following the previous album (i.e. during the second half of the 90's), but for various reasons the band was put on hold and Cardinal Points was not finalized until this year. Despite the fact that the brilliant vocalist Debbie Chapman has been replaced by one Kerry Parker for this release, Cardinal Points has all the trademarks of the previous Legend albums. Yet, it also sounds different and fresh. You will find some new influences among the old ones and I'm certain that this album will appeal to both the old fans and those who are new to the band. Indeed, though I personally think that the band's previous album, Triple Aspect, is equally impressive, the present album probably has a wider appeal among Prog fans and is thus an excellent point of entry to investigate the band.

The Neo-Prog tag is perhaps even less appropriate here than concerning the previous three albums and the sound is less metallic and more symphonic. The clean, hard-edged guitar sound and the brilliant electronic keyboards of band leader Steve Paine are still very much the backbone of the band's sound, but the bass guitar gets more space this time around which I like a lot. John Macklin's drumming is perhaps slightly less driving than previously, but very competent indeed. The Folk influences are still here and there are three guests adding flute, didgeridoo and exotic percussion respectively. There is an almost New-Age/World-Music feel to some parts, which I love. But Legend transcends such genre categorizations as Neo-Prog, Heavy Metal, Prog Folk, etc. - they have a unique sound all of their own.

Legend's second album was called Second Sight, their third album was called Triple Aspect and now their fourth album is based on the four points of the compass and the four elements - earth, wind, fire and water. (One can only speculate about if the next album will be related to the number five?). Cardinal Points consists of only four tracks each representing an element and a point of the compass. The longest track runs to some 17 minutes and the shortest to 13, but the whole album runs like one long piece only interrupted by some very atmospheric nature sounds between the songs. The lyrics are suitably mystical and fits the music perfectly.

All four studio albums by Legend are excellent, but the two most recent ones are both worthy of the highest rating, in my opinion. For me, Cardinal Points might be the best album of the new millenium and it is very highly recommended!

Report this review (#440311)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars To bear the name Legend, you must possess an uncanny sense of proud accomplishment, a vision of musical dedication and then, live up to the moniker. This British band certainly has followed the long, at times lonely road of surviving in a fickle uber- mediatized universe, starting out in 1988 with their first release "Light in Extension" in 1991 and slowly building a discography in hushed confidence. I started out discovering the band with Triple Aspect, stunned by the quality of the music (as per my radiant review) and thanks to leader/keyboardist Steve Paine, I have received their entire discography to enjoy and critique. Their latest volume of work has already garnered rave reviews here and elsewhere, mainly because it's a definite progression from those early heady days. As per the liner notes "Cardinal Points" explores the compass and the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, the four unshakable cornerstones of Western mysticism. There are therefore 4 extended pieces that foliate each constituent. All the hallmark symphonics are here to behold, from delicate acoustic folk passages to storming crescendos, solidly humanified by powerful female vocals. Keyboardist Paine is no slouch on the ivories, weaving majestic mellotron torrents, aided and abetted by some swirling organ work as well as some shimmering synth solos. What makes Legend so different from other similar groups (Karnataka, Breathing Space, Panic Room, The Reasoning etc..) is they prefer a more Gothic, dare I say dark substance to envelop the audiophile, as if some ethereal spirit recoils in the shadows, just waiting to pounce. It's not a 'lah-di-dah' ride, in other words. The tone can be spooky such as on the magical, bass-led "Whisper on the Wind" a 14 minute epic piece that is the optimum example of their craft, a rambling expression where guitarist Dave Foster really gets to unleash some fiery licks, paralleled with some sizzling solos (fast and deadly!), tossing in mighty mood shifts and shrewd vocals, all combining to deliver a scintillating prog masterpiece, in my opinion. The nimble bass solo from Dan Nelson just forces me to kneel in numb respect. When they blast forward towards the end, it's like a relentless Hawkwind on steroids, insane synthesizers ablaze! Need to catch my breath after this spellbinding adventure! "Spark to the Flame" has a volcanic feel (listening to Magma, Steve?), spewing liquid fire vocalizations, drummer extraordinaire John Macklin bashing away with authority, remorseless rhythmic touch and go signatures (way too complex for a Neo label BTW!) , a third epic track in total opposition to the previous two exercises, showing a sense of exuberant exploration that is refreshing. The spacy mid-section is completely unexpected and a masterful stroke as Kerry Parker shows off a softer microphone stance, as the synths swoosh one moment and ping-pong the next in the harrowing background. The screaming guitar outro solo is truly amazing to boot! I need to retrieve my breath again, I am panting! The fourth epic is the massive 17 minute + "Drop in the Ocean" which starts out with a seductively gentle vocal within a squall of ringing synths and then morphs into a spiraling osmosis of rapid-fire everything (drums, piano and guits), exhibiting some lucid mastery of chops and unambiguous artistic energy. Kerry really has the lungs to evoke deep passions and exhibits here convincingly. The serene mid-section bravely espouses almost medieval tendencies, with sumptuous flute caressed by tender acoustic guitar, a contrast of lovely sounds and merging trumpet-synth symphonics that add bombast and poignant depth that is entirely congenial. The orchestral accent here remains purely on sonic beauty and on an "ocean of emotion", with a final coda to expire for. This is just legendary and worthy of their name. An effortless 5 prime peaks
Report this review (#448515)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars A True Epic!

I am one of the many it seems who have dismissed Legend and it seems for no real reason, but having read South Side of the Sky's review of Cardinal Points and indeed the praise here for the band's earlier albums I decided to risk getting a copy of Cardinal Points on iTunes and boy what an absolute treat!

This album is the embodiment of epic Prog at its best. Legend don't sound quite like any other of the current Prog Bands blending a lot of different influences from Classic Rock through Folk through World and even New Age textures are woven into Cardinal Points. The foundation is solid rock with punchy and precise overdriven guitars meshed with astutely crafted keyboards and very fluid, lyrical bass lines driven by authoritative drums and all topped off with emotively powerful vocals and the result is truly more than the sum of its parts!

There are only four tracks on this album but they are all epics, there's no filler here, once you hit play you are on a journey... the first track Carved in Stone surprised me at first as slightly eerie birdsong gives way to Didgeridoo and ethnic percussion which gives a Dead can Dance feel to the album and Kerry Parker's rich earthy vocal tones start to weave a mesmerising spell until the whole band launches in and the sound of the album is established ? the song progresses, constantly building sounding very Tull like in the middle twisting to be almost Nightwish like by its conclusion. Sonically it is reminiscent of classic Prog, screaming organs and roaring Mellotrons to the fore!

Whisper on the Wind is heralded by the sound of howling wind before a hypnotic Bass pattern launches into a riff based verse that is reminiscent of west coast psychedelia, even the voice reminds me a little of Grace Slick at times. This song has a very melodic, even catchy, if I dare use the word, verse and chorus. Then comes the middle section which becomes almost Floydian with its ethereal keyboards and sparse bass and drums which provides a beautiful foil for Dave Foster's stunning guitar break starting with Gilmour style acoustic but moving up through the gears till his electric lead is singing out with a passion that equals any of the best players currently out there. As the solo dies away the verse and chorus return with a heavier edge that drives the song further upwards until once again we drop back into the ethereal this time it is the turn of Bassist Dan Nelson to come to the fore with a jazz fusion tinged break that pushes the song into another dimension and as the bass builds to its own coda the blistering keys of Steve Paine take over as the band drive relentlessly on in Hawkwind-esque frenzy.

Thunder, lightning and roaring flames leads us to Spark to a Flame, which is almost gothic with its powerful choral / chant intro, Therion were brought to mind here. Layers of voices punching through a suitably weighty backing. The angular verses bridging to a wonderfully melodic chorus that is the equal of many a rock anthem. This song writhes in many directions before building to a massive choral crescendo. But wait it isn't over yet... subtle keyboard textures with a beautiful almost church like vocal section that magically morphs into a mysterious electro-trance rhythm and Latin lyrics chanted out reminiscent of the opening bars of the Carmina Burana build back into the epic chorus which in turn gives way to a joyous final guitar break.

Rumbling thunder gives way to falling rain and the journey continues into the longest and possibly the most subtle song. Drop in the Ocean starts with echoing guitar and keys while Parker's vocals come into their own. The first section gives way to a rapid fire Drum and Piano workout very reminiscent of Renaissance in fact this track as a whole echoes that classic ensemble as it moves into more vocal sections each slowing in pace until we are left with the sound of trickling water and a beautifully simple acoustic guitar and flute passage that hints of early Genesis before Enya like keys and voice take over the reins and the song comes to an atmospheric lull. Strings and brass herald the conclusion which builds in gloriously anthemic style the whole band obviously in their element as they conclude this album with great aplomb! The final notes fading away into rolling waves crashing against the shore. The whole effect is utterly breathtaking.

Am I passionate about this album, yes I am! And I make no apology. In fact this album has given me the spur to write my first contribution on this site. I fail to understand why this band has yet to be taken to the hearts of the Prog community and can only hope that Cardinal Points gives them the recognition they truly deserve!

Report this review (#453801)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
2 stars 'Cardinal Points' - Legend (4/10)

After a fifteen year wait between studio albums, any band's new output is going to meet some level of anticipation, regardless of how popular they were during their golden years. The UK melodic progressive act Legend has been out of the spotlight for quite some time, leaving listeners with a trilogy of records that earned them something of an underground fanbase. Coming back with promises of another great record to round off their saga, Legend returns with 'Cardinal Points', an album that continues their chronological album number concept by focusing the record around the number four; more specifically, the four primal elements.With an epic track devoted to earth, air, fire and water respectively, this feels like fairly standard prog rock canon. While Legend's ambition does not necessarily fail them here, the music on 'Cardinal Points' rarely feels as if it works well with the epic format, and coupled with a dated 80's sound and somewhat dry presentation, Legend gives a very mixed impression with their comeback record.

Although Legend is commonly given the rather dated label of 'neo-prog' to describe their music, the band certainly does have more going on to their sound than a single term would do justice to. Although very melodic in nature, Legend has a more longwinded approach to their music making, often making use of alot of folkish ambiance to get the point across. With each of these epics that Legend has crafted to represent the elements, there are fairly common sections where the music is kept slow and subtle. In some parts, this laid-back approach works very well. The opening minutes of 'Carved In Stone' are calming and mystical, keeping pretty mellow, yet keeping the sound dense with different soundscaping techniques and details that are often hidden deep within the mix. 'Drop In The Ocean' features some of the album's most heartfelt moments, using light acoustics and synthesizers to create a muddy dreamscape. While the mellow approach that Legend takes to many of these epics works well in small doses, it can make these so-called 'epics' into a fairly monotonous journey, especially considering that the more energetic segments of 'Cardinal Points' can be downright annoying.

Although Legend show their maturity through their attention to detail, the songwriting and composition itself really does not sit well with me. While each of these tracks are fairly lengthy (ranging from thirteen minutes to seventeen), they all have parts to them that are best described as 'choruses'; catchy sections that are repeated to death throughout the track. Unfortunately, these choruses are not only malfitting of an epic, they are downright irritating. The bouncy, synth-laden chorus of 'Spark To A Flame' feels like it is ripped straight out of a female-fronted 80's arena pop group. The vocals here also really tend to hurt the instrumentation and ambiance of the record. While vocalist Kerry Parker has a decent voice in parts, her singing often feels strained, especially when she tries to hit the higher notes. They result in fairly cringe-worthy moments where she warbles out of key, and while I am a fan of her full-sounding lower register, I can't say the same the higher.

Legend's 'Cardinal Points' is disappointing both for its rather uneventful compositions and the fact that the album came to me with the highest of recommendations. Along with a very muddy production job that tends to take away from the music even more, 'Cardinal Points' is washed away with the legions of other prog albums this year that have failed to grab my imagination. That being said, Legend does get points for ambition and a clever insight into detail and soundscaping, but it can be a tough sell when put in the context of the album's weaknesses.

Report this review (#471485)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Prog Team
5 stars I'm not sure how long I have known Steve Paine, but it must be about 20 years. During that time our discussions on music have changed into something far greater, and in many ways I view him as a guide and he has been very important to my whole family during stressful periods of our lives. That friendship had stayed strong even after Legend has ceased to be, something that I viewed as a great musical loss. During their time together they had produced three wonderful albums, which musically were quite different to anything else that was around at the time ? symphonic prog rock with strong guitars that combined with soaring female vocals may not sound out of the ordinary now but back then it really was. Let's put some things into perspective, the first Nightwish album was released in 1996, the first Within Temptation was 1997, the first Legend album was 1991!

Their final album, 'Triple Aspect', was a tour de force and when I heard that they were going to go their separate ways I was extremely disappointed as here was a band that had become firm friends, and they had introduced me to other music such as Incubus Succubus (who I first saw supporting Legend at Oxford Stocks ? still one of my favourite all-time gigs), The Rattlers, Talis Kimberley and Mr So & So (all of whom Steve and live engineer Jon Moreau had produced). They were incredible in concert, and when they thanked me from the stage of Croydon Fairfield Halls it was all over, way too soon.

Fast forward too many years and Steve contacted me to let me know that he was going to be reforming the band and was writing music again. He had had a number of conversations with drummer John Macklin and original singer Kerry Parker (at this point Kerry was not even being considered as vocalist ? she is simply one of Steve's closest friends) and as John and Steve both really missed playing they gradually we worked out a way of possibly making it all happen. Work had commenced on 'Cardinal Points' before the band had called it a day, so now seemed the right time to start on it again even though they had no idea what was no going on in the prog scene The personnel changes were really down to both Paul Lamb and Debbie Chapman being committed to their careers, and Steve had lost touch with Paul Thomson so Dave Foster (of the So & So's) was the next logical choice. When Debbie was reluctant to get involved Kerry Parker was again the obvious choice as she'd been the original vocalist of the band in the embryonic stages. However Kerry's work commitments meant she couldn't step into the role, though she did start helping Steve to find a new vocalist and assisting me with the lyrics. Though once Kerry heard the demos and got into writing lyrics and a fortuitous change of employer she jumped at the chance. So even though the new version of the band has ended up without two significant members of the band, the new line up was also wonderful as it included people who been a part of the Legend family over the years. Kerry in particular as the she was the first person to sing many of Steve's songs ? such as 'Light in Extension', 'Windsong' and 'Evidence of Autumn'. The line-up was completed by bassist Dan Nelson and they roped in a few friends to help out on additional instruments such as Dave's wife Claire on flute.

So, four songs is what we get on the new album, ranging from just under 13 minutes to just over 17 minutes long. The sounds is instantly identifiable as Legend, with keyboards often taking the lead role but also room for plenty of guitars as well. Dave has fitted in well with the role of power foil to Steve, but given that they have been working together for so many years that isn't really surprising, and in Kerry they have a great singer ? given that she was the original singer for the band it probably isn't surprising that she has a similar style to Debbie, but she has added an extra element to the proceedings.

If anyone wants to listen to just a few minutes that sum up the album easily then the place to go is track three, and listen to the beginning of "Spark To A Flame" where there are wonderful harmony vocals, punchy music, power chords, drama and much much more.

This is easily one of the most powerful and inspiring progressive rock albums to come out for years ? one that those lucky enough to discover it are going to be playing time and time again. The band have been stunned by the reception to date and are planning the next album and hopefully some live dates as well ? now if they could come to NZ I would be a very happy man indeed.

Legend ? Cardinal Points. You owe it to your ears to get this.

Report this review (#489428)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A carved-in-stone symphonic journey

Carved in Stone - The album begins with a didgeridoo intro and some natural sounds. The female voice comes in shortly after. It sounds like an incantation. Very thrilling ! "Carved in stone / It's carved in stone"? A short silky keyboards cloth announces the upcoming symphonic color. Drums strengthen the 'mystery' impression while the singer goes on. Excellent introduction. Bass and guitar come in to create a first open space where some beautiful flute repeats the guitar melody, or to be more accurate answers to it. The composition is clever, solid. Amazing. Incantation, again. The didgeridoo is very efficient. This leads to a second tray where the keys add a new profound note. They sound a little bit like Deccan's work on Au-delŕ du délire. Yeah, really, THIS is symphonic music.

Singer continues to deliver her message ; pretty voice, no exaggeration. Drums are very well executed. The guitar lucks into a more powerful riff while the keyboardist embroiders a sweet background fresh covers, maybe a bit too 'modern synthetic' but never mind, the story goes on : third climax. Masterpiece. The drums could be more driving, but ok.

Symphony is driven by the singer. The singing is not annoying, nor repetitive. On the contrary, it reinforces the majestic impression. Quieter moments seem to be a sort of incantation too ; and indeed, the main theme is now on the foreground. Drums wake up. Instruments elapse, particularly guitars (a good solo) and keys. Bass makes a good job and outweighs the drums. The track concludes on small cuts from that excellent composition. We remain unsatisfied, but this is what makes "Carved To Stone" so attractive : its implicit energy. Astounding.

Whisper on the wind - Natural sounds and a more rocky bass give very quickly birth to a guitar and keyboards-driven piece. Keys are almost 'festive', it's quite strange but it actually fits the music. Singer deals with a higher sing than on the previous track. The music is stronger and more ungoverned. Drums are too cagey. A momentary lapse of easygoing gives us some rest while a little acoustic piece jazzes the keys up. A new tempo seems to be worked out.

Mysterious. Spanish. Deep atmosphere. Smart arranging. Electric guitar is back in a frank solo, supported by the bass which seems to live his own live, waiting for good moments to come. And the drums eventually quickens ! Better late than never. Welcome. Guitar solo is now astounding and intricate. Drums rock ! Keys too. Very complex musical piece. It fades.

Bass introduces the second half of the track. Vocals come back. Lyrics are sung in a very harmonious way, and the music is still powerful. Instruments never 'overdo', they just fit the atmosphere, bringing their personal touch. Deceleration.

Focus on a brilliant bass piece. The track is slower than Carved To Stone, but delivers all its energy in the complex parts. Wait, there's a new one arriving either, once again dominated by a devastating guitar riff and by the keys ; bass besides is perfect. Drums are too shy (but correct) ; it's good for the keyboardist who explores a new synthetic world till the end. Natural sounds and thunder.

Spark To a Flame - Lyrics are at the center of the composition as soon as the first seconds of the track. The music gets mighty without a warning. Drums are present. Musical journey is here and there cut by the refrain, and then support it in a symphonic way. The singer bets on a classic gothic-like interpretation of the lyrics. Gamble won. Keys and guitars are once again on the foreground, but on two different stages. It's refreshing and very appreciable. We even hear some 80's Yes-like synthesizer sounds. Interesting. Refrain is rehearsed again and again to complete the growth of the piece.

Keyboards alone now make the transition to the second track part, with steadier vocals acting a pretty gentleness moment. Electronic gothic chorus sound. Change in the singing. Drums back. Be ready for the clash. Bells. Refrain. We hoped a guitar solo, but this track is the singer's arena. Only the keyboards can endeavor some lapses. Good stuff. Ah! The guitar solo we were waiting for ! Brilliant. Faultless. Electric (? what were you expecting ?). Drums more satisfying. Natural sounds, the track is over. Already ?

Drop in the Ocean - Low sounds introduce the singer who delivers her second smoothness awhile. The bass is the most constant instrument in quality on this album. It's always there, in foreground, in background, pondering the music like in the riff we're currently listening to. Pretty piano. Bass and keys-driven music. Guitar nearly absent. We slide from smoothness to drastic flavors, nursed by the bass. Amazing journey. There's a Yes color in this track, in the way emotions are communicated but never displayed till their complete explanation. Can't explain. A more 'blue-bright red' sense of music. Never mind. On the first track there was a Camel note with some keys, to me.

The middle of the track. Acoustic guitar with a peaceful flute behind. More folk. Lovely. It stops to let the singer officiate to rise the music to a little symphonic gem.

And the guitar is back for a riff. It's been a long time. All instruments join with the voice to create a climax in the classic symphonic manner. Neo Prog. Correct. Symphonic Prog. Better.

This album is very moving. The music is clever and fresh. Let's have a more precise look now.

Visual aspect : Compass-based artwork. Each quarter has its color : blue, green, red and then a smoother blue. The center is an Earth, it seems. It's got an ancient flavor, though colors are very strong. Interesting. Old and new. A little bit hypnotizing. > 3/4

Lyrics : Didn't find them on the web. It's difficult for me to review the lyrics, since English is not my native language. Don't hesitate if you got them, I'd be glad to complete this review with an analysis > ?/5

Length : nearly one hour of music. Ok > 1/1

Compositions quality : Brilliant with a few poorer moments. Repetitions are not excessive, they're incorporated on the album like an incantation that runs from the beginning till the end. > 8/10

Instruments diversity : 5/5

Tracks personal appreciation : 1/ Carved to Stone : 5/5 2/ Whisper on the Wind : 4/5 3/ Spark to a Flame : 5/5 4/ Drop in the Ocean 5/5

Bass contribution : 3/3 > excellent play, constant quality. Delightful.

Drums contribution : 1/3 > correct. No more.

Guitar(s) contribution : 2/3 > excellent solos, good accompanying riffs. Could be more effective.

Keyboards contribution : 2/3 > brilliant job. Sometimes too predictable. Could be more enthusiastic in the climax points.

Voice contribution : 2/3 > Excellent. Sometimes predictable, too, but it's logical, when you're singing an incantation?

"Prog" level : 10/10

TOTAL : 57/65 TOTAL ON TWENTY : 17,538/20


Report this review (#496089)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Cardinal rules

For me, this album was a real slow burn. I first came across it on the useful Progstreaming website and my initial impression was I could take it or leave it, but my partner said he liked it so I gave it another couple of listens and it grew on me. Truthfully it got completely under my skin to the extent that I now feel it is possibly the best of album of 2011 if not the album of the decade so far, and I hope it isn't a decade before this band grace us with more.

Legend's sound is definitely unique ? though not in an 'in your face', stand out way, but rather as a cunning blend of subtle surprises worked into the overall rock sound. A couple of the reviews I've read have described the production as dull or muddy, which I don't understand, the sound has been layered with the skill of a landscape artist building textures that go beyond the instruments without sounding contrived or overtly synthetic. Indeed organic would be my description for the sound overall. Legend seem to draw on a broad palette of influences. I will refrain from a long list of bands here, because there are plenty of comparisons elsewhere and looking at comparisons really won't give a meaningful insight. Better to move straight to the heart of the album and the only thing that matters, the music:

The album opens with Carved in Stone, an opener laden with menace, even the birdsong is sinister. The first instrument is Didgeridoo, which gives a pulse to which ethnic percussion and 'Gabriel-esque' drones are added before Kerry Parker's earthy yet ethereal tones are added. I must confess I prefer male vocals as a rule but, Parker is one of the few exceptions. The lyrics weave their spell as the sound builds in tension until we get our first taste of the full band in a call and response chorus, beautifully embellished with flute and guitar licks from Clare and Dave Foster respectively. Any thoughts that Legend might be 'airy fairy new age' are firmly dismissed as the band continues to show its harder edge. This section gives way to a much weightier second part; Organ and punchy guitars drive the band onwards into a hypnotic primal pulse, a heartbeat of the earth, built on pulsing drums with floating vocals which then twists into a medieval interlude before sidestepping into a whimsical folk flute solo then turning it all on its head once more. A monumental link passage moves us into the next twist in the song. A sparse backing that is pure rock, and perhaps even a hint of blues to these ears, gives some space for Parker's voice to move 'mountains and to mark the arc of time'. The track concludes with organ and guitar trading licks as the rhythm section pushes the song to a rock solid conclusion.

Whisper on the Wind is introduced by Dan Nelson's space rock inspired bass riff against the background of singing wind, shortly followed by the full band, who take up the riff and a close harmony lead vocal completes the picture. After the melodic verses and choruses the song breaks down into a deliciously alluring ambience that chills like an eerie wind, heavy with suspense. What comes next is unexpected; a Spanish guitar lead emerges fluttering on the senses, teasing one's thoughts until it gives way to a Floyd-esque electric lead, pure and flute like. This in turn evolves into a positively frenzied display of guitar pyrotechnics, building to a crescendo. The return of the wind and the elegant bass riff and we're off again! The verse returns though with a much harder edge and after a joyous final chorus the song breaks down once more into swirling textures and a bass guitar feature adds a flavour of jazz fusion to the mix. Nelson's dexterity and lyrical style really shines here giving an already well crafted song a new twist. The bass deftly introduces a keyboard break by Steve Paine which trills up and down eastern scales like eddies in a storm, while the band goes into all out rock mode reminding me of Hawkwind. The swirling keyboards soar and spin and echo around bringing this song to a breathless ending.

Rolling thunderclaps lead to Spark to a Flame as Parker's voice, initially accapella, takes the driving seat. A chanting gothic choir fills the air as the band drive an insistent beat. The verses twist and turn like the flickering flames they represent and the chorus melody will burn its way into your heart and soul with its layers of harmony. Parker truly is the mistress of all she surveys in this song. A beautifully executed, if slightly predictable, middle section leads us to another fine example of Paine's keyboard skills as a sinewy almost talking sound flows in and out between your ears, expanding to fill your brain before slithering away like a serpent. Then a refrain of the powerful choral chant that pumps us into a definitive, slightly tongue in cheek orchestral climax. Then like the floors giving way in a burning building the listener is left floating as, like the glow of embers, a tantalisingly subtle texture introduces a completely new direction to the piece. Parker's voice at its most angelic articulates a hymn like vocal that weaves a calming moment into the proceedings before more menacing undertones begin to bubble up from beneath. Monk like chanting leads us towards Parker's insistent whisper spitting a Latin incantation that builds and builds as if bringing forth a presence from the beyond. Then the chanting choir returns in full force. After a refrain of the chorus that leaves me breathless each and every time, there is a momentary pause to draw breath before Foster leaps to centre stage assaulting the senses with flurries of notes as if they were sparks flying in all directions. A final bombastic refrain of the chant brings the song to a triumphant close. This song really demonstrates Legend's power, balancing neatly on the fence between Prog Rock and Prog Metal. Falling rain dowses the embers as the fourth and final song Drop in the Ocean leads us into a more introspective side of the band. Echoing guitars and keys fade in through the gurgling water and subtle percussion sets the stage once more for Parker to mesmerise us with her poetry. A snap of a snare and the song changes gear. Here John Macklin gets an opportunity to step into the limelight, as guitar, bass and piano conjure up a maelstrom of syncopation, he delivers us filigrees of deft jazz like fills blended with full metal tub thumping that amply displays his technical and dynamic prowess. Macklin's drumming throughout the album is excellent as it blends the dynamic and drive of each song gluing the pieces together without being overly flamboyant nor becoming repetitive and dull. A rippling piano run launches us into a pacey, open sounding vocal section, riding along on a tide of acoustic guitar and fluid bass, which in turn ebbs into a slower piano variation before ebbing completely to the sound of gently trickling water. This brings us to the most delicate and yet perhaps the most breathtaking part of this album, made so by its pure subtlety and attention to detail. First Clare and Dave Foster lure us in with a simple, charming flute and guitar duet which flows into a modulated soundscape providing a perfect foil for perhaps Parker's most outstanding vocal delivery of all; it is edge of the seat stuff laden with emotion. Rolling cymbals, hint at the crashing waves to come draw us back as orchestral sounds crowd into the vista. Strings and Horns proclaim the finale to come which starts with a guitar arpeggio and just builds with layer upon layer of sound whilst Parker's impassioned swan song soars and swoops over it all until the waves come crashing down and it is over.

Every time I listen to this album it takes me on a journey and many and varied have been the destinations. I suspect I have yet to uncover every secret it holds for the listener. Perhaps it is not the most accessible album initially, but it is worth taking the effort to listen to it and be swayed by its charm and power. Like many fine things it takes time to appreciate it fully, which in my opinion, was well worth the effort. So give it a chance and don't dismiss it out of hand, like I very nearly did.

Report this review (#563175)
Posted Saturday, November 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Any element you like

Fifteen years after their previous opus, LEGEND finally reunited and composed their fourth studio album, "Cardinal Points". Founder keyboardist Steve Paine and drummer John Macklin are the only original band members. The new vocalist Kerry Parker sings in a lower key than Debby Chapman. The style remains roughly the same as on the first three records, fantasy hard neo-prog. However, the music tends to be more polite, less heroic and lively than on "Triple Aspect".

"Cardinal Points" is a reference to the number four and thus continues the tradition of LEGEND's concept albums based on chronological record order. For this opus, the tracks name represent the four primary elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Furthermore, each song incorporate its corresponding sonorities.

The opening of "Carved in Stone" is quite mystical with a didgeridoo and bird sounds. Then the ambiance alternates between folk and hard prog, with flute and guitar. There is also some nice keyboards playing. "Whisper on the Wind" is softer, and even spacey by moments. Maybe the most calm composition of the record, with acoustic instruments and dreamy atmosphere. Featuring guitar and synthesizer solos, it sometimes reminds OZRIC TENTACLES by moments. Although the middle part is a bit too long, this piece is overall pleasant.

As you may expect, "Spark to a Flame" is more aggressive and punchy. Again, this piece contains cool guitar and keyboard interventions. The melody is quite epic and lyrical. The only problems are the dated 80's electronic sonorities. "Drop in the Ocean" is the longest track of the disc. With its futuristic ambient introduction, relaxing passages and various instruments, this song is also the most progressive. Orchestral keyboard sounds, acoustic guitar and flute playing by guest musician Claire Foster make the music liquid and fluid, which suits well the title. The ending is smooth but nonetheless average.

"Cardinal Points" contains some weaker and lengthy passages, as well as cheesy sonorities. Less oriented towards knights and heroic fairy tales, tending to more consensual neo-prog, the band manages however to keep their own musical identity of "pagan hard neo-prog". This fourth studio opus is a bit uneven, but overall pleasant. Recommended to neo-prog lovers and even to folk-prog fans if they're not afraid of 80's synthesizers.

This a just the beginning of LEGEND's second life...

Report this review (#1556779)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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