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Gandalf's Fist - Road To Darkness CD (album) cover

ROAD TO DARKNESS

Gandalf's Fist

Neo-Prog


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3 stars Pink Floyd has a lot to answer for. That include inspiring a couple of guys up in Cumbria to get together and come up with this album. An album that starts with a Meddle - A Momentary Lapse Of Reason pastisj, female soul singers included.

Thankfully, this album takes a couple of detours away from the Pink Floyd landscape. But there is no denying that these two guys have released an album which will give Pink Floyd fans a lot of pleasure. The only detours of note is one folk rock song, which sounds like a nod in the direction of their debut album, and a couple of Marillion inspired melody lines. This album also have a pretty dark undertone which some may find scary.

I have accidently forgotten to mention that Road To Darkness is Gandalf's Fist second album in as many years. The music is based on the keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and vocals formula. There are a lot of David Gilmour like guitar solos here. Did I mention that the music here reminds me a lot about Pink Floyd ? Or did I forget.........? No, I believe I have mentioned that.......

The quality is good throughout though. The opening is best forgotten unless you happens to like the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason album. But the rest of this album is good throughout. Besides of the numerous name-that-Pink-Floyd-album party games you can have with this album, this album is also a pretty entertaining album which will appeal to a lot of people here. The lack of any great songs is a gripe I have with this album. But this band is encouraged to release more albums. They have something good going on.

Great art work, btw.

3 stars

Report this review (#527027)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars If one excludes the strong Floydian influences that resound on most of the songs, I am afraid that this album has little else to offer.

Most of the songs seem to be designed to build a sedated, downbeat and watery atmosphere, with layers of filtered vocals and effected guitars dictating the overall sound. There are only rare melodic or rhythmical peaks here: most of the songs tend to flow away, pleasantly but uneventfully. There are no great, memorable songs on the record, either - which contribute to the overall feeling of monotonousness that permeates this release. If I had to state what is the most interesting bit of the whole album I would probably choose the trippy instrumental at the end of The Council of Anderson, and its segue into the closing track Assorted Lunatics.

If you are a die-hard fan who would buy anything that is truly and deeply inspired by Floyd, then this is for you. Anyone else may be better off investing their money (and time) in something else.

Report this review (#580030)
Posted Friday, December 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've actually listened to this a few times now and think it's a very good neo-prog concept album, based around a space-rock re-telling of the wizard of Oz. If you like Pink Floyd, you'll probably enjoy this as it's very floydian in places, however there's a lot more on offer - hard rock, a folky ballads and a track called 'council of anderson' which sounds like a wierd cross between king crimson and the who! My fave track is the final track on the album which sounds very much in the vien of Steven Wilson/Porcupine tree! My only fault is that the production could be a bit tighter in places but for some reason it seems to add to the "charm", if that makes sense! Looking forward to their next release! 9/10
Report this review (#581939)
Posted Sunday, December 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I found Gandalf's Fist on Last FM and checked them out and have to say there one of my favourite new bands on the scene, they take the classic Pink Floyd sound and give it a twist, they mix classic space prog with dark almost sabbathesk riffs and even add in elements of folk and 80's heavy metal. The album is a homage to PF and is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz story, the theme runs throughout with the Wicked Witch and the Wizard making vocal appearances. It starts with a winding spacey sound with an eerie vocal crying why! Its feels like your entering a house of horrors, this album can be listened to as individual tracks, but the whole thing flows seemlessly from one track to the next and is a joy to listen to in one go. Linking the tracks together are a series of Instrumentals with overdubbed wizard and witch spoken parts and great guitar riffs.

Stand out tracks, Emerald Eyes is probably my favourite track on the album, its the track that i first listened to from the band and it got me hooked, this track is very Floydian straight off of Dark Side of the Moon and sets out the quality of the band. Into the Dark starts like the theme of Dr Who, before slowing down into classic rock riff, the chorus is catchy as hell and you'll be singing along to "return to the sun...it's no place like home" in no time, the bridge is almost a metal riff, before returning to the chorus then reprising Emerald Eyes at the end, excellent work. Untrodden ways is really different from the rest of the album but is a great song, it starts off as folky style epitaph to a lost love, before launching into a full on pirate sing along, great fun!

To be fair theres not much I don't like on this album with, the Sabbath riff on the spoken word title track, the great narrative story of the Council of Anderson and the excellent Assorted Lunatics are all great songs and thats why I justify my 9/10 rating, its not perfect but if you want a great Prog album from a new an exciting band then look no further than here.

Report this review (#588745)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hello, my name is Dr. Ball. I came across Gandalf's fist a little over a month a go when my nephew George returned from his vacation in the Lake District with good news. Knowing I was a great lover of prog, George sent me this wonderful album and have been hooked on it ever since!

This album is an great collection of folk and prog with a medieval after taste that makes a certain medic want to pounce around the gardens like a merry minstrel. Whilst appealing to those with a Floydian appetite, 'Road to Darkness' is also an inventive and excellent addition to the prog world. To single a particular song out as interesting and unusual, 'Untrodden Ways' is a dirgey psychedelic folk ballad, with what only can be described as a 'pirate rock' flourish - delightful!

If you have not heard this album, Dr Ball prescribes one copy of Baum's 'Wizard of Oz', a tankard of real ale and slap on your cheeky bottom for being so silly.

9.6

Over and Out, Dr D. Ball, M.D.

Report this review (#594939)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I very recently discovered this band after one of their tracks was featured on the Covermount CD on latest issue of 'Classic Rock Presents: Prog Magazine' ? now simply called "Prog". I originally bought the issue on the strength of hearing a new track from north west proggers 'It Bites' and was pleasantly surprised to discover another Cumbrian group were featured ? Gandalf's Fist.

On the strength of the free track "Into the Dark", which to my ears sounded like jam-version of early Floyd, and was the second best track on the CD (after the new It Bites of course) - I downloaded the full album from iTunes and have thoroughly been enjoying the record with my morning stroll for the last couple of days.

The track "Emerald Eyes" sounds like the illegitimate child of 'Meddle' and 'Darkside' but yet carries it's own charm... I could put this track in my Floyd Playlist and to the unknown listener it would pass as some long discarded PF Demo.

...It defiantly sets the mood for the record and was what I was expecting after sampling the space-rock whisperings of 'into the dark' but there's a lot more to discovered here. With tracks like "the Council of Anderson" Gandalf's Fist start to carve their own sound ? awash with space-age synth, sci-fi lyrics and noodling guitar passages it really is a departure from the opening bars of the Emerald Eyes.

"Twilight at the gates of the prism moon" is a low-point to me ? experimental is all well and good but this track doesn't seem to progress the album, in fact in comparison to brilliant later tracks such as "Road to Darkness" and "Sulphur highways of Io" (both returning to the Floyd influences for brief sections) "Twilight...seems to be a bit of a let down".

No matter though because the shortest song on the album is also the best ? "Assorted Lunatics" - this song leaves me hanging for more ? seriously I wish these guys would hurry up and do a vinyl pressing of this album ? purely for this track. Twangling guitars, weeping leads and clever lyrics sum what I believe to be a very interesting release.

Some may find some sections too derivative ? I've heard this applied to a few bands lately, notably crippled black phoenix and Astra ? but for me it's refreshing to see some of these new young groups coming through showing some great influences and tributes to the prog days of old ? these guys are defiantly not trying to be the next "Oasis" that's for sure!

P.S. ? Special mention to track 7 - what the jove is this? Folk ballad? Heavy metal? Why are there pirates at the end?? Very Strange indeed... but then again ? I kinda like strange!

Report this review (#660643)
Posted Friday, March 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Gandalf's Fist is another one of those bold gambles that a prog fan will occasionally dare to consider, a leap of faith as IQ would state in a musical form whereby a hitherto unknown entity has enough non-tangible appeal to elicit interest. Peculiar in being a duet with a multi- instrumentalist (Dean Marsh) and a vocalist (Luke Severn) and yet well within the very familiar Pink Floyd confines of musical trippiness, this is one of those typical progressive (old-school) journeys that is well crafted, with superb sound and production, great covert art and some damn fine songs clearly infused by the spirit of Pink Floyd, not the shabbiest of influences out there. The obligatory spaciness is there in spades, synths fluttering wildly in the mix, breezy guitar ramblings and some rock solid drumming. This is best exemplified by the seductive opener, a lush atmospheric intro that truly mesmerizes. Hypnotic soundscapes and electronic creativity. On the shimmering 'Emerald Eyes' the mood goes fluidly into interstellar overdrive (excuse the obvious pun) and firmly grooves deep within the warm Floydian zephyr. The serene vocals are mostly soft and vaporous, just like the Dave Gilmour we all know and love. A tortuous lead guitar foray stamps the deal quite succinctly, actually different from the Gilmourian experience. Sensitive voices, seducing with a scat female aria (yum!) and cloudy wisps of instrumental prowess. 'Conjuror of Things' is weirder, solemn and brooding, exotically decadent like a soundtrack to a warped movie ('The Wizard of Oz?' Yeah! I was waiting for a prog artist to cover such a classic story, bedtime fodder for the children) , except here, the arrangements take a multitude of swings and swerves , often dizzyingly so!

'Into the Dark' is the lyrical foundation of the theme espoused by the two artists and it succeeds in being both breezy and intense. It's the longest rack at a scant 7+ minutes but what a stunner! Folky essences collide with wider symphonic catharsis, sideswiped by some clever 'rock' moves! Excellent stuff, this! This is one of those 'sleeper' tracks so common in prog , divulging its real merits only after multiple listens. Deft is the drumming here (and everywhere really), foxily beefing up the opaque soporifics and boldly foraging forward. 'Twilight'' is a much more experimental composition, an astute platform for a sizzling and lengthy axe solo to freeze the mind into a moment of bliss.Lots of air and fluffy clouds in this one.

When a track starts off with a succulent bass motif, you know the blood will be boiling! 'The Sulfur Highways of IO' clearly flees any form of timidity, very 'stoner' in the special effects department, velvety carpets of sound and exceptional singing. A massive bluesy solo on the 6 string sets a cool, English country rhythm that is most appealing.

'A ballad you ask? 'Untrodden Ways' is a gentle folk lullaby with medieval overtones (flute and mandolin like guitar), a plaintive voice drenched in serene abdication. When you least expect it, the tune swings into raucous bullying, like at the Middle-Ages banquet hall where the drunken bearded troubadours hang out!

The title track veers into another domain, deep musical adornments emit an almost electro- jazz feel, careening synths speeding like Formula One car, never out of control. Brooding, foreboding and dark are the contrasts, spooky muffled and mangled vocals. The next level is the ultra Pink Floyd finale, all blended craftily and finalizing this track as another massive highlight.

'The Council of Anderson' is even better, a looping melody that sweeps ahead, unafraid, bluesy, breezy and resolute. Luke's vocals positively shine a voice that will need to be noticed by all. The bass, drums, keys and guitar work by Dean is compelling and often, well beyond the boundaries of sheer brilliance. The fretboard solo finale is whopping!.

'Assorted Lunatics' puts this puppy to rest, comfortably numb and utterly content. This brief piece is the most obvious Ummagumma here, floating sounds and fleeting voices, celestial, dreamy and effective.

A thoroughly enjoyable outing that will provide a great many future listens. Every track a delightful nugget of pleasant familiarity and highly creative material that stretches the boundaries of Neo or Space, quite originally under the circumstances.

5 Gloomy Avenues

Report this review (#867008)
Posted Monday, November 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars I don't know what to make of this album. I really wanted to like it - loved the cover of the album and with a name like "Gandalf's Fist" I thought this could be something special. The music is almost experimental in nature. It's kind of like a seriously stoned old Pink Floyd. The problem that I have is that it kind of drones gently on and on and it is hard not to get the term "muzak" out of my head as that is what this really is. It does have its moments but those moments, to my ears, are far and few between. The medievil folksy sound of "Untrodden Ways" is pleasant. I can't say that I enjoy the vocals very much at all - they are kind of a drone to me most of the time - when they get away from the Floydian kind of breathy chorus sound then they are not bad at all but for the most part they kind of go on and on. A third of the way through the album I was kind of hoping for some uptempo moments but there weren't any and at the end all I can say was that the result, to me, was boredom. I can't get away from the feeling that this is just a bunch of mates in a garage experimenting with sound and a kind of folksy Floydean structure. It isn't a terrible listen but it's not anything that I will be revisiting in a hurry, if ever. Two stars from me - it isn't horrible but then again I have more important things to devote 40 or 50 minutes to.
Report this review (#992525)
Posted Saturday, July 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The ink of the print of ''The master and the monkey'' hadn't even dried, when Gandalf's Fist decided to release their second album.''Road to darkness'' was written, recorded and released in a period of six months, the actual date of launching was July 1st, 2011.It was a thematic concept, based on a song Dean Marsh wrote a few years back and led to a spacey storytelling/adaption of ''The Wizard of Oz'', refering for the case to a girl transported to a world of aliens.The music was completely written by Marsh, while the lyrics were split between Marsh and Luke Severn.

The English duo took a turn with this album, facing basically the old PINK FLOYD stylings and building their sound on the principles of the legendary British Psych/Space Rock band.''Road to darkness'' is a much more focused work with no surprising stylistical twists, it's a fairly Psychedelic/Space Rock album with some resemblances to MAGUS, characterized by the intensity of the lyrical content, the slow tempos and the melancholic guitar solos.The music comes as an amalgam of electronic textures, GILMOUR-ish soloing and atmospheric guitar/keyboard instrumental parts with a doomy sound, however the use of effects and the instrumental distortions classify this one as a quite modern-sounding effort.Vocals are the low point, far from clean, featuring an odd raspy accent at moments.So, the true value of the album is mainly based on the musical content, which is pretty cool, albeit far from original.The mix of strange ambiences, guitar sounds and electronic vibes, which pop up here and there throughout the album, remind me also of Italians DAAL.But the overall mood is heavily FLOYD-ian, the slow rhythms, the sensitive voices, the spacey soloing on guitars and the atmospheric synths complete series of emotional soundscapes.''Untrodden ways'' is the only track, retaining some of the rural tension of the previous release with the display of recorders and the strong acoustic enviroment.

Second work by Gandalf's Fist, fairly following the 72'-77' PINK FLOYD era.Good Psychedelic/Space Rock with a few experimental switches to Electronic Music.Pretty fine and recommended effort.

Report this review (#1303096)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well. Gandalf's Fist second effort is finally available in my home country. The fact that such obscurity is gives me hope about the prog situation in Mother Russia, which, as I've always sadly argued, for its size, is seriously low on prog. Anyway, Road to Darkness sounds like a mix between lethargic country- bluesified Pink Floyd, traditional English folk, occasional heavier riffs and spooky effects from a lo-fi 70s sci-fi movie. For all its imagery as the sinister Dorothy in the land of Oz, Road to Darkness is not really intense or rich in contrasts, but rather has a breezy psychedelic flavor. Even though it has a swell sound (including some Roger Waters-esque upfront bass), it gives impression of a college-dorm effort, with guys sitting around throwing ideas around. Because really only Into the Dark and a lesser extent Council of Anderson and the little folk ditty, Untrodden Ways (with its sudden metallic shanty explosion at the end) sounding like well-developed songs. No wonder their later albums often feel like ideas first used here but better developed.

Report this review (#1303586)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2014 | Review Permalink

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