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Gandalf's Fist - A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer CD (album) cover


Gandalf's Fist


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5 stars I recently just found that this album is now available on Itunes a few weeks early, so curiosity getting the better of me (and being faced with a long train journey) I decided to give it a download digitally rather than wait for the CD at the end of the month.

I enjoyed the previous two releases from these guys quite a bit and was quite looking forward to this one... I was not dissapointed but I was also rather suprised.

There's still an element of the floydian soundscapes that were so appealing, but there is definitely a more modern space-rock feel to this album. The Sax & flutes add a richness to the sound and give it an almost jazz-feel in places, non more so on the second track however with the addition of guest female vocals on a number of the tracks there is most certainly a new vibe on here that will take a while to digest.

A lot of the tracks on offer are big on impact and they seem to have addressed some of the issues with vocals as there are some meaty hooks to be found within many of the tracks (my personal favourite being Orphans of the sky).

In contrast, the folkier side of Gandalf's Fist makes a welcome return. Being a big 'Tull fan I really enjoyed some of the folkier tracks from their first album and was slightly disappointed when they departed from this on last years follow-up. No such problems here though as the penultamate track sounds something akin to Led Zep's battle of evermore with a sci-fi twist. Good stuff.

The only downside for me was the track "north of the wall" - I already heard the acoustic version on their website and not sure if the full band version detracts or adds to the song... either way it seems to be WAY too short for an album track!

All in all this is a great release, it's interesting and dynamic to my ears - some people will dislike the more diverse sections, such as the piano ballad "Somewhere beyond the stars" (Which has an amazing female vocal by the way!)... but that's just me, I albums to be intersting, diverse and a journey - and that's what the latest from the fist is - a journey... narrated by someone who sounds *uncannily* like Morgan freeman!

Maybe old MF is GF fan afterall. 8.5/10

Report this review (#1040630)
Posted Saturday, September 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gandalf's Fist have done it again!!

A long way from their Pink Floyd inspired debut Road to Darkness, this is a full blown prog fest, following on from last years excellent From A Point of Existence, they have taken the multi layered track format and gone epic!!

So the story, as with every Gandalf's Fist album, there is a concept, this one being transmissions from a distant spaceship, a long way from home.

The intro is straight out of a blockbuster, Morgan Freeman style narration, setting the scene. This ends with a long metallic beeping, which leads into Nine Billion Names of God, creepy vocals, very dark and gloomy, then a layered and slightly alien sounding chorus. Instrumentals as always are amazing, a flute and great guitars. With a Sax solo in the middle, great track.

Next comes Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, by far my favourite track on the album, it's immense, the chorus with female and male vocals combining is awesome, its catchy as hell, trust me you'll be singing this one for a while.

Next is an interlude, Somewhere beyond the stars, No male vocals on this, a classic piano ballad, beautiful vocals and a great little guitar riff in the middle, on any other album it would seem out of place, but Gandalf's fist always seem to put something a little different on their albums and it works great.

Orphans of the sky comes after this, again a creepy riff straight out of a horror movie, the track has a mix of great music and great vocals, again this is very catchy, it drifts into a Deep Purple style instrumental wander, before launching back into the chorus.

Back to Morgan Freeman, with more narration, Maze of Corridors is almost an homage to War of the Worlds, a mix of music and narration, it carries on the story, and links the album together, it ends with a great guitar riff, almost Iron Maiden.

A Universal Wanderer is a multi layered vocal almost metal track, there's elements of prog in here, yet Gandalf's fist are almost forging ahead with their own style, they're not trying to be anyone!!

This continues with the next track, Nexus a change of vocal styles, with a mix of male and female, beautiful female chorus, a failing of previous albums could have been said that the vocals were weak, not so on this album, I'm sure there are about 4 or 5 unique vocal styles. Nexus ends with a welcome return of the saxophone from Nine billion names of god.

North of the wall comes next, a simple guitar led tune, the shortest track on the album with almost folky elements to it. good stuff. With more Morgan Freeman narration.

Continuing the folky theme, is the Battle for Tanhauser gate, again a mix of Female and Male vocals, it's almost Led Zeppelin in style and has an epic guitar led outro.

Finally The wanderer goes South, is a classic Gandalf's Fist track, i.e. it's fairly mental, it starts with a flute solo and mixes a female vocal with a male chorus, it also has a reprise of Billion Names of God right at the end, rounding off a roller-coaster Prog Rock journey,

This album has everything, a mix of vocals, a mix of instruments and a fair bit of lunacy, which is central to any good Prog Rock album,

If you haven't heard of Gandalf's Fist, Now might be a good time to take notice.

Report this review (#1053157)
Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gandalf's Fist combine heavy riffs and solos, folky passages (in fact, it could be argued that later-day Iron Maiden - a source of inspiration here - is hyper charged Celtic rock) and Pink Floydian high-in-the-sky, dark, slow atmospherics. Add to that unusual package a loud mix and sore throat vocal. It's pretty much the same approach as their previous, From a Point of Existence. But here enhanced by the occasional female vocal, flute and even a sax. They don't alter the general style, just add to it. A concept story, a pseudo-sci-fi mumbo-jumbo, narration included. The addition of a powerful female voice allows them to do big choruses and long finishes, something that wouldn't have worked solely with Luke Severn's sore vocals.

I think that Gandalf's style is too peculiar to chase all of their work. To my mind, melodies on their previous albums are better, but in favor of this one speaks the richer instrumentation.

Report this review (#1061577)
Posted Thursday, October 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Crunch time! And we have a winner! After a supreme first success with Road to Darkness, there was, in my opinion, a letdown with the follow-up, last year's "From a point of Existence'. So what was going to be next, something fabulous or a train wreck?

After an initial spoken introduction, the CD kicks into overdrive with the splendidly cloudy and intoxicating nearly 8 minute epic, "The Nine Billion Names of God", setting the tone with a Roxy Music (sax sex) vibe massaged into a suave space excursion, hushed vocals and glittering musical elaboration. Luke Severn is the owner of a high-pitched whisper that drips atmospherics, a style I particularly care for (New Musik's Tony Mansfield, Steve Wilson, the Church and Vienna Circle come to mind).

But it's the next trio of tunes that seal the deal for this release: With a classic-like delivery, the sensational "Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet" blasts forth in unchallenged confidence , displaying a thrilling harmony of sounds and colors, all supported by near-perfect execution. A bold guitar line carves out an addictive melody which will govern accordingly. Severn's vocal hush is even more shimmering here This track has all the hallmarks of an eternal prog classic and will be getting heavy rotation on my daily machines.

This is followed by the transcendent "Somewhere Beyond the Stars", a world-class anthem of sheer delirious female vocal ecstasy, a mostly piano and voice duet that should be a future standard, something similar to the spectacular Emeli Sande's « Read all about it ». A delicate guitar caresses the soul, while the female vocal just transcends any sense of normalcy, the lyrics poignant and touching. I have been humming this all week !

Finish up with majestic "Orphans of the Sky", an Eloy-like space romp that verges on the jaw-dropping! There is pulse, determination, sweet vocal luxuries of genius, solid melodies and even driving beats mixed in with some spooky soloing! Tremendous seven minute cosmic romp that will stand the test of time, there is a sense of total control over the arrangement that goes beyond just pleasurable. We are talking memorable, here! The audacity to toss in some "Maggot Brain"-like guitar clanging in the mid-section, well that just does it for me, thank you! (You tube Funkadelic-Maggot Brain, OMG!). Dean Marsh is killing it! Just because these three songs are exceptional does not mean the rest is chopped liver on pumpernickel!

A few snippets of some of the finest narration lines ever recorded, loaded with steamy tones like from 50s crime cinema, black and white eeriness, a la Hitchcock. "Maze of Corridors" is also a wild sonic ride, blowing into a hurricane of devilish proportions, as if an Iron Maiden vibe had taken over. Pretty convincing especially with the unrelenting chorus of 'Madness', a delectable heavy metal guitar solo to close up, what a musical ride up to now!

On "Universal Wanderer", Luke Severn returns with his high-pitched whisper , in a near segue to the opening jewel "The Nine Billion Names of God", this time with a harsher riff assault and relentless battery, like a harder Rush or even another nod to Maiden. The scintillating melody and chorus are to expiate over, having to fill the swear jar later with a month's worth of savings! Gandalf's Fist wear all their influences well and adapt them to a wholly original style that I particularly crave. The "whoa, oh oh" is a well-trodden classic formula but its wholly appropriate here.

"Nexus" is a similar rocket of moody psychedelics, noodling into Floydian territory, a trait they do rather well, adding Beatles?harmony influences to the heady mix. Dean Marsh is a serious candidate for prog idolatry, manning all the main instruments with studied yet creative aplomb. His guitar playing is exemplary if not even more so, the keyboard textures are cinematographic, the bass playing technical and the drums, with some outside help, are thunderous. The female voice does once again a great pilgrimage to the loftiest heights.

The brief "North of the Wall" has that quirky Morgan Freeman-like narration at the end, after a formidable opening section. But the other outright killer track is undoubtedly the crown jewel melody of "The Battle for Tannhauser Gate", a luxuriant tune where stunning violin and ornate mandolin intertwine with utter harmony, knitting in another flexible female vocal, a perhaps proggier version of Blackmore's Night. The momentous chorus arches over the horizon with assurance, a deadly Oldfieldian guitar underlines the theme, accessible yet potent material of the highest caliber.

"Wanderer Goes South" pulls down the curtain on this "chef d'oeuvre", a rambling epic and longest track here, underlining the theme of this album, as per quote on their website" Those lucky enough to intercept the signal on their primitive terrestrial audio-decoders, will be treated to a cosmic jam across space and time exploring a mythical figure from the 26th Century ? 'The Universal Wanderer' - who's legend tells of a figure who has wandered the cosmos from the birth of existence to the end of time" . Things get Wagnerian with a heavy bombastic symphonics, yet upbeat and playful, breezy and refreshing. Wow!

A preposterous achievement and total success, Gandalf's Fist are to be commended for such a technically salivating album, a total joy to revisit over and over. The 2013 year of quality releases continues unabated, another treasure to add to the trove. More Neo-prog of the highest pedigree!

5 Ivan Denisoviches

Report this review (#1074463)
Posted Saturday, November 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Their name might be more reminiscent of an S&M club in Middle Earth than a neo-prog outfit, but Gandalf's Fist don't let that slow them down. On this album they present a mashup of Pink Floyd-inspired spacey atmospheres with an epic, almost operatic approach which reminds me a bit of Iron Maiden at their most progressive-leaning. Unapologetically cheesy and heavy- handed, it's a sound I suspect will be rather polarising; for every listener who finds Marsh and Severn's chaotic sound to be exciting and invigorating I suspect you can find another who'll just find it deeply silly. Interesting stuff, but I find it wears a little thin on repeated listens, as though it's somehow less than the sum of its parts.
Report this review (#1087692)
Posted Monday, December 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 2013 was not a positive year for Dr Ball. Having to up root and relocate to Ecclefechan was hard on my wife. There is no advanced Zumba class in Ecclefechan and despite our efforts to make contact with estranged relatives in Dumfries, Pam rarely found herself leaving the grounds of our bungalow (a great departure from our old 6 bed barn conversion in Nether Poppleton) . As a retired medic trying to find tranquility in my old age, her constant pining for Marks and Spencer's Fuller For Longer range was forcing me into an early grave. Indeed, even my nephew was beginning to grate on my nerves, constantly telephoning the landline to play me a less than satisfactory version of the bridal march on the local church organ. My spaniel, Mungo, had it's way with next door's corgi and Pam and I found ourselves with four hideous puppies to care for. It has not been easy finding homes for these ill formed beasts, but never the less Revered Ripley took the runt out of the goodness of his heart and the other three are sat in the bathroom going bonkers over Pam's shower cap.

My only escape from this end of life hell has been retreating to my shed with a flask of Jim Beam to listen to 'A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer'. My wife hates it.

GF is excellent medication for all those suffering from the inclination to smash your face into a china tureen.

All the best for 2014, Dr Ball M.D

Please message me if you are interested in a Spaniel- Corgi cross. 2 Male, 1 Bitch. 11 weeks old next Friday. Free to good home.

Report this review (#1117114)
Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I recently discovered this band via Twitter due to their excellent name!! I discovered that their up-coming album featured collaborations from Troy Donockley from Nightwish, John & Clive from Arena and even the singer from gryphon... so i'd thought i'd check out this album what I fink was released last year.

After a couple of spins I have to say this is right up my street! Swirling space rock with a heavy, sometimes almost NWOBHM twist.

There are some truly 'catchy' choruses on here - which is a welcome suprise on any prog record! My favourite track though is the closing number 'wanderer goes south' which has a brilliant female vocal & after skimming through the production blog for the new record I understand this vocalist will feature more heavily on the next one - Fine by Me - great voice!

My only criticism was that the narration was hard to understand in some of the tracks and I really didn't follow the 'story' - which didn't really phase me that much - it only features fleetingly and i tend to just skip that track.

More of the same please - looking forward to the new one but maybe they might think about a ditching the narrator!

F x


Report this review (#1234330)
Posted Monday, August 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Found these guys by accident - their latest news tell about John Mitchell (from It Bites) is singing on their new album, and so I checked them out. "A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer" is a concept album telling a story about some guys receiving an interstellar radiosignal and travelling to it's source, and the album is what the transmission sounded like (this is how I understood it anyway). At first one may notice a strong Pink Floyd influence here - these guys know the Floyd for sure. But there's also some more heavy stuff, a bit like Iron Maiden can be heard in there, too! All in all I cannot point out certain songs, as I think the album should be heard from beginning to the end, and they all serve a purpose exactly where they appear in the running order - they really made sure the "flow" of the album is smooth and nice...

Needless to say, I pre-ordered their upcoming album.

Report this review (#1251377)
Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars First the news that Nightwish declared Troy Donockley as full-member, now he plays as a session musician at these guys new release. Well, being the "got to have all from him"-nerd I am, I got to order their new album anyway - but let's hear what they're all about. This is their fourth album already, and is advertised as "Medieval Space Rock, recorded from the far side of the solar system". Aha. What we get is some really good made down-to-earth prog/rock. After a short introduction by some narrator with a congested nose, the band comes in with a nice nod towards Arthur C. Clarke - The Nine Billion Names of God. Really groovy - getting jazzy in the middle with some "let's make love right now"-vibe saxophone. Narration bits drive the story forward every now and then - but never obstrusive. In fact, it could be a bit more audible in the mix, as the music already starts while the narration is still going on, and the music blows the nosey man against the wall. The final song "The Wanderer Goes South" returns to the melody of the opener again, which I think is really cool! Makes you want to play the album again. I'm sold, I really like that! Came here to checkout a band because of it's guest playing on the upcoming album, and left as a fan of them.
Report this review (#1252687)
Posted Sunday, August 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I almost forgot about PROG, then came the fist!

A friend of mine, with whom I share my taste in music, introduced me to Gandalf's Fist Youtube channel with the words "You'll like this!" after we spent a night on a irrelevant social media platform posting youtube Videos from Echoes via Prince Kajuku to Kashmir and Larks' Tongues in Aspic. And guess what, he hit it! The Gathering of the Clouds hooked me on todays PROG. So I bought the album and was not disappointed, I ordered Universal Wanderer as soon as it was on itunes and have the upcoming A Forrest of Fey on preorder.

Report this review (#1254317)
Posted Tuesday, August 19, 2014 | Review Permalink

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