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Gandalf's Fist - The Clockwork Prologue CD (album) cover


Gandalf's Fist


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3 stars Okay, I'm already aware of the predecessor album, that would be 'The Clockwork Fable', which was released in 2016. Though yet, finally, I've managed to schedule enough time, definitely required when trying to delve into their approach. Led by Luke Severn (vocals) and multi-instrumentalist Dean Marsh right from the beginning, GANDALF'S FIST saw diverse musicians participating during recent years. When it comes to the core nowadays, besides newcomer Ben Bell (keyboards), drummer Stefan Hepe and Chris Ewen (bass) are involved again. The strategy is similar to bands like, let's say Seven Steps To The Green Door, RPWL or Oscillazioni Alchemico Kreative for example. That means, broadly speaking, to compose well-elaborated rock songs based on an ambitious storytelling. And so the result can be seen as a rock opera in some way, visually appropriately expressed of course when taking action live on the stage. This will feature diverse theater sceneries, masks, costumes, and additional actors.

The new album ties on the forerunner, quasi as an extension, or a new level if you will, which finally augments the 'Clockwork' saga to an epic piece of five parts in total. The whole issue takes place somewhere in the underground, beneath the surface, the city of Cogtopolis, made of caverns and tunnels. A conceptual rollercoaster, one can say. The band have installed an extra story page, if you are interested in getting closer. That also includes an alternative alphabet(!), important to know, if you should wonder about that conglomeration of mysterious letters or symbols within the booklet. As for the protagonists, the Clokkemaker is new to the fold here, represented by singer Keri Farish. And so, quite naturally, the band must be focussed on the vocals, respectively spoken word duties. Hence this album is preferably dedicated to prog fans who are feeling safe overall when it comes to the English language.

Technically seen there's nothing left to be desired. The music is made of accessible charming neo prog and folk tinged impressions, here and there it's even touching mainstream territories. Oftenly alternating with narrative interludes, partially extended, though really sublime anyhow. When it comes to the album's Part I (The Thaw) I would emphasize the song Blackening first and foremost, which sees them underway on heavier paths. An exceptional track, including various moods and a chorus which definitely is inviting to sing-along. Part II (The Pieces Of Our Time) then shines with the expanded The Lamplighter as the grand finale. This album matters a proper work again, they certainly will have invested hundreds of hours. For one or two it may drag on at times, a designated progressive rock opera fan though will disagree immediately, I'm sure. 3.5 stars on the PA scale.

Report this review (#2220864)
Posted Saturday, June 15, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars I feel utterly compelled to write a review for the latest Album from Gandalf's fist for a number of reasons.

Firstly, there seem to be few and far between here and I can only conclude from this that this band is criminally underappreciated.

Secondly, befitting to this band the album stands as quite a unique concept ? attaching to their previous "triple" album 'Clockwork Fable' to produce a 5-Disc adventure. (Apparently the band themselves have likened this to purchasing an expansion pack for your favourite game, which I kinda think is a cool notion and extends the excellent story with the same hugely talented actors that were involved in the previous release.)

Finally, the music is good? damn good! From the catchy "Wardens" the folk-pop tinges of "supplies" and the symphonic brilliance of "Clokkemaker". Thankfully the production and mastering is also excellent ? subtle dynamics and not a hint of "loudness brickwalling" that we all love to hate!

I was interested to see what the first release by this incarnation of the band would bring, having now expanded to a 6-piece act . It is safe to say we are now witnessing the "classic line-up" of this prog act. Great fun.

Report this review (#2234228)
Posted Monday, July 1, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review # 107. A couple of years ago, Gandalf's Fist surprised everybody with the release of the excellent, but kind of ambitious, The Clockwork Fable. It was a really interesting triple concept album that introduced us to the underground city of Cogtopolis and its bizarre inhabitants. That album increased their fame and the band begun to play at various festivals, such as HRH Prog in North Wales for example, where they were the headliners on the 2nd stage.

This year they returned with The Clockwork Prologue, which works as a prequel, if I got it right. The band now includes two more members in comparison with The Clockwork Fable; Keri Farish on vocals and Ben Bell on keyboards, bass, guitar and vocals.

Although The Clockwork Prologue is similar with The Clockwork Fable, it is slightly better in my opinion. Not only because it includes all the elements that we enjoyed in the previous album, like for example the theatrical narration parts that work as a 'bridge' between the songs, but also because it is shorter, therefore less 'chaotic', and it can be appreciated better and faster. There are lots of wonderful melodies throughout the album, strong guitar riffs, beautiful changes, and let's not forget the really interesting story, on which, both albums have been built.

At the very beginning of this post, I wrote that with the release of The Clockwork Fable, Gandalf's Fist surprised everybody. I'm afraid that the element of surprise is not going to work this time, mostly because now people know what to expect. But that doesn't make the album less enjoyable!

So, to sum up, The Clockwork Prologue is a great album and without a doubt a very serious piece of work! Definitely one of the best releases of 2019 so far. And as far as I've heard, this time it will be available in vinyl edition as well. Good things are happening to good bands!

Congratulations to Gandalf's Fist once more, not only for releasing really good albums, but for their hard work and for keeping their quality at very high standards. Favourite tracks (so far): Solar Huntress, Wanderer, Supplies for the Festivities, The Clokkemaker, Blackening.

My Rating: 4.5 stars (But I will rate it with 5.0)

Report this review (#2234454)
Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars It's time to head back to Cogtopolis, for a double CD set which is being promoted by the band as an 'expansion pack' to the last album, the triple CD 'The Clockwork Fable'. As before, I find myself comparing this to both Hibernal and Clive Nolan, as what we have here is much more than just a musical release, as the words and story are intertwined with the music. This is a theatrical presentation, with different people playing their part, and I found myself thinking that there must surely be a book in here somewhere as the storyline is complex, convoluted, and with so much depth that there is certainly enough framework for it to work on that level as well. Regarding the rationale behind this, Gandalf's Fist frontman, Dean Marsh commented: 'I've loved playing video games since the 80's and the idea of creating a musical expansion-pack, in the same way game manufactures introduce new levels and new quests has been an undertaking we've all enjoyed immensely. It's been a great opportunity to finish all the wonderful ideas we couldn't even fit into a triple album in 2016 as well as been a fantastic way of collaborating on new material with our own 'upgraded' line-up with Ben and Keri. The whole thing sounds fantastic and without question has some of our finest songs to date!' Ben is Ben Bell (Broken Parachute) on keyboards, bass, guitar and various vocal efforts (it isn't often that someone can be credited with being a deranged steam conveyor) and singer Keri Farish.

Musically this is an amalgam of folk, prog, rock and theatre, with violin making a welcome presence here, acoustic guitars there, but it is more about having music which is right for whatever theme is being portrayed as opposed to attempting to stick within one particular area. It is almost impossible to pick between the songs and the narrative, as they are closely interlinked, yet both are capable of working without the other. It would be interesting indeed to hear the complete five CD set cut so that the songs were taken away from the music and one could play the story on its own, or the songs. I have only one problem with the album, and that is whenever I play it I get dragged into Cogtopolis, so much so that I need to put aside 97 minutes of concentration each time I want to listen to it. I didn't think Gandalf's Fist would again be able to match the journey they put me through last time, but they have. This isn't a progressive rock album in its normal sense, but possibly it is in its truest sense as the band refuse to be bound by the usual thoughts of what an album should be comprised of. The different styles and melodies are bound by the storyline, which in turn is brought to life by the music in a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Superb.

Report this review (#2269050)
Posted Sunday, October 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well well well... it took me a few months to finally find the time to listen to this one, and its successor "The Clockwork Fable" (which was released three years ago) in a row. What the lads (and the lass) do here is going the full Star Wars way - First, the Main "Movies", then the Prequels (although they state it's not a prequel) and finally (hopefully?) the final (well, album it would be in this case, but I doubt they'd be able to continue the story after everybody left Cogtopolis)...

Anyway... I think listening in release order works really well, because this way you remember all the little hints and cues they drop in the Fable, which are almost all picked up in the Prologue, so you have many "aha!" moments during the Prologue, thinking "Now THAT'S what they were referring to..." - this album really makes you want to listen to the Fable afterwards. Brilliantly done by the band.

We again meet some familiar voices (they used most of the actors present in the Fable) and also some new characters - the tradesman at the Cartoe market is the most lovely one - so hilarious... as is the whole story (once more).

Since The Clockwork Fable, Gandalf's Fist has recruited Keri Farish (Vocals) and Ben Bell (Keyboards, from Patchwork Cacophony and Broken Parachute), and boy, do they shine on this album... Keri gives me goosebumps during what I would call her "showcase" song, The Clokkemaker, while Ben and Dean (Marsh, Guitar/Vocals) have a fantastic guitar/Hammond duel during "Blackening" - very much in a Blackmore/Lord vibe. Seriously, this band is just at the start of something huge in my eyes.

I've learned they also play live occasionally, and I really try to get to one of their gigs next time. This album truly makes you want to watch them play live!

5 Stars, no less!

Report this review (#2272674)
Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars I first came across this band when they released Forest of Fey which featured a surprising number of well known guest musicians like John Mitchell and Clive Nolan. Since then they've release a couple of new albums and also rerecorded and reissued some old ones. The made their biggest splash so far with The Clockwork Fable, a mammoth three disc part concept album.

The Clockwork Prologue continues where that left off, or rather it finishes where that starts, because in yet another hint that this band are in fact time travellers, this album is a prequel to Fable.

The band seems to grow with every release and they're now a six piece with new vocalist Keri Farish taking over the reigns from previous guest voice Melissa Hollick and Ben Bell (from Patchwork Cacophony and Broken Parachute) providing keyboards.

Prologue is disappointingly only a double album (come on guys we were hoping for a quad album release this time) and continues the same narrative/music mix from Fable. The acting continues to be far better than it has any right to be with some hilarious turns from returning (and new) voices.

Musically the album starts on a high then seems to get better with every song of te first before changing up another gear for the thunderous Blackening. CD 2 shows no signs of slowing down and with the majestic Clockmaker being a high point and bowing out with another addition to The Lamplighter collection, "The Lamplighter Overture".

I can't wait to see what this band comes up with next. Will it be a prequel to the prequel? Will they add more musicians? Will the actors release their own solo albums? Anything seems possible.

4.5 clockwork stars, wound up to 5.

Report this review (#2278361)
Posted Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Review Permalink

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