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THE BLINDING DARKNESS (DVD)

Pallas

Neo-Prog


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5 stars This is Pallas's first DVD, recorded in The Netherlands in September 2002. The set list features material from their recent album The Cross and the Crucible with a selection of tracks from earlier albums. You get over two hours of music (135 minutes) plus additional features. The sound and picture quality are both superb as is the camerawork. The DVD perfectly captures the majesty and excitement of a Pallas concert.

The band are in the groove from the off with a powerful performance of The Cross and the Crucible. This sets up the rest of the concert nicely. Next is For the Greater Glory and this comes off a lot better than on the CD. The song has a lot to say, especially about the horrors of the First World War. Reed gives a passionate delivery with the lyrics and the whistling during the midsection adds a delicate poignancy before the music erupts as they go "over the top". Truly awesome, I get goosebumps every time I listen to this song.

The set moves to a section which highlights earlier material from their career. The Executioner doesn't quite have the air of mystery of the original but Rat Racing has plenty of punch. Crown of Thorns is the highlight of the early part of the show with Niall Matthewson injecting a lot of emotion into his performance.

We have two songs from Beat the Drum which are also well done. The main set finishes with four more songs from The Cross and The Crucible. Celebration benefits from the live setting as it comes across with so much more power and is truly uplifting.

The other highlight of the show is a rendition of the Atlantis Suite, this is the shortened version also showcased on the Live Our Lives CD. This is much, much better that the "as originally intended" version of the Suite featured on The Sentinel CD. With the live setting, there is much to savour in the 23 minute length. From the crashing chords at the start through some superb singing from both Alan Reed and Graeme Murray, superb guitar playing from Matthewson during the passionate East West section to the majestic ending.

The remainder if the encore features original vocalist Euan Lowson on two songs. These are darker in tone due in part to Lowson's intense delivery. The Ripper is wonderfully OTT with Lowson donning a white all in one boiler suite and blue mask, very reminiscent of Peter Gabriel in early Genesis. The band hadn't performed the song live after Lowson's departure. It's all wonderfully grotesque and proves a fitting end to a superb performance.

If I had a quibble it's they play too many songs from the recent CD (7 out of 9) and these are all played one after another and as they appear on the CD. In my opinion they should have done one less and interspersed them more throughout the show.

The additional features are a mixed bag, there are two photo galleries, one pre show the other during they show. These are largely forgettable. From the Centaur's Mouth is much better, it features interviews with all the members where they talk about themselves and the band. This is quite insightful. A minor complaint - it's too short. The other item is a piece on Euan Lowson who was coaxed out of retirement to sing on a couple of tracks.

To sum up this is an excellent package, the show is an absolute stormer, the playing is really tight and the instrumental performances are exceptional. A special mention to Murray who plays a mean bass guitar, punches the bass pedals with gusto and sings to boot.

Anyone who enjoys Pallas music this is a must have purchase.

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Send comments to jimpetrie2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#35073)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Unfortunately I couldn't witness this concert but it's nice to see some friends in the audience who were filmed during this concert recorded in The Netherlands, only 10 kilometers away from my home! In this review I will focus on the excellent DVD, what a great sound, inspired band and wonderful live images. It's pure magic to see parts from the legendary "The sentinel" album, especially when the Mighty Tron (splendid samples) enters the scene, GOOSE BUMPS!! Every member of the band does a very good job but apart from the keyboards, I'm impressed by the guitarplayer who changes so easily from moving and sensitive to heavy and fiery, GREAT! A very special moment is the performance from the original singer Euan Lowson (special guest) who perfectly and theatrically imitates the mind (urge for control, hugh need to molest and tremendous level of frustrations) of a ripper, what a dramatic and breathtaking scenes from him! THIS IS LEGENDARY NEO-PROG!!

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Send comments to erik neuteboom (BETA) | Report this review (#37947)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A MASTERPIECE NEO PROG LIVE PERFORMANCE

"In the beginning there was Darkness. And in the Darkness there was Fear. And Fear gave birth to God. Whose rule was harsh but clear." - PALLAS "The Cross & The Crucible"

What do you expect from a live DVD of a prog band? Stage act? Musical performance? The extent of music quality compared to studio version? Set list selection? Picture and sound quality? Stage settings? Excellent music? Well, the list will add on and on ... I just want to tell you that you have it all here! Yeah man . I tell you! You may wonder why I'm so convinced about this. But, here is the fact: I purchased this DVD in March last year (2004) and until now (last night) I still had my pulse racing rapidly while watching this DVD while I could not stop myself from dancing along with the flow of wonderful music and performance offered by this DVD. I moved parts of my body while watching the band performed their show wonderfully. The sound quality is really awesome - especially the bass is really solid; it's probably the Rickenbaker or the Taurus bass pedals used throughout the show. I played it very loud and I got totally numb with the performance I saw on my screen.

The Performance

At first view, the stage is quite large with a giant backdrop using the band's artwork design on The Sentinel album. Alan Reed (vox and guitar) stands in the middle front of the stage, the big guy (as bis as Fish - Marillion) Graeme Murray with his Rickenbacker bass guitar stands in the right side of Alan; while Ronnie Brown with his keyboard is positioned behind him. Niall Mattewson (lead guitar) is on Alan's left side and Colin Fraser with his Mapex drum set sits in the middle at the rear. It's a good stage set-up.

The show starts off with the last album title track "The Cross & the Crucible" (9:05) with an atmospheric style, followed with inventive and thick bass lines by Graeme Murray (band leader). Combined with keyboard in symphonic style and guitar work, it creates unique and atmospheric sound of Pallas. The stage lighting helps accentuate the show. Alan Reed enters his thin voice line beautifully. While he sings, he also moves his body, dancing along with the music. The music is accessible to majority of listeners as it flows smoothly with nice melody. There is a choir break in the middle of the song that helps uplift the mood. Guitar solo by Niall Mathewson is also stunning. It's my all-time favorite Pallas track.

It continues to second track "For the Greater Glory" (7:44) which has a poppy opening in symphonic nuance. Alan Reed does rhythm guitar while performing his vocal. Fortunately, the track progresses into more complex arrangement with interesting melody and solos. Right after the interlude part, there is a nice percussive music by Colin Fraser that enriches the song. Still with the same album, the live set continues with a nice "Who's to Blame?" (4:48) song with excellent acoustic guitar by Alan Reed and great vocal melody. With appropriate stage and lighting set this song became so elegant.

The band also performs songs from older album like "The Executioner / Rat Racing" (11:05) from The Wedge album. This two-in-one track is performed excellently by the band. Gareme and Ronie do backing vocal work. A good view is when Alan and Graeme is touching head to head with Graeme while both of them sing together. It has jazzy piano solo and stunning guitar solo. It then continues with even older album Arrive Alive with "Crown of Thorns" (10:14). Am amazed with the fact that Alan Reed who is not the original lead vocalist (Euan Lowson) can bring his performance much better than the original version.

When the track reaches number 6 "Beat the Drum" I can not let my mouth shut while watching the show and sing along with this wonderfully composed song. "There is a place that has no name. No sound of laughter - no children playing. It's not on a map, but it's there just the same. The place that built the toys for the nuclear game" .. oh man . what a killing melody! So melodic opening with soft keyboard work and simple piano touch. I cannot bear it anymore . the melody really qualifies to make a human cry! I'm not joking my friend ., seriously .. the intro part of this track is amazingly great!! Well, it's just the music, but if you listen to the lyrics .. it makes the situation even worse .so sad. It's about change. Nothing constant but the change itself. I'm so sad with the lyrics of this track that tells us "He spent his life making weapons of war. Times have changed - they don't need him no more. Beat the drum." Feel so sorry for him, but war serves no good at all for humankind. Let's stop the war. Beat the drum! Yeah . After melodic intro then the music comes into play where all instruments play together and it flows naturally in an upbeat tempo. It has a very atmospheric nuance with dazzling bass guitar work by Graeme Murray with his Rickenbecker 4001. I really love Murray's bass playing, so dynamic and wonderful! The keyboard part by Ronnie Brown is also excellent. The inclusion of percussion / drum as an accentuation of "Beat the Drum" credo has enriched the track. All in all, this track really makes this DVD worth- collecting!

"Blood and Roses" (5:54) is also a wonderful track. Right after this track Graeme and Alan communicate with the crowd, especially commenting on Alan's problems with his shoe. When "The Blinding Darkness" is performed my pulse is running very rapidly. The opening part is truly very uplifting especially on the combination of solid bass lines, keyboard and drum beats has created wonderful music harmony. Alan Reed's voice enters beautifully with first verse: "Geometric mountains rise in a biblical sky. They measure the miles to the moon. The Dogon chart invisible stars in the African night. A beacon flashes on .". Yeah, it's another great track of this live set - and no wonder that it has been named after this song title. The main attraction point of this track is its simplicity - in terms of structure - great musical harmony and powerful melody. "Towers of Babble" (9:38) is another great track performed flawlessly. Other tracks are also performed excellently: "Midas Touch", "Celebration!" - which concludes the main performance of the band.

The Encores

The Encores covers four songs with lead vocal performed by Alan Reed: "Rise and Fall Part 1", "East West", "March on Atlantis" and "Atlantis". Through this encore the band members energy has heated up and made the show much more dynamic. Alan Reed then introduced the special guest appearance by Pallas previous singer Euan Lowson. Euan sings excellently but when he performs the last track "The Ripper" where acts theatrically - I tend to skip it because I don't like seeing him brings a knife. It scares me, especially when I saw blood (even though man-made). I don't like this.

Summary

Overall, it's a highly recommended live DVD of neo progressive rock vein. If you love neo progressive, you must have this DVD. The song selection is excellent - all great tracks of the band's career. The performance is flawless. The sonic quality is top notch. I always turn my amplifier volume loud whenever I play this DVD. It's a masterpiece. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

Notes: the above review applicable for DVD version only because that's the package that I have. But I have the CD set separately that I have reviewed under CD review yesterday.

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#39099)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
danrotari@vid
5 stars After buying this DVD, and watching it at least 6 times in the span of one week, I now understand why it is has an average rating of 5 stars. What a magnificent performance by a truly magnificent band. The sound quality is awesome, I can always gauge this by the clarity of the bass pedals on my home system. Each song is performed with tremendous passion. I only hope that someday, I have the chance of seeing these guys live in concert for myself. This DVD is highly recommended to both fans of PALLAS and to people who are interested in discovering great performances to watch and listen to.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#74477)
Posted Sunday, April 09, 2006 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars For the greater glory

This great DVD captures Pallas performing live in the new millennium. With the exception of The Big Bang and Generations, their then new album The Cross And The Crucible is performed in its entirety. This excellent album - my favourite Pallas album, in fact - works very well in both studio and live environment and the performance stays fairly close to the original studio version. However, the performance of the album is broken up into two parts with a series of older songs in the middle. Here we are treated to the excellent title track from Beat The Drum as well as the beautiful piano ballad Blood And Roses from the same album plus a few songs from the 80's. The encore consists of a significant portion of Pallas' first studio album, The Sentinel, from the early 80's which is one of the seminal Neo-Prog albums. The set list is so much in line with my personal Pallas tastes that I could have chosen it myself! These songs performed here pretty much represent the best of Pallas, in my opinion.

Could you go wrong with such a set list? Well, not really. But this DVD is not perfect. The vocals of Alan Reed are very good, but I have the same problem with this live recording as with the studio albums by Pallas, namely that the vocals are too low in the mix. I have no idea what it sounded like at the night of the performance, but on the DVD the vocals are slightly buried behind the wall of guitars and keyboards. This is not a major problem, however. On the piano based ballad Blood And Roses, Reed's vocals are clear and very good. Some of the spoken introductions to some songs, on the other hand, are impossible to hear unless you are well versed in the Scottish language.

The last two songs are sung by a guest, Pallas' old singer from the time of The Sentinel, and he is a much more theatrical person compared to Alan Reed. I'm not very fond of theatrics and it does tend to get a bit silly on The Ripper. Still, it does not distract too much from the music.

The performance is energetic throughout and it is clear that they are having fun on stage and in the audience too. They may not be the most charismatic performers in the world with the drummer and keyboard player being rather laid back and the lead guitarist hiding behind his long hair for most of the show. The bassist and the lead singer are the front figures of the band often sharing vocal duties. The DVD is very well put together and has some short bonus interviews and nice art work (no booklet, though). Despite some minor flaws, this is an excellent live DVD.

Highly recommended!

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#229615)
Posted Sunday, August 02, 2009 | Review Permalink

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