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Pendragon Men Who Climb Mountains album cover
3.63 | 314 ratings | 12 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Belle Ame (3:15)
2. Beautiful Soul (8:03)
3. Come Home Jack (10:51)
4. In Bardo (4:52)
5. Faces of Light (5:50)
6. Faces of Darkness (6:25)
7. For When the Zombies Come (7:33)
8. Explorers of the Infinite (11:09)
9. Netherworld (5:47)

Total Time: 63:45

Bonus CD from 2014 SE - Nick Barrett - Acoustic House Concert - Live At Twig's:
1. Voyager (8:08)
2. Man Of Nomadic Traits (8:23)
3. This Green And Pleasant Land (11:35)
4. Nostradamus (2:47)
5. Paintbox (4:21)
6. King Of The Castle (4:18)
7. Indigo (5:28)
8. Freakshow (2:47)
9. Masters Of Illusion (2:39)
10. Space Cadet (3:45)
11. Edge Of The World (6:12)
12. It's Only Me (4:59)

Total time 65:22

Line-up / Musicians

- Nick Barrett / lead & backing vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Clive Nolan / keyboards
- Peter Gee / bass guitar, backing vocals
- Craig Blundell / drums

Releases information

2xLP Mad Fish ‎- SMALP1035 (2014, Europe)

2xCD Toff Records ‎- PEND27CD (2014, Europe) Bonus CD: Nick Barrett's acoustic - Live at Twig's
CD Toff Records ‎- PEND27CDS (2015, UK)

Thanks to apps79 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PENDRAGON Men Who Climb Mountains ratings distribution

(314 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

PENDRAGON Men Who Climb Mountains reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Second Life Syndrome
5 stars 4.5 stars, actually.

I've decided that progarchives really needs a half-star option. Pendragon's newest album "Men Who Climb Mountains" is a case in point of this, as I fully believe that this incredible work of art deserves more than four stars. It is not, however, as good as their masterworks, such as "The Window of Life", "The Masquerade Overture", or my personal favorite "Not of This World". Or perhaps it is as good as those fantastic albums, except Pendragon underwent a change in style with their 2005 album "Believe", which is amazing, too, by the way. The last couple albums, however, although solid and still in my regular playlist, do not have the sweeping, majestic sounds of the older albums. They are darker, grittier, somewhat more technical, and also somewhat heavier. So is it really that they are not as good, or is it just that I like the old style better?

Pendragon, however, have finally convinced me to love their new style. Although "Believe" was a change in style, it had enough of the old ways to satisfy me greatly. "Men Who Climb Mountains", though, is an album of the same quality, yet it retains the new style, and does so with gumption and gusto. Indeed, this is the best, most confident album since at least "Believe", if not "Not of This World". Pendragon have proven that these aged gentlemen still have everything it takes to claim a top spot in the best prog releases of the year.

"Men Who Climb Mountains", first and foremost, is a thoughtful work that contains my favorite lyrics of this year so far. Nick never disappoints in lyrical content or themes, and so I expected it. Yet, this album is deeper than the last two, as I see this album as focusing on those people that are truly one with the world around them. They hear, see, feel, smell, and taste the world in all its glory, and so see the divine, spiritual nature and connections inherent in everything. These people never lose hope. They never despair. They are ready for "When the Zombies Come", and they know where they are going after death. These are the nit and grit of this world, the people that keep it running at all costs, and that love it all. These are the people that we all are, except many of us have forgotten. This, of course, is all my own interpretation.

Of course, the music is important, too. As I said, the newer style is still here, but it has been perfected. Nick sounds great on vocals, even more melodic in many perfectly performed hooks, too, if I do say so myself. His flawless guitar work is again a highlight, too, whether it be soulful solos or acoustic brightness. Clive Nolan (probably my favorite keyboardist) seems to be more present on this album than the previous two. He sets many beautiful, soaring atmospheres to match the theme, but he also presents some awesome solos, too, such as on "In Bardo". Peter Gee, bassist, lays down his signature grooves, and he sounds great with Nick's riffing in the heavier portions.

Perhaps the most significant thing about this new album, however, is the exit of drummer extraordinaire Scott Higham and the entrance of Craig Blundell. I'll say it right down: Craig has laid down the best drum performance I've heard this year. He's unbelievable, and everything I could have hoped for with Scott leaving. Everything from his genius fills to his tasteful tempos to his breath-taking romps are all brilliantly performed. Craig, welcome!

One of the things that was missing from the last two albums, especially "Passion", was the presence of great choruses. I feel that Pendragon has again nailed them, with wonderful structures that culminate into catchy choruses, such as "Beautiful Soul" or "Explorers of the Infinite". Yet, even the instrumental portions are inspired and catchy, such as "In Bardo", "Faces of Darkness" or the oddly structured "Come Home, Jack". It's honestly difficult to pick favorites, as all the tracks are worthy. I do especially love, however, "Faces of Darkness" and the slow-burning catchiness of "Explorers of the Infinite", a song that I cannot stop singing (however horribly). I also really like the slower, thoughtful "Netherworld", as I'm a sucker for Nick's vocals.

"Men Who Climb Mountains", then, is a true Pendragon album with lush atmospheres, hard-rocking portions, and a certain level of oddity that is so endearing and addictive to me. I can only rate albums based on how I feel about them, and I haven't felt this way about a Pendragon album since "Believe". Indeed, I can't stop listening to it, and I never feel the urge to skip a track. It's all so good. Give this album a chance, then, and don't judge it based on how you feel about albums that were written fifteen or twenty years ago. This band has progressed to a new style, and they are finally fine-tuning it to great results.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
2 stars Honestly, this is one came across as a big disappointment. I tried very hard to like this CD and, in a way, I did. That´s exactly the problem: I had to push too much. Believe, Passion and Pure might have not be masterpieces, but they did have some real good stuff on them. I mean, they all had at least one very strong tune that you can call a "real" Pendragon gem. This one does not. Please, don´t get me wrong. It´s not bad. the problem here seems that all tracks start very well but don´t go anywhere, there´s a kind of build up that never reaches a climax, it just keeps going on and on and on. The only exception to the rule, but not much, is the 11 minute Explores of The Infinite that at least has a fine melody that holds well throughout the whole song. The remaining stuff sounds ok, but either appearing to be half baked or, more often, like discarded tunes from their other albums.

It´s really a pity to hear such outstanding band, a real prog legend, delivering so little. Ok, maybe I´m being too harsh: they´ve been around a lot and for a group that released so many prog classics, I guess it´s only natural that one day they´d fail to meet such gigantic expectations (let´s face it, most of us DO expect them to produce something as powerful as The Masquerade Overture or The Windows Of Life, to name but two). Stylistic, their previous two albums proved they could tackle different musical paths and still maintain some quality. Here they seemed stuck in a rut: you heard it all before, it´s nice, but simply the songs go nowhere. And for a band who delivered such perfect rounded stuff like Pendragon , this is a real letdown. Specially if you notice that the performances themselves are spotless and the vocal parts are great, probably the best of their entire career.

So in the end I found this CD pleasant enough not to keep pushing the "next track" buton, but it does not made me want to listen to it again like all the others did (even with Believe, which was a big disappointment only because it could not compare to the trio of blockbusters that preceded it). I guess I should rate it 3 stars, since there is not really bad stuff on Men Who Climb Moments. It only sounds unfinished, composition wise. However, I´ll give it 2, since I feel the need to balance some reviews here that gave it 4 or even 5 stars that I can´t really understand why. The fact that the band is great, and that the music here isn´t bad does not mean it´s on par to what they did before to give it such praising, at least that´s my point of view.

Listen carefully before buying it.

Review by lazland
4 stars A new Pendragon album is always, for this long-term fan, a big event. And, as ever, Nick Barrett and his cohorts do not disappoint with yet another class slab of thoughtful progressive rock.

I ordered this from my favourite progressive rock store, Caerllysi Music, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the double cd had Nick's signature emblazoned over it.

It is a rarity that I mention bonus cd's, which is what, in effect, the second disc is, being an acoustic set performed by Nick at a mate's boozer. It is far better than that sounds. In fact, some of it is a revelation, given that the expansive sound we have always associated with Pendragon would not, you would have thought, lend itself to such a stripped out environment. Listening to Green and Pleasant Land, the standout track from Passion, is incredible. The lyrics, and the brilliant anger generated against the knobheads running my country, bringing it to the sorry state it finds itself in, is expressed even more pointedly in this setting than in the original, which I would not have thought possible.

But, to the main event. When you have opening tracks which sing and mourn as to how your beautiful soul will be saved, and end with such an expressive paean to the human condition, then you know that you are in for another treat. Every single review I read from professional journalists always seem to make an excuse for Nick Barrett somehow not having a particularly fine voice, but, patronisingly, state "hey, it works well here". Take no notice of them. There is nobody on God's earth capable of expressing this man's lyrics and music in such a poignant fashion as the man himself, so just enjoy.

The key to this album is the emotion generated from wildly divergent moods, and, with all emotional albums, it requires damned fine playing to bring it to life. Barrett is one of rock music's finest unsung guitar heroes, and his work here is staggering. Some of Clive Nolan's piano work, especially, is enough to bring the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, and listening to his staggering keys work on In Bardo makes you realise just how important a musician he really is. The rhythm section of longstanding bassist Peter Gee, who makes his instrument sing like a lead instrument in parts, and new drummer, Craig Blundell (replacing the incredible Scott Higham), move things along at a fair old pace. Blundell, by the way, is more suited to this album than Higham would have been. I believe, listening to this, that we have the reason why he left.

That is not a criticism of Higham. It is just that I believe, in about three albums time, or so, we will regard MWCM as being as important a change of direction as we now know Believe was when Barrett took the band from its overt symphonic leanings to a far heavier and experimental direction. This one retains much of what was good about that new era, but takes it in a far more song orientated direction, and the end result is a pleasing amalgam.

Some of the riffs on Come Home Jack, for instance, are thunderous, but are tempered by some quite exquisite moments, and the lost yearning inherent in the lyrics and guitar bursts is quite moving - this is not an album about mountaineers, per se. This is an album dealing with the human condition, written by a master songsmith going through a period of deep contemplation. No more, no less. As you listen to the song this segues into, In Bardo, the differing emotions come to the fore, the title itself suggesting a transition between differing states and phases.

The following two tracks constitute, to me, all that is best about this band and album. Two pieces of music which have to be enjoyed and contemplated as one, dealing with hugely diverse emotions. Firstly, we have the uplifting, major key, Faces of Light, which has the return of the delightful Tiggy accompanying Barrett on vocals. This leads into the altogether darker affair of Faces of Darkness, probably the one track on this album which comes closest to the musical ferocity of recent predecessor albums, and the sense of betrayal inherent in the lyrics and mood of the music is biting. The contrast between these two tracks is progressive rock at its best; thoughtful, challenging, and bringing something new to the table with each listen.

I have never been particularly good at interpreting lyrics, as such. That is not a bad thing, or a particularly personal criticism of myself. After all, the only person who really knows what he, or she, is writing about, is the author. What I can say, though, is that I am 50 next month, and it is fair to say that I have been rather thoughtful and reflective in the last couple of years, with close friends no longer with me. You could call it a mid-life crisis, I suppose. The lyrics and music on this fine piece of work shout to me. I get them. I understand, without necessarily knowing precisely what Barrett means by a particular set of words. The incredible final track, Netherworld, that destination of souls not quite saved enough to reach heaven, in particular, means so much to me, because I know I am not perfect, I have faults and fears. This album shouts out to me that one of my favourite band's and lyricist's is still able to move me and I can still relate to him and them in the same fashion as I could as a callow young man when they first delighted me with their music. Not a bad testimony to Pendragon, is it? It is very keenly meant on my behalf. You know, I often tell myself that "God only knows", as Barrett opines on Explorers of the Infinite, the longest track on the album. The music, in particular the symphonic soundscape created by the ensemble, simply oozes feeling and yearning.

Four stars for this. An excellent album which, I know, will be a precursor to a fine and outstanding new era for a fine and outstanding band. This is 64 minutes of pure and utter pleasure, and comes highly recommended.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars For their tenth album `Men Who Climb Mountains', UK Neo-proggers Pendragon, led as always by the talented trio of Nick Barrett, Clive Nolan and Peter Gee, with new drummer Craig Blundell, continue in the style of their new-found maturity that began with `Believe' back in 2005, `Pure' in 2008 and `Passion' three years after that. All of those signalled a new direction for the band, eventually heavier, yet still retaining many of those classic grand symphonic gestures the band has always been known for. Using the imagery of climbers and explorers as a metaphor for overcoming and facing hardships and adversity, `...Mountains' is the darkest, most emotionally heavy and brooding work from the band to date. Yet it still retains traces of heart and humanity, and despite initially being quite underwhelming, repeated listens paying careful attention reveals many merits, with just a few occasionally frustrating elements as well.

Despite instantly opening with an overlong stream-of-consciousness lyric vocal passage from Nick over repetitive chiming guitars, the initially melancholic two parter with heavier blasts of `Belle Ame/Beautiful Soul' eventually reveals one of those soaring uplifting choruses that only Pendragon do so well. The almost eleven minute `Come Back Jack' delivers a sad vocal and a punchy muscular repeated chorus, but the highlight is Mr Barrett's playing - his guitar rings with a slightly off, wavering quality throughout the atmospheric intro, turning bluesy and heart-wrenching in moments throughout. A perfect showcase for the whole band, `In Bardo' has Clive Nolan's restrained floating synths and wig-out soloing, Craig Blundell's complex drumming , Peter's serpentine slinking bass and a dreamy vocal and Gilmour-esque reaching guitar solo from Nick all weaving together in perfect unison. Unexpectedly, `Faces of Light', with it's stark but impossibly beautiful piano melody, female backing vocals and uplifting chorus with one of the strongest melodies on offer here, sounds like it's wandered off one of the recent Anathema albums, especially the uptempo burst full of life in the second half.

Less vocals throughout `Faces of Darkness' means more time for the instrumental elements to take focus. It unfolds with a dark and delicate ambient keyboard intro before racing through a mix of skittering frantic drumming, pulsing bass, bristling Mellotron washes and Nick's psychedelic treated voice drifting around. A slightly forced vocal delivering some clunky lyrics let down `For When The Zombies Come' slightly, but thankfully there's slow-burn ghostly bluesy guitar moodiness, a haunting unease throughout. `Explorers of the Infinite' drifts by with jangling acoustic and electric guitars, silky group harmonies and soaring victorious synths, but too many lead vocals over the top mean the eleven minutes here drag on a little too long. `Netherworld' then makes for a more simple and reflective album closer, ideal for the introspective quality throughout so much of the disc.

There is no doubt this is a very thoughtful, mature and complex musical statement from the band, as well as being a deeply personal work for Mr Barrett. Yet it also happens to be deadly serious, frequently wordy and loaded with endless vocal and lyric passages when it could really do with sometimes stepping back and letting the instrumental flourishes the band is so well known for shine a little more. In some sections it almost comes across like a Barrett solo album, with just his voice and guitar and only little contributions from the rest of the band behind him. Thankfully the heavier elements are not quite as obnoxious and upfront as on the previous album `Passion'. While he has grown with immense confidence as a vocalist over the years, there still a few questionable vocal choices Nick presents, and sometimes the combination of tricky lyrics gets the better of him. Finally, sixty-four minutes definitely pushes the friendship here, as, in addition to the increase of vocal sections, several passages are somewhat repetitive meaning attention starts to wander in a few spots.

But Pendragon have proven that they've well and truly moved on from the traditional Neo Prog type compositions and romantic grandness of their first several albums. While not entirely satisfying and easy to enjoy as many of their previous works, it's admirable that the band are inspired, not simply stuck in a rut and repeating what they've done before, instead taking bold chances to push themselves and challenge their fanbase. It would be great if they retained just a little bit more of those softer qualities that made listeners adore them in the first place, but `Men Who Climb Mountains' is still an occasionally thrilling work, and their most rich, dense and subtle release to date.

Three and a half stars.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Whilst Pendragon's Passion was - true to the title - an emotive and cathartic album, to the point where on repeated listens its grumpiness (and latching-on to tired political talking points) turned me off.

By comparison, Men Who Climb Mountain finds the band in a somewhat more contemplative mode. It seems to have been constructed as a showcase for Nick Barrett's guitar playing in particular; those who have listened carefully to Pendragon over the years already know that Nick is capable of evoking great emotion with his playing, on a par with peers like Marillion's Steve Rothery and inspirations like Camel's Andy Latimer, and he's very much the featured player here.

Some editions of the album include a bonus disc of a solo appearance by Nick, playing an acoustic set at a friend's pub as a favour. We've had acoustic releases from Pendragon before - the Acoustically Challenged album, for instance - and it's usually had a rather transformative effect on their music, steeped as it usually is in Clive Nolan's lush keyboards and electric guitar performances from Nick.

Here, however, whilst there's no Men Who Climb Mountains material in the acoustic set itself, you don't really miss it - because translating it to an acoustic format would not necessarily change that much, since an acoustic-sounding guitar style is so prominent on so much of the album anyway. It's an interesting shift towards a gentler style after two albums of harder-rocking, darker material, and proof that the journey of constant development, reinvention, and progress that the band have been on since they said farewell to their well-honed 1990s style on Not Of This World continues. At the same time, the almost singer-songwriter qualities of the album does lead to issues - Nick's vocal style has never been what I'd call versatile, and he seems to try out a few too many experiments here where his voice is trying to carry the song and it just doesn't quite manage it.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars I'm somewhat at a loss here, as I honestly thought I reviewed this album when it was released back in 2014, but as I can't find it in any of my files I am guessing that somehow it slipped through the cracks, so it is definitely time to rectify that. Back in the Nineties, when I just dipping my toe into the progressive rock waters, not knowing that was enough to find myself either drowning or floating for the rest of my life, one of the people I contacted early on was Nick Barrett. In a very different lifetime (ok, so according to my records it appeared in Feedback #12, February 1992), Nick was the first person I ever interviewed as we discussed the amazing album which is 'The World'. We did more interviews through the years, and a poster for 'The Masquerade Overture' was the only piece of musical artwork which ever graced the walls of our family home, and anyone walking down the stairs couldn't fail to see it proud in place in front of them.

Like many, I felt the line-up of Nick Barrett (vocals, guitar), Clive Nolan (keyboards, vocals), Peter Gee (bass, vocals) and Fudge Smith (drums) was one that was destined to last forever. But he departed in 2006 after 20 years at the back of the band, being replaced by Scott Higham for the next two albums, although by the time of this recording he had also moved on, to be replaced by Craig Blundell. Over the years the band's sound had changed a great deal, as one would expect from a group who had been performing for so long, and while I have enjoyed all their releases, some have made a larger impact on me than others, with the trinity of 'The World', 'The Window of Life' and 'The Masquerade Overture' being my personal favourites. But this album is some 18 years on from the last of these, albeit with three of the same musicians involved, so what would it be like?

Pendragon in 2014 are not the same beast as Pendragon in 1996, it is just not possible as all those involved have gained different life experiences and taken musical journeys during this timeframe. Clive, as always, has been the most prolific and diverse, but his role in Pendragon has always been to interpret Nick's songs and what is required from him no matter what he has been doing outside the band. Peter has been the reliable sideman, providing the perfect support ever since 1978, using a fretted bass when the time is right, and also showing how much a master he is of fretless to slide in the sounds when it adds additional benefit and warmth to the sounds, while Colin sounds as if he has been there for years, sitting patiently for the right moment, concentrating on some wonderful cymbal flourishes, or dramatically pounding the drums, and there of course there is Nick. The top hat may have disappeared, along with the fancy shirts, but here is a man who is still focussed on Pendragon and what that means.

In many ways this album sounds to me to be the perfect combination of the 90's material and the harder edge which had come through in the 2000's, the result being something that fans can easily embrace. This allows that edge to combine with the soaring majesty of old, as the band feel full of confidence and vigour. This is a true Pendragon album, one which fully embraces the depth and breadth of their canon, yet also looking forward. How does it compare with the class albums of yore? Well, it is right up there, but possibly not quite peaking above 'The World'. But is that due to the material, or just the feelings of an old proghead who played that album to death nearly 30 years ago and still listens to it today? Quite possibly to be fair. What I can say is to my ears it is the most enjoyable Pendragon album since 'Not of This World', and possibly since 'The Masquerade Overture'.

Latest members reviews

4 stars To make it short, Men Who Climb Mountains is exactly the album one expects from Pendragon. The title is an added bonus for me, as I like to climb mountains myself, although there is no song literally about my hobby on the album. But I read this in Nick's ramblings last summer, so no disappointmen ... (read more)

Report this review (#1354473) | Posted by Losimba | Tuesday, January 27, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars And there are those who say Pendragon, the quintessential escapist neo-prog band, doesn't change. After the metal/neo-prog hybrid of Pure and Passion, I half-expected Men Who Climb Mountains, with its less than elves-and-magic cover, to be similar. And there are brief moments where that heavie ... (read more)

Report this review (#1324750) | Posted by Progrussia | Monday, December 15, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars For me, this has to be one of the best from Pendragon. Having followed these guys from the beginning and seen them live on many an occasion I love the fact they keep true to their roots. Masquerade Overture reached a pinnacle and since then they have experimented with slightly different directio ... (read more)

Report this review (#1298760) | Posted by David Luddington | Thursday, October 30, 2014 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Same opinion as the other reviewers. This album is good but well below Pure or Passion. No melody sticks in my head, which is a pity as Nick Barret is one of the best melody makers of the neo-prog arena. After three or four listens, I can't remember a lot of the songs I've heard. They sound ok but l ... (read more)

Report this review (#1291746) | Posted by lgoffine | Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Well . So it is good that Pendragon is still of the oldest high class survival neo prog bands. But I must say I miss the old Pendragon...the one that made it one of the founders of the neo prog rock of the best neo prog Marillion, IQ, Pallas.. What happened ... (read more)

Report this review (#1290655) | Posted by robbob | Monday, October 13, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I was over the moon when I read in Prog Magazine that Pendragon were returning with a new album. Apart from Kowtow I love every album, with the signature guitar, and also the latter albums which provide a louder, but memorable experience. Men who climb mountains was delivered to me directly fr ... (read more)

Report this review (#1289447) | Posted by Kevman28 | Thursday, October 9, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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