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


Gandalf's Fist



4.06 | 194 ratings

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5 stars As a rule, I am not a big fan of epic albums with narration, which is why I have failed to add applause to such celebrated albums as Rick Wakeman's "Voyage to the Center of the Earth" (the original and the more recent remake). I just prefer musical arrangements before anything. Ayreon's magnificent "The Electric Castle" was one of the very successful epics that had both narrators and singers that blended well with the punchy music. It's no surprise that Arjen Lucassen is a guest vocalist here and he may also have been a source of inspiration as well. A live setting may be a different feeling but on recordings, just give me the tunes, please. Gandalf's Fist has provided a stunning 2016 opus with the massive "The Clockwork Fable", a 3 CD affair chock full of memorable slices of sonic genius, though it must be said that their sound is much sharper and harder than ever before. Way less overtly Floydian than their previous releases such as the masterful trio of "Road to Darkness" (2011), "A Day in the Life" (2013) and "Forest of Fey" (2014), the core of singer Luke Severn and multi-instrumentalist Dean Marsh have decided to widen their sound by solidifying the rhythmic tandem by adding a full-time bassist in Christopher Ewen as well as solid thumper Stefan Hepe, giving Marsh all the space needed for his keyboard and guitar ornamentations. 194 minutes is a daunting task to wolf down in one helping, so I helped myself to reorganize a playlist of songs only, which may take away from the narrative but does focus cuttingly on the music. If you mostly want to follow the storyline just buy the album for the entire experience. Throw in former Gryphon vocalist/percussionist David Oberlé who supplies the folkier side , ex-Iron Maiden lung Blaze Bayley the helium yell and guitar maestro Matt Stevens adding his ambient skills and you get the complete picture. The core section of the work is found in the multi-part suite "The Lamplighter" that is liberally strewn among the three CDs , each over an hour long.

On the first CD "The Day the Great Cog Failed" , there are some delectable pieces to highlight such as the drop dead dazzling ballad "Eve's Song", a stirring and symphonic composition featuring a melody both haunting and reflective, a truly winning epic tremendously sung by Melissa Hollick. The delicate finale is precious metal incarnate. Things are fine-tuned from the start with the scorching "Shadowborn", chugging metallic guitar wrangling with a wicked synthesizer gone haywire, the rhythmic locomotive spewing smoke as the magical flute twirls in Tullian fashion. Listen to the thrilling "The Great Cog" with its echo-affected drum beats, reptilian bass attack and Luke's patented "pillow" vocals, flickered with endless sparks of slippery synth warbles, and you should come to the conclusion that this is going to be quite the entertainment package. Maintaining the urgency, the highly cinematographic "The Capture" is prog ?opera at its finest, bombastic orchestrations, pummelled by cannonading drums, garlanded by some whirling dervish synths salvos and some colossal Wagnerian choirs, slain by some snarly vocals.

Second CD "Of Men & Worms" is the showstopper section as it blends on "Victims of the Light" some outright folk of the vivid British kind with some breathless melodies affirmed by both starting lead vocals as well as massive choir work, an extensive acoustic guitar foray that is spellbinding from the get go. Another memorable air is to be found on "Ditchwater Daisies", a suave ballad that resonates with imagery, the art of combining a good story with a simple melody and wrap that in a pared-down arrangement and letting it all fall into place. Tragically beautiful. Luke's patented hushed voice is a pure delight and incredibly effective in creating celestial sentiments that seduces the musical soul. The pastoral sensation returns early on "the Bewildering", a shimmering fluffy cloud of atmospherics that gets accosted by a stubborn guitar riff from Mr. Marsh, interspaced with ambient flicks of the wrist (Matt Stevens), taking the whole thing into a complex universe of staccato rhythms, carpeted mellotron for Luke to swoon over, the fluttering flute (not credited anywhere) and a whole lot of adventure. But it's on the beguiling "A Solemn Toast for the Steam Ranger Reborn" that the magic really hits hard, brilliant vocals, sputtering synth bubbles, Spanish guitar fingerings, tinkling piano and marshal drums uniting in the cause. This is a tremendous piece that sweeps you into the clouds of fantasy, reminding me of their classic song "Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet". Delirious music.

The third act, "From Burrows we Came", here the overall texture definitely hardens, perhaps due to the Iron Maiden influences that are bursting through the speakers' seams, leaping into a harsher climate as on the dizzying "The Climb", maintain a highly melodic and dramatic urgency, upgraded by marvelous operatic vocals from Melissa Hollick, who really shines throughout. The improbable bass guitar/synth duet is a total stunner. The screeching electric finale is fast, furious and heavy. The rambling "Fight for the Light" is a shadow box of various explosive chords, tempered by those divine hushed vocals that instill a sense of yearning that gets me every time. Then Blaze grasps the mike with brazen authority and with the correct guitar barrage, the mood is clearly in jet propulsion mode. The slipstream synths warble madly, chasing the challenging melody. This greasier rock bravura is pushed along further on the next track, the colossal "At the Sign of Aperture", a towering and bold musical statement that swerves in various summersaults sung by "the chosen one", slashing mightily with passion and awareness. The 'sparks are flying' guitar solo is a classic Van Halen-like affair, unparalleled technique and emotional frenzy. The shimmering title track welds piano and acoustic guitar together, Luke swooning engagingly amid the clicking timepieces and ticking mechanisms, buoyed by lush symphonics in the use of various synthesizers. Truly terrific piece. "Through the Lens" gives licence to the piano pursue its magical journey, as Melissa adds a stirring and convincing farewell.

I have edited the playlist, as suggested by others, in order to lean exclusively on the songs and the result is quite an entertaining ride. Whichever way you want to approach this massive opus, either in whole or in part, Gandalf's Fist has dared to conquer and has vanquished. I cannot fathom how they can possibly top this crowning achievement.

5 Device stories

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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