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Pendragon - Love Over Fear CD (album) cover





4.07 | 365 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Despite the fact that Nick Barrett formed PENDRAGON all the way back in 1978 long before the neo-prog scene took off in the 80s, the band has sort of played second best behind the more successful bands like Marillion, IQ and Arena but nevertheless this band was not only one of the pioneers alongside others like Pallas, Solstice and Twelfth Night but amazingly has only continued to evolve in the forty or so years since it began. While it would take a good decade to iron out the kinks which included a few duds along the route, PENDRAGON came into its modern form when keyboardist Clive Nolan joined the team in 1986 and along with Barrett and fellow cofounder Nick Gee on bass, this trio has steadily climbed the ladder to become one of neo-prog's best and most consistent acts.

Only the role of drummer has changed since Nolan joined and there have been many (seven total in the band's history) and joining in for the band's 11th album LOVE OVER FEAR is Jan-Vincent Velazco who takes the place of Craig Blundell who only appeared on the band's previous album "Men Who Climbs Mountains." It's been six long years since that album and the longest gap between albums in the band's history but chief songwriter Nick Barrett has claimed that his music is about deep personal connections with various subjects that have to take their time to gestate before they spew out as musical statements. Add to that the death of his father, the political chaos of the last several years and the world's craziness accelerating at an exponential rate and Barrett needed some time off to process and write new music along the way after moving to Cornwall, England.

Once the 2000s hit it seemed like neo-prog bands were in some sort of competition with progressive metal bands and ever since Steven Wilson's cross-pollinating with Opeth to create more metal soundscapes in his Porcupine Tree oeuvres, it seems the neo-prog acts followed suit and added heavier bombast with distorted guitar riffs, faster tempos and flashier soloing however just as band's like Arena, IQ and PENDRAGON were threatening to take the next step into the metal world they suddenly seem to have taken a sudden retreat back to the symphonic prog and space rock roots that made the 90s classics stand out. LOVE OVER FEAR takes that same approach and although all of PENDRAGON's albums contain the same distinct elements that make them so unique, much of the heavier elements of the past three albums has been jettisoned in lieu of more intricate space rock with a few folk and jazz elements that decorate some of the most delicately designed compositions that Barrett has crafted since "The Masquerade Overture."

With ten extremely catchy tracks, LOVE OVER FEAR totally rocks the house neo-prog style with a return to the symphonic soundscapes of the band's 90s albums only with even greater attention paid to making sure that it's not simply a repeat of what's been done before. The compositions are more creatively designed with distinct sections that work within the context of the melodic developments and the production is off the chart excellent with vibrant subtleties capturing an atmospheric elegance unparalleled in the band's canon however unlike IQ's latest album "Resistance" which tested out the ambient atmospheric symphonic elements into a territory closer to progressive electronic, LOVE OVER FEAR keeps the atmospheric department closer to the heart of the melodies which are focused around the excellent vocal harmonies that dominate the album's lush heavenly soundscapes.

Despite a heavy organ stomp that begins the album suggesting a heavier album than it really is, the album is dominated by arpeggiated 12-string guitar performances, soaring Pink Floyd space rock guitar licks and synth-heavy backdrops that slowly ooze around the musical scales while the guitar, bass and drums craft the essential center pieces upstaged by only Barrett's vocal prowess where he sounds as if he's at the top of his game. Special mention to newbie drummer Velazco who delivers subtle complexities to the band's style which is a welcome development given percussion in neo-prog can often be the weakest element.

There are a few surprises as well including a folky mandolin performance on "360 Degrees" and piano dominated tracks like "Starfish And The Moon" and "Whirlwind" that sound quite different than what's on the usual PENDRAGON menu. However the absolute best tracks are the ones that capture the essence of production rich bravado that tackle all the sensualities but offer a little rock as contrast. Standouts include "Truth And Lies" and "Who Really Are We?" and we even get a bit of a jazzy sax solo on "Whirlwind. Despite all the icing on the cake, it's really the cake itself that is the true treat here. These compositions are instantly addictive and the emotive delivery of Barrett's vocal performances takes this PENDRAGON album to the next level. Neo-prog artists have gone the extra mile to give the fan's the option of extra discs with bonus material. LOVE OVER FEAR has been released in a 3-disc set that offers not only the album but the album recorded acoustically as well as another instrumental. Personally that's too much stripped down fluff for my tastes because i'd rather just listen to this album over and over again and after having down that many times since it's release i can honestly say that this very well could be the best PENDRAGON release to date and definitely one of the best prog releases of 2020.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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