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Pendragon - The Masquerade Overture CD (album) cover





4.06 | 679 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars In pursuit of excellence

After two similar albums in The World and Window Of Life came this one which is by many considered to the the peak of the band's career. And it certainly was their best at least at the time of its release and thus a step up from the previous two. This album was released in 1996. But listening to this album now and looking at the cover art could easily make you believe that it was recorded some time in the 80's. Some obvious influences on this music are 70's Genesis and 80's Marillion with some traces of Pink Floyd. But while other bands with similar influences - perhaps most notably Clive Nolan's other band, Arena - adds a much harder edge and darker tone to the Neo-Prog sound, Pendragon almost does the opposite and strips their sound of any heavy or hard edged aspirations, making the Genesis-influenced sound much more lightweight, sweet, lush and polished. Not very powerful but highly enjoyable nonetheless.

The guitars are strongly Steve Hackett-influenced here while Nick Barrett previously sounded more like David Gilmour. But the music of Pendragon clearly lacks Hackett's occasional proclivity for free-Jazz experimentation. While the lead guitar has a wonderful sound, the few attempts at "power chords" come off as ridiculously thin. 6:50 into Guardian Of My Soul is, for example, a passage that I just have to laugh at! The keyboards have a modern, lush and symphonic sound and apart from the solos, they remain mainly in the background. I would not say that this is particularly challenging music, but there are several really lovely melodies. This is really a case of taking an established formula and trying to "pursue excellence" within its narrow frames. And they actually succeed very well!

Some people undoubtedly find this music too derivative, staying too close to the sounds of the 80's and 70's, while others would say that it is a timeless masterpiece. I fall somewhere in between, I guess. This surely provides a nice listening experience, with memorable melodies and high production values, but it is hardly a very challenging experience. This is a rather light-weight progressive Rock but most of the songs have absolutely gorgeous melodies that cannot be ignored.

Painbox is a fantastic song and the best of the lot. The short The Pursuit Of Excellence is basically a Folk song, which is quite nice but very light-hearted. This music is never aggressive and the sound lacks a much needed edge. The songs at the end of the album are perhaps slightly darker. When played live these songs have a bit more substance compared to how they sound on this studio recording.

Very good and surely recommended, but not really masterpiece it is often claimed to be.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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