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Pallas - The Dreams Of Men CD (album) cover





4.00 | 274 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars Time to dream!

This album is the third in a trio of recent albums by Pallas (before these three albums there was a gap of some 12 years from their first batch of albums). Let me start by saying that all three of these albums are very good and very well worth having. But while many consider The Dreams Of Men to be the best out of the three, I am not quite as convinced about its merits as many of my fellow reviewers. For me Pallas returned as a force to be reckoned with in 1998 with the strong Beat The Drum and then peaked with the consistently brilliant The Cross And The Crucible which remains the band's masterpiece for me. This album too, however, contains some really inspiring songs.

On the first couple of listens, I immediately liked the great opening track The Bringer Of Dreams and the wonderful Ghostdancers. But I found, at least initially, that the rest of the album did not live up to the high standards set by the two previous albums. I still find some minor flaws and slightly irritating moments on some of the other songs (and even if The Bringer Of Dreams and Ghostdancers still are my two favourite tracks here), The Dreams Of Men grew on me a bit over further listens. Like many Prog albums, it took some time and effort to get into it.

The Dreams Of Men is a thematic album based on just that - men's dreams. However, it is a much looser concept compared to the previous The Cross And The Crucible which was more of a full blown concept album. Also, The Dreams Of Men it is not at all the lyrical masterpiece that album was. However, there are some fine lyrics here as well.

One thing that strikes me while listening to this album is that the music seems to be almost tailor-made for the preferences of the people on this site; long songs, symphonic sound, instrumental workouts, keyboard solos, etc. All the characteristic ingredients of (Neo-) Progressive Rock are here. You might suspect that the band worked hard to avoid potential criticisms of not being progressive enough (I have seen such criticisms being lodged against Beat The Drum and The Cross And The Crucible). My initial response to some of the passages on some of the songs was that maybe they are trying too hard; maybe they are moving outside of their comfort zone just to please the (Neo-) Prog community?; maybe they are applying a formula that is not truly their own? However, this negative feeling tended to fade with further listens. Pallas is still one of the most original Neo-Prog bands in my opinion, but I think that their own identity came to its right better on the previous two albums.

Another thing that strikes me is the broad array of influences. I can detect influences from World Music, New Age, Metal, Folk, etc. Some unusual sounds (compared to earlier Pallas albums) are heard here; we have fiddle on a couple of songs, a Gospel Choir, a traditional Native American singer, a female Opera singer and more! Some of these sounds work better than others. The inclusion of a fiddle on The Bringer Of Dreams and Ghostdancers appeared to be to be something of a masterstroke. It really works to great effect to enhance these songs, especially the latter. This superb, folky song is about the European emigration to America and its consequences on the Native American people. The song ends with a beautiful, short, traditional Native American a cappella vocal that really lends atmosphere to the song. This blending of traditional musical influences from both sides of the Atlantic (Britain and America) is quite brilliant and really fits with the theme of the song.

Bringer Of Dreams features all the Pallas trademarks and one of the best instrumental breaks the band has ever done which is introduced by Alan Reed whispering 'time to dream!' - possibly the most memorable line of the whole album. The album continues with Warriors which starts with a rather simplistic guitar riff that is hardly original. It sounds rather like the kind of simple riff that aspiring guitarists will learn first. However, the verses and chorus of the song are among the finest in the Pallas catalogue and make the song overall a strong one.

Too Close To The Sun brings the band closer to typical (Neo-) Prog territory and is a very varied song that took some time to sink in. Messiah features the clichéd line 'I'm walking the walk, I'm talking the talk' as well as a short guitar passage that is strongly reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix! Is it perhaps a deliberative quote? This song also features a Gospel choir, all this in the same track. I have started to like this one too, but it is probably my least favourite on the album together with Mr. Wolfe.

Northern Star is a lovely, relaxing, New-Age-like guitar instrumental. Considered on its own merits it is perhaps not very interesting. It is just the kind of thing that Steve Howe, Mike Oldfield, Steve Morse and many others has been making in large quantities. However, this little instrumental becomes a perfect interlude between the surrounding, harder edged songs. With Mr. Wolfe Pallas almost enters Metal territory and they seem to be rather comfortable there and it sounds rather good, but there is nothing to make this track really stand out from the crowd. The riff on which the song is based reminds me slightly of the riff from Dream Theater's Never Enough from their Octavarium album.

Invincible continues partly in the Metal mode, this time with some slightly more aggressive bits. Here I find that Pallas, especially Alan Reed's vocals, are moving slightly outside of their comfort zone, but they mange to bring it all together in the end. While I strongly agree with the moral sentiments of the lyrics, I think that the line 'it's my life and you can't have it!' is being repeated at least one time too many.

The Last Angel finally slows things down and is a kind of symphonic, operatic semi-ballad. It has a lovely melody and an excellent vocal performance from Alan Reed. The first part reminds me of U2, but it builds towards a more symphonic sound and is then handed over to the female Opera singer to change the nature of the song. I find the song to be perhaps a little bit too long for its own good, but otherwise a fine closer and one of the album's better songs together with the first three or four tracks. But while this is the song on this album that comes closest to being a ballad, I really miss a genuine ballad on The Dreams Of Men like Who's To Blame from The Cross And The Crucible and Blood & Roses from Beat The Drum.

With a running time of well over an hour, I find this whole album slightly too long for its own good. It is a common mistake in the age of the compact disc to put too much material on an album. Some of the songs could probably have been shortened slightly. But despite its few flaws - mostly concentrated to the middle of the album - The Dreams Of Men is still a very good album but not quite up to par with the previous two.

This review is starting to get absurdly long now, so I better end it by saying that I am very happy to have discovered this great Scottish band and that their three latest albums are all very enjoyable!

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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