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Pendragon - Passion CD (album) cover





3.73 | 608 ratings

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2 stars Passion is the 9th album from the long lived British band, Pendragon. Though my familiarity with the band is limited to their 1996's The Masquerade Overture, I can see the update to their sound with their latest release. However, while Pendragon's music may have kept up with the times, Passion has too few redeeming moments to make it worthwhile, and is overall a fairly bland 2011 release.

The first thing you'll notice about Passion is that it has a much rougher edge than Pendragon's previous albums. There are a lot of heavy guitar riffs, and some slightly growly vocals, each of which contributes to the album's overall sound. Besides the more metal- influenced guitars, the atmosphere is created by wide synthesizers that fill in the gaps in the music. Although there is a pretty characteristic neo-prog feel here, the synthesizers are much more subtle than other albums in the genre and the rest of the instruments rarely get drowned in a keyboard wash. The other notable instrument is clean electric guitar, which provides plenty of slow moving, melodic solos in every song.

It is the vocals, however, that drives the music forward, and is what the music is based around. While no song is purely a standard verse-chorus affair, the majority of each song is taken up by vocal sections, and the instrumental breaks are short. The normal singing is generally fine, though only occasionally moving. While the rougher vocals don't even approach the kind of growling you find in metal, they're not done very well, and usually come off as corny. The lyrical themes are the most interesting thing about the singing, and as you may have guessed, they deal with passion, love, hate, and other strong emotions. There's some lyrics shared between songs, which is one of the best things about them.

Unfortunately, that's the best thing about the songs because there's not much else going on in them. Because there's so much singing on each track and not many instrumental breaks, they all feel interchangeable. Most of the music goes for atmosphere more than anything else, but without an interesting use, the atmosphere gets old pretty quickly. There's about 3 minutes of exciting composition in the two songs over 10 minutes, but the rest of the music in those two is just stretching time, and they don't offer any reasons to be longer than the other songs.

The previous statements, however, do not apply to the final song, Your Black Heart. The song opens with a beautiful flurry of flute, acoustic guitar, and piano. This is only the second or third use of piano, and it makes you wonder where it has been the whole album, because the final song is so much stronger than the previous six because of it. The song closes with one of the saddest and most anguished guitar solos I've ever heard, and is a very fitting end. Your Black Heart is such an oddity on the album, and the wonderful six minutes aren't enough to save the previous, stale 50.

It's really more disappointing that the closing track is so good, because it shows what the rest of the album could have been. However, what we have is one amazing song, and six that range from mediocre to poor. As it stands Passion isn't an album worth your time, unless you're a devoted Pendragon fan that must have every one of their releases. For the rest of us though, make sure you listen to the final song, but don't feel bad if you skip the rest.

m2thek | 2/5 |


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