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MAD AS A HATTER

Shadowland

Neo-Prog


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greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is neo progressive rock, in the style of ARENA. Clive Nolan's contribution in the progressive rock world is impressive: PENDRAGON, ARENA and then here in SHADOWLAND. He plays tons of keyboards here and composes the music.

The style is prog hard rock, sometimes almost metal, because of the razor and aggressive guitar sound of Karl Groom. Nolan's keyboards are varied and he has a very unique scattered style that can be interesting in many bits. Lots of moog solos here. I must recognize Nolan has the faculty to create catchy parts full of good vocals that are really addictive ("Mephisto Bridge", "Father", "The Burning"). Groom's guitar often goes into good high notes solos. Listen to the fretless bass on "Flatline": impressive! Finally, this album is made of full of surprises to be discovered.

Report this review (#6563)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This (last ??) Shadowland record are a wonderful tour into progland...with the ever present Clive Nolan (keyboard maestro)...yes, it is he of Pendragon and Arena...and his skills absolutely shines on this album....there are plenty of moog soloing and otherwise great keyboard show-off´s.....its a hard edged prog album...as the brilliant riffin´and soloing of Karl groom carves through each song....timbered by Nolan (well almost, some songs are by Salmon /Varty).....who, by the way also does the singing....while he´s no Hogarth or Nick Barrett...he manages quite well... as can be heard on " Mephisto bridge" and "Flatline"..and the beautiful acoustic ballad " Father". Title song is an epic....ringing in at 11:57 minutes....and has some nice time- changes.... the involved musicians are excellent..all the way!! So there you have it progfriends...you have to be...ahem...mad as a hatter, NOT to have this in your collection!! GO BUY.....im off...the sun is shining and the beer´s cold!
Report this review (#6564)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars The third and for now the last release of shadowland. Shadowland play neo-progressive rock with some faint hints at prog-metal, highly symphonised, with lots of keyboards, highpitched guitars, solid drumming and a great bass-player. After Ring Of Roses I became sort of a fan, but both "Through The Looking Glass" as this "Mad as a hatter" are a bit disappointing, it misses the depth and agressiveness of the Ring Of Roses album. Still there are some great moments for the dedicated listener.

1. U.S.I (United States of Insanity (9:28) Possible the best song on the album, with great guitarplay and good keyboards, good melodie and a driving bass behind it that propels the music to great heights at moments. very nice song. 2. Mephisto Bridge (6:48) Great keyboards, slow-pace high-pitched guitars. The song has it's moments, but doesn't really get off from the ground. 3. Flatline (5:58) Great song, well structured, with swirling keyboard melodies. really nice. 4. The seventh Year (5:10) Slow starter, but with great keyboard solo's.

5. Father (4:49) accoustic ballad, that can't disguise Clive's limited vocal range, nice vocal melodie though. 6. The Burning (7:10) The most interresting about this song is the background noodling of the keyboards, nice but nothing special. 7. Zuleika (6:25) A soft balad with some nice restrainted rhythms. 8. Mad as a Hatter (11:57) The title track and the most dark track on the album, great heavy drumming, fab. bassplay and great melodies. some of the better solos from both Karl as Clive, with a nice carnival melodie in the middle of the song. 9. Salvation Comes (6:16) Uninspired ending to a reasonable good album.

Overall this is a nice album for the fans of neo-prog music, and Clive Nolan's projects, but there are too few exciting moments to justifie anything above a 3 star rating. Give it a listen if you liked the other Shadowland recordings.

Report this review (#6567)
Posted Saturday, March 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The third and perhaps last studio album from SHADOWLAND. It's been ten years since this was released and Karl Groom is certainly busy with THRESHOLD. One thing I don't like about this record at times are the drums, too bombastic, taking away (in my opinion) from the music.

Highlights for me are "Mephisto Bridge" opening with keyboards and featuring some great guitar melodies. I love the guitar melody with vocals 6 minutes in. "Flatline" is a song about dying and has some beautiful guitar playing in it. I can see why Karl formed a band like THRESHOLD, where he can just be so creative with his guitar. "The Burning" is a great song with synths and a terrific chorus. There is some scorching guitar in this one as well. The final song "Salvation Comes" is an inspirational, uplifting tune with more great guitar playing and check out the choir on this one that includes Damian Wilson,Tracy Hitchings and Martin Orford among others.

I give this one 3.5 stars and prefer it over their debut "Ring of Roses".

Report this review (#99471)
Posted Saturday, November 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars There is much that has been said on the reviews for their first two albums, however, there is a marked improvement in quality, a more mature sound, the fourth track The Seventh Year has an awesome guitar solo introduced with the minimal of vocals over lush keyboards. Unfortunately the 'GM Midi Power Drum Set' sound is still too prevalent.

Far more complex, eklectic and even hectic, this album does show the progression made as a group, perhaps the additional muscians have made that difference?

The avany garde approach is perhaps a little off putting at times, but the muscianship is never in question, nor the melodies when present. As with the previous reviews I give this a 3 star rating but with the proviso that Arena, Nolan and Pendragon followers add at least one more star.

Report this review (#116330)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Shadowland´s third album came in 1995 and sounds very different from its debut 3 years earlier. In fact, Mad As A Hatter seems to me a lot to be like a half finished latter day Arena album. Even Clive´s voice is strangely too similar to Rob Sowden´s. Maybe that´s the reason why they disbanded after this one (why two Arenas?). Anyway, Mad As A Hatter is not a bad album. It has its moments, like the excellent opener, U.S.I., a great epic that shows all the band members in top form. Also it has its share of really different, somewhat whimsical tunes, like Zuleika. Some songs just seem to not work, but none are hacks.

It looks like Nolan had no idea where to go with Shadowland, as Arena took more of his interest. I guess he tried to be different here and the results were not exactly what he had hoped for. Even then, it has some good stuff and I think Arena fans will be pleased, specially the ones who enjoyed their last 3 albums. I´d give this album 2,5 stars, but the playing is so good that they actually save even the weaker songs. So, 3 stars is actually a more accurate rate.

Report this review (#117026)
Posted Sunday, April 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This third album by Shadowland is somewhere in the middle - where the quality is concerned - between the first two. I really loved the debut Ring of Roses and rated that around 3,75 and was less impressed with Through the looking glass (3,25). Funny enough this time I was not enthusiastic when I bought this ten years ago. I probably expected too much of it then and with high expectations it usually turns out as a disappointment.

But when I played it recently to listen once again I believe I have been too harsh then because this isn't bad at all. Just like on the first album there's a lot of attention for the great guitarplayer Karl Groom. On the debut he did a great job mainly on the title track but on this album he surpasses himself on The Seventh Year. This track consists of two parts: A curious tale is a vocal part that is not interesting at all in fact but it's the introduction for one of the most thrilling guitar solos I know. We are talking about the second part: Why Kruhulick ? This is a sort of part two as a successor of the debut albumtrack: The Kruhulick Syndrome that was already a great instrumental mainly performed by Karl Groom. But this Why Kruhulick ? is even much much better and will be the reason I am giving this album 4 stars.

But of course one can't do that because of one song only. There are more very nice compositions on this album such as U.S.I., Flatline, The Burning and Zuleika (with african influences as the title suggests). On most of these tracks Groom plays a nice role as well. Funny enough this time the longest track (title track) on this album is not my favourite at all, it's mediocre really.

So this album is slightly less than the debut but is very much ok to me, it's something like 3.6 so 4 stars.

Report this review (#152989)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Last of their albums to date ''Mad As A Hatter'' won't revolutionize the genre of course, but it offers some real fine musical moments. A combination of neo-prog and some ''light'' metal lines. After all, aren't Clive and Carl excelling in those two musical styles?

The song writing is again left to Clive (I would have hoped some more assistance from his fellow partners) and IMHHO, the best is achieved during the brilliant and impressive opening number ''USI''. A fine and heavy prog track with loads of fine synthesizers and enjoyable vocals (but the man has already showed his talents on previous recordings).

This album would please any ''Arena'' fan but some fine passages do borrow to the great ''Genesis''. But this is the essence of the genre so.While it is performed with skills like here, I have little problems to feel good (''Mephisto Bridge'').

There are of course the inevitable pop moment with ''Flatline''. This song s of course not the best you can expect but can't be considered as filler either. Bombastic guitar and metal lines: just to confirm that Carl is here!

The most dramatic and passionate song is by no doubt the beautiful ''Seventh Year''. It only confirms all the good one can feel about the vocal work from Clive. Do I need to add that the bombastic intro is followed by a superb and great upbeat instrumental (keys and guitar) parts? It is one of my fave song from this album (together with the long opening ''USI'').

It is also true to say that after the average ''Father'', the overall quality is dropping somewhat. The gorgeous feel of the first tracks are not so present any longer although the band is still trying (''The Burning''). But the world music oriented '' Zuleika'' is a painful moment for my ears. But I have never been into this musical genre, and I will never stand it.

One could hope that the long title track would bring us in some better territory but I can't really be thrilled by this song. Too cliché and little feeling all the way through (twelve minutes) unfortunately. The Christian oriented closing ''Salvation comes'' falls very shy to my ears.

This album is a true dual one: very good before ''Father'' and flat after it. Overall, it is still ranging in the good territory and won't prevent me to go and see them (if health allow) during their reunion tour which will pass along Belgium soon.

Three stars.

Report this review (#195377)
Posted Sunday, December 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Nomadness here

Having recorded and released two fine albums in what might be described as favourable circumstances, the members of Shadowland found working on their third album to be a much greater challenge. By this time (1995), Clive Nolan had become deeply involved with Arena while Karl Groom was similarly hard at work with Threshold. For the first time, Nolan shares some of the writing credits with Mike Varty. Varty had provided keyboards at live gigs (while Nolan sang) but by now he had been taken into the band as a full recording member. In his sleeve notes for the fine "Cautionary tales" box, Groom recalls that they "Never had everyone in the studio at the same time.... it was actually quite hard to get the album finished".

The album opens in dramatic fashion with the 9½ minute "U.S.I. (United States of insanity)", a track which finds the band making what is arguably their most progressive piece thus far. The song is a melting pot of time changes, soaring synths and dynamic lead guitar. It challenges Nolan's vocal abilities to the full, but he just about pulls it off. While the title may suggest this is a song along the lines of IQ's"Harvest of souls", lyrically there is no such controversy to be found.

"Mephisto bridge" has a very Arena like introduction, Karl Groom's guitar work being highly reminiscent of that of John Mitchell. The song actually suits Nolan's vocals much better, bringing out a surprising power in his voice. The two part "The seventh year" includes what must rate as Karl Groom's finest lead guitar solo ever. Sub-titled "Why Krukulick", his contribution here is simply stunning.

"Zuleika" is an intriguing song, as it draws on world music influences while incorporating backing vocals by "The Mad Hatter's choir". It is certainly quite different to what we expect from Shadowland, and fans could be forgiven for dismissing it. For me though, the track works reasonably well. At almost 12 minutes, the title track is the longest on the album. As with the opening "USI", the song features many of the key identifiers of prog, in this case we have some fine retro keyboards, mellotron sounds and cello. The closing track, "Salvation comes" I simply love. The song is a building anthem like piece with a simple melody. The choir like vocal is quite different again to the typical Shadowland.

The only track which does not really work is the acoustic "Father" which has the feel of a demo, Nolan's voice being rather over exposed on this occasion.

In all, "Mad as a hatter" is undoubtedly the most progressive of the three Shadowland albums. Each of the songs is a prog epic or mini-epic, packed with all the tenets of a fine prog song. The circumstances of the recording may have been less favourable, but the band responded to the challenge superbly, drawing upon their ever growing experience to create a wonderful result.

Shadowland was effectively put on ice as soon as this album was released. A planned tour was cancelled and the members focused on their other projects. Nolan and Groom would continue to work together while Ian Salmon would join Arena. The band never actually split up though, and while no further studio albums have been forthcoming, they did tour together again in 2009.

Report this review (#247213)
Posted Friday, October 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Playing with shadows in a far darker land

It is very interesting to follow Clive Nolan's development as a songwriter over the three Shadowland albums and the early Arena albums. When Mad As A Hatter, which is the third and last Shadowland album, was released in 1996, Arena was already in full flight and by now releasing their second studio album, Pride, that came out the same year as Mad As A Hatter. Some of the material presented on Mad As A Hatter is distinctively more Arena-like than the previous two Shadowland albums. Mad As A Hatter is, at least partly, darker, harder edged and shows less Pop sensibilities. At this point, Clive Nolan was clearly growing as a songwriter but he seems to have reserved his best songs for Arena. The excellent Songs From The Lion's Cage had come out the previous year and it was clear that Nolan's focus was now on Arena. This gives you the impression that the Mad As A Hatter material are leftovers from the early Arena albums(?).

Karl Groom's focus also lied elsewhere at this point with Threshold also being in full flight since a few years and two albums to their credit already with a third one coming up. Drummer Nick Herradence had also contributed to Threshold's Psychedelicatessen album. But these people were very productive!

The album starts on a high note with U.S.I. (United States Of Insanity) and peaks, in my opinion, with the very good Mephisto Bridge, which is one of my favourite Shadowland songs. Flatline, the two part The Seventh Year and the acoustic Father are also very good songs. Unfortunately, after this the album starts getting weaker. The Burning is more in line with what you find on the band's previous album, Through The Looking Glass, which I think was a rather average album (but with some very good moments).

Zuleika is a disaster and kills any aspirations this album could have had to being an excellent one. It oozes with "romance" and Pop sensibility. It could easily have been a minor radio hit in the 80's! A good guitar solo (that is faded out at the end of the song!) cannot save this song from utter mediocrity. Am I listening to Shadowland or Shallowland?! The title track is inspired by the Alice In Wonderland story and is a bit better, but unfortunately the album never really picks up again and this makes for a severely frontloaded album, with all the best songs in the first half. During the second half of this album the feeling that we are listening to leftovers is even stronger.

Still, Mad As A Hatter is a good album in the end. While Ring Of Roses is a much more consistent album, Mad As A Hatter has some songs that are up to par with that great debut album. Had only the whole album been as good as its first half! I think that Nolan's heart at this time was in Arena and he couldn't give everything he got to two bands at the same time. This is probably why Shadowland faded into darkness while Arena rose to fame.

As with the other two Shadowland albums, Mad As A Hatter is only available as part of a box set encompassing the band's whole discography including the recently filmed live DVD. The Mad As A Hatter disc has two bonus tracks; Phantoms and Edge Of Night. The latter of these is a new song written by Nolan for his Caamora project, but saved for Shadowland because he felt that it "sounded more like a Shadowland song". And he was right, of course. This is a nice tune that fits the rest of the output of this band well.

Good, but not essential

Report this review (#247615)
Posted Sunday, November 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars As far as Clive Nolan's side projects outside of Pendragon go, I've always preferred Arena to Shadowland - and listening to Mad as a Hatter, it sounds like Clive was inclined to agree by this point! The album steers directly for the rather darker and more complex musical territory occupied by Arena and leans away from the sunnier and lighter material of the previous two Shadowland albums, but it doesn't quite succeed - the production values are not what they could be, the songwriting isn't particularly interesting, and on the whole I can't help but wonder whether Clive was holding his best song ideas back for the next Arena album.
Report this review (#625277)
Posted Thursday, February 2, 2012 | Review Permalink

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