Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Gandalf's Fist


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Gandalf's Fist The Clockwork Fable album cover
4.11 | 232 ratings | 16 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 - Act I: The Day the Great Cog Failed (66:55)
1. The Traveller and the Lighter (4:13)
2. Shadowborn (6:51)
3. The Unminable Zone (2:32)
4. The Lamplighter (Parts I-VIII) (15:57)
5. In the Cavern of the Great Cog (3:52)
6. The Great Cog (5:15)
7. The Shadow Rises... (5:52)
8. The Capture (Including the Song for a Fallen Nightkeeper) (6:51)
9. Waiting for Exile (7:05)
10. Eve's Song (8:27)

CD 2 - Act II: Of Men and Worms (65:15)
11. A Sermon for Shadowmas (1:18)
12. Victims of the Light (9:10)
13. Old Friends, New Enemies (4:23)
14. Ditchwater Daisies (7:22)
15. De-ranged (3:30)
16. The Lamplighter (Parts IX-XIII) (12:13)
17. In the Name of the Spy (2:56)
18. The Bewildering Conscience of a Clockwork Child (10:20)
19. Escape! (3:25)
20. A Solemn Toast for the Steam Ranger Reborn (10:38)

CD 3 - Act III: From Burrows We Came (61:52)
21. The Oldest Flame (1:58)
22. The Lamplighter (Parts XIV-XV) (2:58)
23. Flight for the Surface (2:10)
24. The Climb (12:24)
25. At the Summit (8:05)
26. Fight for the Light (8:08)
27. Quest for Power (1:12)
28. At the Sign of the Aperture (12:33)
29. A Machine Serves His Purpose (1:30)
30. The Clockwork Fable (5:13)
31. Escape from Cogtopolis (1:14)
32. Through the Lens (3:25)
33. Epilogue - Oh Bugger! (1:02)

Total Time 194:02

Line-up / Musicians

- Luke Severn / vocals (8,16)
- Dean Marsh / lead vocals, 6- & 12-string guitars, mandolin, octave mandola, bass, synths, composer
- Chris Ewen / bass
- Stefan Hepe / drums, percussion

- Melissa Hollick / vocals (2,4,10,14,16,24,32)
- Arjen Lucassen / vocals (16)
- Blaze Bayley / vocals (28)
- Dave Oberlé / vocals (12,20), bodhrán, tan-tan
- Matt Stevens / ambient guitar
- Nathan Madsen / sax
- Dying Seed / chanter (26)

Voice Actors:
- Mark Benton - as "The Lamplighter/Prison Guard/First Secretary"
- Zach Galligan - as "The Steam Ranger"
- Tim Munro - as "The Tinker"
- Alicia Marsh - as "Eve"
- Paul Kavanagh - as "Pastor Simon"
- Bill Fellows - as "Armistead/Nightkeeper Spy"
- Paul Barnhill - as "The Primarch/Nightkeeper Breathren"
- Christopher Ewen - as "The Boy"
- Luke Severn - as "Second Secretary/another Nightkeeper Brethren"

Releases information

Rock-Opera in three acts

Artwork: Thomas Huth

3xCD self-released - GFCD006 (2016, UK)

Thanks to Stefan Hepe for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy GANDALF'S FIST The Clockwork Fable Music

GANDALF'S FIST The Clockwork Fable ratings distribution

(232 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(29%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

GANDALF'S FIST The Clockwork Fable reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by FragileKings
5 stars A while back now, for my 100th review, I expressed my thoughts and impressions of Ayreon's "Human Equation" a double-disc concept narrative album, and one which I enjoyed thoroughly. Now I have reached my 200th review and I am very thrilled about reviewing yet another masterpiece of a concept narrative, the triple disc steampunk story "The Clockwork Fable" by Gandalf's Fist.

This is the band's sixth album but only the first to be welcomed into my music collection. The band had been on my radar for a while, and with the subsequent drop in the value of the British pound after the Brexit vote, I took advantage and ordered a bunch of CDs from the U.K. that were more expensive or even unavailable in Japan. Thus the pricy, three-CD, digipak became somewhat affordable for me.

The story takes place in the subterranean city of Cogtopolis, a refuge for humanity from some great catastrophe that befell the surface. Radiation, 20-year winters, and the disappearance of the sun suggest that there may have been a nuclear war. Cogtopolis has existed for well over 200 years, all its denizens being shadowborn and subject to religious indoctrination, though it is only the weak-minded who truly submit to the religious brainwashing of the Pastors. We begin with our encounter with the Lamplighter. Yes, "we" because we, "you the listener" play the role of The Traveller. We surprise the Lamplighter as he is making his rounds, lighting lamps, and at first he is startled and not very impressed with us. However, he soon softens as he gets over his surprise and he offers us a grand tour of Cogtopolis. Here then the first song begins and it sounds very much to me like an 80's prog metal inspired piece. The vocals are high in register and the guitars, though metal, are not produced heavy and loud, and so I feel it's a very 80's prog metal type of music. There's even a part that sounds very Iron Maiden.

We are back with the Lamplighter and we've reached the Great Cog, the Giant One, the "marvel of engineering" that is the heart of the city. The Lamplighter expounds poetically on its importance and wonder. We then move on to the first eight parts of the "Lamplighter" suite, an epic track with softer parts, solemn segments, beautiful passages and heavy moments. Two vocalists share duties here, one I believe to be Melissa Hollick, who provides the angelic singing voice for the character Eve, and a breathy masculine voice whose owner I can't confirm from the CD info alone.

The story begins to take shape now as we hear the conversation between The Tinker, a kind of incessantly cheerful madman of a scientist who loves "gizmos, doo-hickies, and thingamy-traptions" and Eve, a young girl who looks to The Tinker as a mentor. Eve is late because the city streets are packed with revelers on the Eve of Shadowmass, the single most important religious holiday of the underworld. Tinker reveals to Eve that his measurements show that the Great Cog is slowing down and that furthermore, in spite of the disaster a stagnating cog would portent, all remains functioning normally in the city, pressure gauges normal, "vending machine chicken soup inedible" as always. Then Tinker lets her know the great secret, that his gauges and measurements from the most upper regions of the huge underground cavern suggest that the sun has returned to the surface!

A song for the Giant One follows, led by a very cool bass line and drums with synthesizer showing up. It's a moody, haunting piece.

Now the plot of the story begins to unfold with several dialogues in succession, each separated by a churning, steam engine sound that could be a train or the Great Cog turning. The Nightkeeper Spy has been put in charge of finding "The Alpha and the Omega" though he has no idea where he should start looking. Then we meet the Primarch, the anointed chief protector of Cogtopolis as he meets privately with Pastor Simon. The Primarch fears the rumours of the sun returning and is worried that someone will try to open the Aperture, the passageway to the world above and the way that the founders of Cogtopolis came into the great cavern. Opening the Aperture will release deadly radiation from the surface into the cavern. The Pastor is more worried about heresy and blasphemy and wants to root out the spreaders of these rumours.

From here on it is tempting to write about every dialogue and every song because I enjoyed the story tremendously. Most concept narrative albums tell the story within the lyrics of the songs and at times, some more than others, use spoken dialogue and sound effects to add drama to the story in song. However, "The Clockwork Fable" makes great use of the voice actors, dialogues and sound effects to tell the story which comes across like a BBC radio play with a classic Doctor Who bent. Many of the spoken tracks are over three minutes long and as the story builds and we approach the climax, I found myself on the first listen almost disappointed when another 10- minute song wedged itself in between the captivating dialogues. And there is quite a cast of characters and an exciting story as Eve, The Tinker and a Steam Ranger they encounter in prison try to reach the aperture and hopefully acquire "the Alpha and the Omega" cogs that are necessary to open the Aperture, while the Primarch and the Pastor both try to stop them, each for their own differing reasons. From time to time, we and our guide, the Lamplighter, rove about Cogtopolis as he tells us about what's going on with Shadowmass and explains the wars that ultimately led to the rise of the current religion.

There is still a hefty dose of music too and after the second listen through it became easier to take the time to enjoy each song because I was no longer impatient to know what was going to happen next in the story. The music covers a fair range of styles and approaches, often within a single track. There's more early progressive metal and even a bit more Iron Maiden-influenced playing (note: former lead vocalist, Blaze Bailey sings the sung parts of the Primarch), some more neo-prog parts like Arena and IQ or Pallas from "XXV", gentle and beautiful piano parts with strings and Hollick's soul-soothing vocals, moody and brooding parts, Renaissance, folk and Celtic leanings and even a nod to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall".

One interesting thought is all the allegory one can infer from the story. The concept of everyone being "shadowborn" and civilization having gone underground, living in darkness could be a metaphor for our "lost civilization" ruled by evil and corruption. Or the Shadow Church could be seen as the Catholic Church keeping everyone in the dark. When the Tinker calls out, "The Light shall prevail!" it seems an obvious message for humanity. And of course that the way out requires the ascension of a great ladder up to the aperture, which opens to the sun, also makes a great religious symbol. But even though there are messages that could be seen as religious messages (for or against), scientists get a barb in the side as well when the Tinker cries out, "I'm a scientist, Eve. I did it because I could!"

My final opinion, and I've truncated this review seriously, is that this is a very entertaining album with a captivating story, excellent voice actors, and some stellar music. That said, it is three discs with over 60 minutes per disc, thus making it quite a lot to listen through at once. I can get through half during my commute to work and the other half on the way home. For that reason, it is not an album I am likely to spin often. I love "The Human Equation", "The Wall" and IQ's "Subterranea" too but I don't play them often.

So, bravo to Gandalf's Fist for combining music, story-telling, and audio theater on one very impressive collection of sound. But I can see some people feeling it's a bit long and others, like me, loving it but not letting it play much because of the time required to hear the whole thing. Nevertheless, two big thumbs up!

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars As a rule, I am not a big fan of epic albums with narration, which is why I have failed to add applause to such celebrated albums as Rick Wakeman's "Voyage to the Center of the Earth" (the original and the more recent remake). I just prefer musical arrangements before anything. Ayreon's magnificent "The Electric Castle" was one of the very successful epics that had both narrators and singers that blended well with the punchy music. It's no surprise that Arjen Lucassen is a guest vocalist here and he may also have been a source of inspiration as well. A live setting may be a different feeling but on recordings, just give me the tunes, please. Gandalf's Fist has provided a stunning 2016 opus with the massive "The Clockwork Fable", a 3 CD affair chock full of memorable slices of sonic genius, though it must be said that their sound is much sharper and harder than ever before. Way less overtly Floydian than their previous releases such as the masterful trio of "Road to Darkness" (2011), "A Day in the Life" (2013) and "Forest of Fey" (2014), the core of singer Luke Severn and multi-instrumentalist Dean Marsh have decided to widen their sound by solidifying the rhythmic tandem by adding a full-time bassist in Christopher Ewen as well as solid thumper Stefan Hepe, giving Marsh all the space needed for his keyboard and guitar ornamentations. 194 minutes is a daunting task to wolf down in one helping, so I helped myself to reorganize a playlist of songs only, which may take away from the narrative but does focus cuttingly on the music. If you mostly want to follow the storyline just buy the album for the entire experience. Throw in former Gryphon vocalist/percussionist David Oberlé who supplies the folkier side , ex-Iron Maiden lung Blaze Bayley the helium yell and guitar maestro Matt Stevens adding his ambient skills and you get the complete picture. The core section of the work is found in the multi-part suite "The Lamplighter" that is liberally strewn among the three CDs , each over an hour long.

On the first CD "The Day the Great Cog Failed" , there are some delectable pieces to highlight such as the drop dead dazzling ballad "Eve's Song", a stirring and symphonic composition featuring a melody both haunting and reflective, a truly winning epic tremendously sung by Melissa Hollick. The delicate finale is precious metal incarnate. Things are fine-tuned from the start with the scorching "Shadowborn", chugging metallic guitar wrangling with a wicked synthesizer gone haywire, the rhythmic locomotive spewing smoke as the magical flute twirls in Tullian fashion. Listen to the thrilling "The Great Cog" with its echo-affected drum beats, reptilian bass attack and Luke's patented "pillow" vocals, flickered with endless sparks of slippery synth warbles, and you should come to the conclusion that this is going to be quite the entertainment package. Maintaining the urgency, the highly cinematographic "The Capture" is prog ?opera at its finest, bombastic orchestrations, pummelled by cannonading drums, garlanded by some whirling dervish synths salvos and some colossal Wagnerian choirs, slain by some snarly vocals.

Second CD "Of Men & Worms" is the showstopper section as it blends on "Victims of the Light" some outright folk of the vivid British kind with some breathless melodies affirmed by both starting lead vocals as well as massive choir work, an extensive acoustic guitar foray that is spellbinding from the get go. Another memorable air is to be found on "Ditchwater Daisies", a suave ballad that resonates with imagery, the art of combining a good story with a simple melody and wrap that in a pared-down arrangement and letting it all fall into place. Tragically beautiful. Luke's patented hushed voice is a pure delight and incredibly effective in creating celestial sentiments that seduces the musical soul. The pastoral sensation returns early on "the Bewildering", a shimmering fluffy cloud of atmospherics that gets accosted by a stubborn guitar riff from Mr. Marsh, interspaced with ambient flicks of the wrist (Matt Stevens), taking the whole thing into a complex universe of staccato rhythms, carpeted mellotron for Luke to swoon over, the fluttering flute (not credited anywhere) and a whole lot of adventure. But it's on the beguiling "A Solemn Toast for the Steam Ranger Reborn" that the magic really hits hard, brilliant vocals, sputtering synth bubbles, Spanish guitar fingerings, tinkling piano and marshal drums uniting in the cause. This is a tremendous piece that sweeps you into the clouds of fantasy, reminding me of their classic song "Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet". Delirious music.

The third act, "From Burrows we Came", here the overall texture definitely hardens, perhaps due to the Iron Maiden influences that are bursting through the speakers' seams, leaping into a harsher climate as on the dizzying "The Climb", maintain a highly melodic and dramatic urgency, upgraded by marvelous operatic vocals from Melissa Hollick, who really shines throughout. The improbable bass guitar/synth duet is a total stunner. The screeching electric finale is fast, furious and heavy. The rambling "Fight for the Light" is a shadow box of various explosive chords, tempered by those divine hushed vocals that instill a sense of yearning that gets me every time. Then Blaze grasps the mike with brazen authority and with the correct guitar barrage, the mood is clearly in jet propulsion mode. The slipstream synths warble madly, chasing the challenging melody. This greasier rock bravura is pushed along further on the next track, the colossal "At the Sign of Aperture", a towering and bold musical statement that swerves in various summersaults sung by "the chosen one", slashing mightily with passion and awareness. The 'sparks are flying' guitar solo is a classic Van Halen-like affair, unparalleled technique and emotional frenzy. The shimmering title track welds piano and acoustic guitar together, Luke swooning engagingly amid the clicking timepieces and ticking mechanisms, buoyed by lush symphonics in the use of various synthesizers. Truly terrific piece. "Through the Lens" gives licence to the piano pursue its magical journey, as Melissa adds a stirring and convincing farewell.

I have edited the playlist, as suggested by others, in order to lean exclusively on the songs and the result is quite an entertaining ride. Whichever way you want to approach this massive opus, either in whole or in part, Gandalf's Fist has dared to conquer and has vanquished. I cannot fathom how they can possibly top this crowning achievement.

5 Device stories

Review by kev rowland
5 stars Some years ago I came across the debut album from Gandalf's Fist, then lost touch with them again until I received an email one day stating that to celebrate the two year anniversary of their latest album they were providing a free download of the first act. A short flurry of emails between myself and Dean Marsh, and I soon had a copy of the three-CD set to listen to. I knew there was something very special going on here even before I listened to it, as there were guest appearances by Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), Blaze Bayley (Ex- Iron Maiden), Matt Stevens (The Fierce and the Dead) and Dave Oberl' (Gryphon). The album also featured the voice acting talents of the likes of Mark Benton (Waterloo Road) and Zach Galligan (Gremlins) among others. Then on top of that there was the press release. If an album is self-released I am lucky to get a page of (sometimes) useful background information, at a maximum two. No, what I have here is a 16 page full colour guide to Cogtopolis, with diagrams, illustrations, a complete history of the formation of the city, how it all works plus so much more.

Yes boys and girls, what we have here is a full-blown concept album on steroids. In some ways it is mix between the concept albums of Clive Nolan and the science fiction stories with music of Hibernal. There is far more acting and drama than one would hear from the former, and far more songs and rockiness than one would get from the latter. In many ways this has moved far away from the concept album format, and into a full-blown film for the ears. I soon found that the only way to listen to the album was by giving it my full attention, as if I didn't I soon lost track of whatever else I was trying to do anyway. The interplay between the progressive rock music and the dramatic storyline is seamless, with both providing dynamic interplay.

I kept 'seeing' what was going on in my mind, and also wondering if they were ever going to publish a book to go with this, as I can easily imagine this story being greatly expanded. I am not going to give anything away about the storyline itself, apart from saying that it takes place under the earth's surface, as due to man's maltreatment of nature humanity were sent underground some two hundred years previously. From the very beginning, when the lamplighter comes across a traveller, I was hooked, desperately wanting to understand where the story was going to take me. That the music was heavily influenced by neo prog and contained wonderful vocals performances and great musicianship and melodies was the real icing on the cake. I was surprised just how often I was reminded of the mighty Legend, as they and Galahad have obviously been fairly important inspirations behind this mighty endeavour, as has Ayreon and IQ.

A triple CD concept album, of this depth and magnitude, is released very rarely indeed. I can honestly say that it is one of the most impressive pieces of work I have come across in the last five years, and is essential listening to anyone who loves good music.

Latest members reviews

5 stars From the very start this album sucks you in deep, and does it so well, it almost feels like you're watching "Lord of the Rings" or "Game of Thrones" or some other surreal, fantasy-type film. Comparing Gandalf's Fist's work to anyone else is simply impossible, it's just an experience you really h ... (read more)

Report this review (#2132104) | Posted by gdogcentaur | Monday, January 28, 2019 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I came upon Gandalfs Fist via a track on a sampler CD. On the strength of the track, which came from 'Clockwork Fable', i bought that CD. I have been completely blown away by what is essentially a three act play in words and music. It's quite unlike any other prog rock CD I have. The story line ... (read more)

Report this review (#1692405) | Posted by Karnataka | Monday, February 13, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is a great album!!! Never heard of "Gandalf's Fist" before and, being a Tolkien's fan, I have to say that I came here cause the name. But I found a great band (or a great musician, cause most of the music is Marsh's work). Three C.D.s, three hours, lot of good songs, a nice story (better tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#1680489) | Posted by chiang | Monday, January 16, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I'm Befuddled "The Clockwork Fable" has but 100 or so ratings. By far my favorite album of 2016. I feel a tad guilty that I haven't reviewed this beauty till now. 2016 was young when I preordered Gandalf Fist's triple disc Steam Punk musical. Clockwork Fable is comparable to "The Wall", " ... (read more)

Report this review (#1676743) | Posted by omphaloskepsis | Friday, January 6, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars For my first review on PA I want to cover an album I'm flabbergasted people aren't raving about! I'm not sure where to start with this album other than to say it's the finest conceptual record I've heard in a considerable time. At 3 CD's long and over 3 hours in total, one would assume that this ... (read more)

Report this review (#1648227) | Posted by CaptainOctopus | Thursday, November 24, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If listening to a 3 CD album seems daunting to you, take solace in that half of the tracks are narrative. Musically, it's the peculiar but familiar for their listeners formula of taking fantasy folk, epic hard rock in Iron Maiden style, your typical Genesis influence and wrap it in a psychedelic ... (read more)

Report this review (#1647182) | Posted by Progrussia | Sunday, November 20, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Having loitered and read lots of reviews on this site for quite a while, it's time I wrote my first review. I have selected this album not because it is my favourite (it isn't) but the sheer effort that has been put into this, and it's undeniable quality, demands that it gets a wider listening. Re ... (read more)

Report this review (#1596938) | Posted by Rosscoe | Friday, August 12, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I think the boys of Gandalf's Fist may have outdone themselves with their latest musical adventure in 'The Clockwork Fable'. After releasing their 2014 musical adventure album 'A Forest of Fey' I wandered how they would be able to top it, a double CD, best of Gandalf's Fist or maybe a live EP? N ... (read more)

Report this review (#1564804) | Posted by Gotrek1966 | Sunday, May 15, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Whoa! That could sum up the overall reaction I had after listening to "The Clockwork fable" for the first time. Since the band teased some bits and pieces from the musical side of the album on their website (in form of a 10 minute medley), I somehow thought I knew what to expect, but the final re ... (read more)

Report this review (#1559793) | Posted by LittleLotti | Sunday, May 8, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Review #21 Gandalf's Fist are centered around 2 very creative persons; Luke Severn and Dean Marsh, plus a big variety of musicians that they have been using for the needs of the recordings of their albums. I learned about Gandalf's Fist 2 years ago, with the release of their previous album ... (read more)

Report this review (#1559101) | Posted by The Jester | Thursday, May 5, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars When I first discovered that Gandalf's Fist were releasing a 3cd album, I was expecting it to be like a pint of watered down beer at a cheap all-inclusive hotel. Then I read on their website that it will be a whole concept piece with established actors lending their skills to turn it into a whole ... (read more)

Report this review (#1558910) | Posted by Kevman28 | Wednesday, May 4, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Since I have really enjoyed "A Forest of Fey" back in 2014, I was curious about the new Gandalf's Fist album, especially after checking out the website they set up for "The Clockwork Fable" in order to introduce the entire concept and to provide detailed background information on the story they c ... (read more)

Report this review (#1558175) | Posted by Miss Anthropia | Monday, May 2, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I got this mammoth of an album (three CD's in a fantastic designed DigiPak with over 3 hours of music and radioplay-bits on it) a few days ago (pre-ordering directly at the band's website rules!), and had in in my player since then. Gandalf's Fist have outdone themselves with this one *again* - ... (read more)

Report this review (#1557812) | Posted by MrHaddington | Sunday, May 1, 2016 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of GANDALF'S FIST "The Clockwork Fable"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.