‘Cuprinol – It Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin’ – a now well known advertising slogan that can be equally as pertinent in real life. Describing how something doesn’t have to be complicated to work perfectly well and does the job that it was intended to.
This could be as equally a relevant term when it comes to music too. If you want a band that plays a particular type of music exceedingly well without over-complicating things then there will always be one that fits the bill.
If you’re want at ‘Medieval Space Rock’ (well, we all do at some point in our lives) then you need look no further than ‘your favourite time-travelling prog-warlocks’ (their words, not mine!) Gandalf’s Fist and their brand of Prog, Folk and Rock to get what you need.
This year has seen the band embark on a through revamp of 2013’s space-rock offering ‘A Day In The Life Of A universal Wanderer’.
The expanded album has been fully remixed and remastered from the ground up, utilizing new performance takes and bringing the release firmly in line with the sonic palette of 2014’s “A Forest of Fey” and 2016’s “The Clockwork Fable”.
The record also features new and re-recorded narrative tracks from British Actor Mark Benton, who had previously worked with the band on last year’s Triple-CD album release.
Completing the package is the brand new, exclusive track The Stowaway and the Endless Night, an 11 minute opus originally omitted from the original release, as well as brand new cover art commissioned from German artist Thomas Huth, the man reasonable for the band’s sleeves on the last two releases.
Gandalf’s Fist front man, Dean Marsh, commented:
“This is the album people seem to have been desperate for us to re-release on CD format and we were reluctant to do so until we could finally do it right and do it justice. This is not a pointless ‘CGI-Yoda’ retrospective tinkering, we’ve retained the main core of what we originally created, but now with a bit more sheen and more energy. It now works as a cohesive piece. A real thrill for me was to hear the synth violin sections being re-recorded by orchestral musicians, It’s those little touches that have lifted the record to another level. I think we’ve finally got it to a stage where we’re proud to let it sit on the shelf next to our last two albums!”
Not only has the album been fully remixed and remastered, drummer Stefan Hepe has also re-visited and re-recorded the drums and percussion to all tracks and new violin and cello performances have been captured to elevate those songs and you can really tell…
‘The Universal Wanderer’ – who’s legend tells of a figure who has wandered the cosmos from the birth of existence to the end of time…
What Gandalf’s Fist have always been is brilliant storytellers, the duo of Dean Marsh and Luke Severn (now with the added teutonic skills of Stefan) have always been able to weave involving tales and set them to outstanding music and this revamped version of ‘A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer’ is no exception. The opening Another Night On The Far Side Of The Universe sees the ship’s computer (voiced by Alicia Marsh) and the instantly recognisable dulcet tones of Mark Benton as The Captain, set the scene for the universal journey ahead. The Nine Billion Names Of God is a darkly bombastic track with doom-laden vocals and a slow metronomic beat that really gets under your skin. With a sound deeply rooted in early 70’s sci-fi it is eerie and disturbingly atmospheric and the chorus is an unexpected ear-worm that you find yourself singing in the most inappropriate places (like Church for instance!). Add in some ethereal flute, moody saxophone and some great twin-guitar work and you have a great start to the album. The next scene-setting interlude, Where’s A Bloody Escape Pod When You Need One?, segues straight into the powerful opening of Stowaway To The Mushroom Planet before things roll back into some seriously chilled space-rock with delightful female vocals. A serenity falls on the music, only broken by the superb melodramatic chorus, this is rather a fine track which is only enhanced by the excellent guitar solo.
There’s a pleading Message Home delivered in a disconcerting manner and then then wonderful Melissa Hollick arrives to deliver a wonderfully emotive vocal performance on the grandiosely anthemic Somewhere Beyond The Stars. Along with the utterly captivating piano, Melissa’s vocals entrance and captivate to leave you utterly bewitched. It’s as good a piece of music that you will hear this year and always brings a lump to my throat and a moistening to the eyes, just listen to the enchanting guitar playing and you’ll know what I mean! Seriously heavy space-rock infused prog makes an appearance on the mighty Orphans Of The Sky, a lengthy and intricate homage to the 70’s heavy rock acts. A slow-burning verse erupts into the monstrous chorus with no apology and delivers a powerful and compelling performance with the measured riff and dynamic drums adding to the forceful vocals. The spacey, far out guitar that plays across your mind before the track breaks back into the chorus is pure genius.
The alien A Visitation Of The Mushroom People leads the way into the forgotten opus The Stowaway And The Endless Night, omitted from the original 2013 release. A seriously intensive and inventive 11-minutes plus of progressive rock that builds its atmosphere slowly with some rather fine guitar and drums grabbing and holding your attention before a menacing voice over intrudes. All hell breaks lose with a twin guitar riff of monlithic proportions. The song ebbs and flows with some superlative and convoluted music and some excellent vocals, the female voice again supplied by the sublime Melissa Hollick. The band will have their reasons for not including this track on the original release but I do wonder why as I think it is rather good and fits in with the rest of the songs perfectly. Universal Wanderer is a great space-rock track that takes the listener on a wandering journey through space and time in their own mind. The song seems to bubble under for a while with barely suppressed urgency before a superb riff flares up and gives real potency to the hard-rock feel. The guitar sound lends itself to 80’s heavy metal and the whole song just rocks mightily.
There’s a more measured approach with Nexus, a thoughtful song with almost a folk edge to the vocals and guitar. You feel you are involved in something mysterious and perplexing as this pensive track continues. The keyboard and guitar break in the middle of the track really feels like it could be on a Wings album with its high spirited creativity, throw in the moody sax and you have a really mind opening piece of music. Wistful and nostalgic, North of Wall puts breathy vocals and laid back instrumentation to good use to give something almost Celtic in flavour. The voice-over tells an involving tale before the song segues straight into the whimsical brilliance of The Battle for Tannhäuser Gate. Violins, cello and the beauty of the female vocals bring to mind heroic tales sung in medieval times, “I will die in my boots..”, songs sung of great battles and comrades lost and this gives a melancholic atmosphere to everything. There’s also a Celtic influence to the song and it works superbly, the guitar solo fits perfectly into the song and I can imagine myself sat round a roaring fire in a village tavern, seduced by the music and the beauty of the voices. Ghosts of Spacetime sees The Captain bring the whole storyline together and it’s a credit to the vocal talents of Mark Benton that you are left hanging on every prophetic word before the spell is broken by the opening bars of the final track The Wanderer Goes South. Some exquisite flute work gives added gloss and sheen to another great piece of Gandalf’s Fist music. In the background there’s a reprise of the guitar riff and beat from The Nine Billion Names Of God before Melissa’s great vocals begin again. A song of space-rock whimsy that perfectly sums up what has gone on before, the songwriting skills of these excellent musicians are entirely evident as we are led along a twisting path of musical enigma. A brilliant guitar solo and the repeated mantra of ‘Nine Billion Names Of God’ close out the track and leave you smiling with appreciation.
This is a collection of songs that you can lose yourself in and forget the worries that are glaringly evident in our everyday life. Superb musical escapism with a inventive storyline that you’ll keep returning to again and again. Cinematic in feel and scope my next question is, when will you be releasing the sequel?
Released 18th September 2017