Gandalf’s Fist Tease Road to Darkness Special Edition

Gandalf’s Fist have announced, and begun pre-orders on a special, deluxe re-issue of their 2011 offering ‘Road to Darkness’.

In line with 2017’s special edition release of their ‘Universal Wanderer’ album, ‘Road to Darkness’ 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 many of the original songs revised from their original form, adding fresh interpretation of the original material with new sections, lyrics and vocals.

Completing the package is the brand new cover art commissioned from British artist Daniel Pearce, the man reasonable for the artwork on the 12” vinyl release of ‘The Lamplighter’s Tale’.

Gandalf’s Fist frontman, Dean Marsh commented:

“This special edition is particularly meaningful for us as a band, as not only was the original our first ‘real’ Gandalf’s Fist album, but also because it has never had a proper full-scale physical pressing in all these years. It’s great to finally do justice to the songs that marked the beginning of this mad adventure”

Various pre-order packages are now available via https://www.gandalfsfist.com/road-to-darkness-reissue

The band have announced via social media that they will continue to reveal album art and preview tracks from the album over the coming weeks.

 

Review – Gandalf’s Fist – A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer (Special Edition) – by Progradar

‘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

Order ‘A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer’ direct from the artist

 

 

Gandalf’s Fist Begin Pre-Orders of “A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer” Special Edition Re-issue

Gandalf’s Fist have announced a special deluxe re-issue of their 2013 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!”

“A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer (Special Edition)” will be released on 18th September 2017. Pre-orders for the album are now available, including limited edition t-shirt packages exclusive to official pre-orders.

Pre-order ‘A Day In The Life OF A Universal Wanderer’ direct from the band.

 

 

Gandalf’s Fist announce “Fistival” – One-Off Headline Performance in Workington, Cumbria.

UK Progressive Rock act, Gandalf’s Fist, have announced a special one-off headlining performance which they have coined simply as “Fistival”.

Commandeering the Carnegie Theatre in Workington, Cumbria, the 4th August show marks a homecoming for the band, capping off a hugely successful 12 months which has heralded the release of their acclaimed triple album, ‘The Clockwork Fable’; the Abbey Road mastered Vinyl release of ‘The Lamplighter’s Tale’; an unplugged session on ‘BBC Introducing’ and a blistering headline performance of the 2nd Stage at HRH Prog Festival.

Fistival promises to be a unique experience, with ‘the Fist’ promising to build on their “prog-roc-pantomime” with further theatrical shenanigans and full-stage projections.

The band are also offering a free digital download of ‘The Clockwork Fable’; with every ticket purchase. The free download, which features guest appearances from the likes of Arjen Lucassen, Blaze Bayley, Dr Who cast members and even Zach “Billy Peltzer” Galligan from Gremlins, is a stunning 3 hour window into the wacky world of Gandalf’s Fist and is surely the ideal preparation for what is sure to be a memorable performance.

Tickets for Fistival are currently on sale now via  the Carnegie official box office: https://carnegietheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873572691

Progradar’s Best of The Year For 2016 – Editor’s Choice

So we have had a wonderful selection of Top 10 picks from some of my great collaborators and now it is my turn. I’m going to stray from the norm because mine is going to be a Top 20 to keep it in line with my TEP selection that I spoke with David Elliott about.

Yes, it is a bit of a cheat but it is my website so I don’t have to follow the rules. Anyway,without any further ado, here are my top albums of 2016,not in any particular order but they have all made a big impact on my life this year…

You will also notice that there are no Bad Elephant Music releases in my Top 20. The label I work with had another superb year but it would have been a bit unfair of me to include any releases from the artists on BEM.

Bad Dreams – Déjà vu

‘Déjà vu’ is an album that will stand the test of time and is a great achievement for Bad Dreams. I was impressed from the first note by the accomplished musicianship and the superb vocals, add in the exemplary songwriting and it was sure to be a winner in my book. What makes it stand out even more is the way the music becomes almost part of you and can make you stop what you are doing and just listen for the sake of it and that, my friends, is what truly great music can do to you.

Blue Mammoth – Stories Of A King

Proper seventies epic prog of massive proportions from these excellent Brazilians. The artwork alone is very striking but the music will literally knock your socks off, play it loud,VERY loud!

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.

Tony Patterson – Equations of Meaning

Well I was utterly mesmerised by ‘Northlands’, Tony’s collaboration with Brendan Eyre and this album deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. To get the utmost from the album you must listen to it from start to finish, preferably with headphones on, in  a darkened room and with your choice of relaxing alcohol. To me, ‘Equations of Meaning’ is not merely a great release, it is a state of mind that we should all aspire to when our Life in the Fast Lane gets too much for us. Superb and highly recommended.

Big Big Train – Folklore

It was always going to be hard to follow ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the ‘English Electric’ albums but the acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling have returned with a fresh collection of stories and tales gleaned from our heritage and history. With their penchant for heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music it is an involving and mesmerising journey that everyone should take at least once in their life…

Damian Wilson – Built For Fighting

Funny how music fits in with your life isn’t it? I was listening to this album walking back home last night and it just struck me as to how much it was a soundtrack to how my life has turned out this year. Painful lows, beautiful highs and, ultimately, balance has been restored.Taking a break form his Prog-Metal roots, Damian delivers a solo release of sublime brilliance.

David Foster – Dreamless

The usually modest and self-effacing Dave Foster has stepped out of the shadows and onto centre stage to deliver his second solo opus and is to be applauded and admired for doing so. Such a variety of moods, styles and colours doesn’t always mix well but when it is done with consummate skill, like it is here, you are treated to a cornucopia of musical delights. While neither ground breaking or game changing, what it is is really rather good.

Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

Gandalf’s Fist truly believe that this is the finest musical work that they have ever created. There’s a mix of all of their influences and, were you to put all of the best bits of our discography into a huge melting pot, you’d end up with something quite close (but not as awesome) as what the guys have created! But don’t just take their word for it – head over to the pre-order store and have a listen to a whopping 10 minutes of audio previews!

Ghost Community – Cycle Of Life

‘Cycle of Life’ is a thought-provoking, beguiling and fulfilling musical journey that excites and satisfies at every turn. Ghost Community may have had to endure trials and tribulations while making this record but the experiences have enabled them to deliver something quite magical and rewarding that will stand the test of time, worthy of a place in anyone’s musical collection.

Glass Hammer – Valkyrie

With its insightful, thoughtful lyrics every bit as important as the mightily impressive music, ‘Valkrie’ is a concept album in the true sense of the word. With some delightful departures from what some would call their signature sound (The Beatles anyone?) Glass Hammer continue to evolve into one of the world’s foremost Progressive Rock bands. This iconic group of musicians lead you on a journey through the horrors of war with a totally immersive sixty-five minutes of music and you will come out the other side changed forever. I can’t recommend this album enough, one of the best albums of 2016? One of the best albums of recent years more like…

iamthemorning – Lighthouse

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

Nerve Toy Trio – Accidental Bar-B-Que

A really impressive and ultimately satisfying release that really gets into your psyche and has you reaching for the repeat play button again and again. Nerve Toy Trio has given us one of the best instrumental releases of the year with ‘Accidental Bar-B-Que’ and one with which the music really does stand comparison to the excellent album art. Seems my gut feeling was right once again, a highly recommended release.

I Like Trains – A Divorce Before Marriage

A real late comer to the party, in fact I haven’t reviewed it fully yet! This sublime and haunting collection of instrumental marvelousness from these Yorkshire musicians is a soundtrack to the film of the same name. Ethereal and yet solidly powerful, I haven’t heard anything like it all year and it demanded to be in this selection of top releases.

Patchwork Cacophony – Five Of Cups

There is intelligence and a wry humour than runs throughout this remarkable album. Ben Bell has an immense talent and really knows how to put it to good use. Intelligently crafted songs that make you want to listen to them show him to be a great songwriter and what he delivers proves what a notable musician he is as well. In the world of progressive rock a new star is set to rise.

Blue Rose Code – …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing

Blue Rose Code is Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson. At the edge of contemporary alt-folk, Wilson’s music evokes a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn, both shipwrecked with a bunch of Motown records. A deep emotive well of stunning music that affects you at a core level, another late discovery of 2016 for me but a band I will be keeping my eye on now!

Of the new record, Wilson says, “It’s an album for music fans and musicians. A challenging record, I think, and it’s  abundantly clear that the process has been undertaken away from the cynicism of any record company.”

Ray Wilson – Makes Me Think Of Home

Ray Wilson has taken us on a deeply personal musical journey full of hope, despair, pain and, ultimately, salvation and I was hooked on every word, every note. This is music at its very best, written from the heart and full of the passion and soul of the artist. This is an album that I will return to again and again, no matter how much new music crosses my path and is surely a collection of songs that can, and will, stand the test of time.

Thence – We Are Left With A Song

What Thence have delivered with ‘We Are Left With A Song’ is no mere album, it is a breathtaking, creative powerhouse of sonic delight that grows to fill any space that it occupies to take on a life of its own. It is a life that you will want to share until your dying breath, above mere superlatives, it is an utter triumph.

Tilt – Hinterland

What TILT have delivered is a superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. A fine combination of excellent rock music with all that’s best about progressive rock, these guys show how it really should be done!

Marc Atkinson – Home Grown

To me, this is what makes writing about music worth every single minute I take. I have been involved in this long musical journey in some small way from start to finish and when you hear the finished article, it is almost like welcoming a newborn into the world. Marc Atkinson will have agonised about every single word and note on this album and to my ears it has been worth every single second he has taken. This is music that takes over your mind and soul and which you can relate to on a very personal level. Fifteen songs that are extremely personal to this gracious man and we should be glad that he has released them for us to enjoy. A great album and one that I have no doubt is the complete pinnacle of Marc’s solo career to date, I am extremely proud to be able call him a friend.

Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

Drifting Sun have delivered quite a work of art, one that touches on the past for influences but, also, has its own, confident vision of the future. Consume it in one listen to get the full effect of this great album, it is one that will live in the memory for a long time.

So, there you have it. 2016 was another brilliant year for music and I hope our End Of Year choices might make you go out and buy the music to support the artists involved. Please join me and my fellow authors at Progradar in 2017 for what I hope will be another stellar year for lovers of music.

 

Progradar – 2016 – Best of the First Six Months

David

(Yours truly and Prog Guru™ himself)

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first official Progradar Reviewers and Friends ‘Best Of…’ feature.

I asked those who wished to contribute to cogitate over what great music they had heard, released 1st January to 30th June, in the first half of 2016 and come up with a list of their definitive five favourites.

Not an easy task, let me tell you but, here are the selections of nine (including me) erstwhile wordsmiths and friends, including a few words as to why these particular releases made the cut.

Emma

Emma Roebuck (Progradar reviewer)

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

This is Robin Armstrong on some amazing form.  I loved ‘Capacitor’ and I thought ‘Man Left in Space’ was a hard one to beat. I was clearly wrong and happy about it too. Robin is at his best when looking at the human condition when viewed through a less than regular lens. The mythology of Sisyphus and alien abduction combine to make such a lens.  I will treasure seeing his one and only live performance so far at Celebr8.3 fondly. The album is dark and melancholy which is the way I like my music to be honest.

This film might change your life and Relativity being high points in an album that is a mountain range of achievement.

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Preacher – Aftermath

Their second album, and independently released like the Cosmograf album (and another 2 in my, selection if I remember rightly.) Preacher craft both songs and albums exceedingly well. ‘Signals’, the previous album, shows signs (poor, but unintentional, pun) of a band with tons to offer. They draw their roots from 70s Floyd and the melodic side of the genre.  It could be said that this is the album that Floyd should have released instead of ‘The Endless River’, I could easily agree but this is not that Floyd this is a band that use melody, harmony and song in a way that could go beyond the genre.

Stand out Tracks

War/ War reprise and Vinyl show how we look to emotions and actions and make things or deeds of them as people.

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Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

I was too young to be really aware of the genuine impact of the classic period of Prog rock. I caught the periphery in my early teens but felt no ownership of Yes, Genesis, VDGG, Floyd, Gentle Giant, etc only a serious attraction to the music as a 14 year old in 1975. In the early 80s, having ridden the horror that was punk, I remember seeing Marillion, IQ and Pallas in small pubs and clubs in 82 and it was a pure emotional and intellectual epiphany. It felt like I was hit in the heart and the brain with a piece of 2 by 4. I found home and ownership of music.  I liked ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ immensely and when I heard this album I felt all those emotions again. I was in the Sheffield Limit club again hearing something of very high quality and I connected immediately to this music. It is Neo Prog of a very high standard.  They sound like themselves with echoes of the last 40 years resounding through the music.

Standout Tracks Intruder and DesolationRetribution.

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Jump – Over The Top

I have been a fan of Jump for the best part of 21 years. It is the Classic rock society that I owe big style, not just for these but many others, in times of musical desolation.  I found my first sample of these by old school recognition and recommendation by word of mouth. Fast forward to many Jump gigs later, the new album ‘Over the Top’ comes out and it was ‘yes, get in!’. Some of the current live set had been used to fine tune some of the songs over the last 18 months or so and it shows. John Dexter Jones is a storyteller par excellence and the band are an excellent vehicle for those stories. The words are heartfelt and the music comes from the same place. If they lived in medieval times they would be the bards of old. The use of the past to illustrate the way of the world we live in now is the stock in trade here.

Stand out tracks, I want to say all of them but if I was to choose The Beach and the Wreck of the St Marie are those choices.

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Kiama – Sign of IV

Just when you think you have Rob Reed figured out, Sanctuary, Magenta and so on, he does something out of the blue and blows the socks of you. Take good old rock sensibilities from the 60s and 70s, put them in the hands of some very talented individuals and they become a band which sounds like they have been a unit for years. I recently saw them support Frost* and wow, just wow.

This is a hybrid, musically drawn from the past in a very real sense, and is a homage to how they used to work but it does not feel like a tribute band in anyway.  It results in a multifaceted album of light and shade with some fantastic songs and heartfelt lyrics. It is some of Luke Machin’s best work outside of Maschine & Rubidium.  Rob Reed has a blast playing with sound and tone to create things like ‘Muzzled’, which is a tribute to the Floyd Album ‘Animals’, using the tones from the period to reflect the music and the time it came out. Dylans voice is amazing, we need more Kiama …

Stand Out Tracks  Muzzled and Slip away.

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Leo Trimming – (Progradar and TPA reviewer)

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Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

This was my TPA’s review’s conclusion early in the year for this surprise package, and I’ve had no reason to change it since…

This is an excellent collaboration: Red Bazar have helped Peter Jones express more of his serious, darker side and also allowed him to display more vocal dexterity. In return Red Bazar have gained a talented and very fine rock vocalist who has added great lyrical skill and vocal feeling  to their own fine emotional musical palette…

This may be a bit of a dark horse, but Red Bazar may just have released one of the Prog albums of the year.

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Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays

A favourite on two levels – it’s a great album of subtle artistry and fine music, and on another level the artist & his music  touched me personally. My Progradar review concluded:

Matthew Parmenter has stepped aside from the magnificent, gothic group dynamic of Discipline to create a solo work of art suffused with dramatic shades and emotional lyricism, conveying tragedy and hope. This is an album that is likely to captivate and beguile with subtlety and delicate emotion. It certainly gave me unexpected comfort – Inside.’

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Nine Stones Close – Leaves

A darkly trippy and psychedelic album. Part dream, part nightmare – this is an album for which repeated listens gradually unpeal the layers, like all the best progressive releases. My Progradar review observed:

Nine Stones Close create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic… They do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!’

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Big Big Train – Folklore

A much anticipated release does not disappoint as the album describes modern folklore, ancient legend, elegies for lost love and epic stories of heroism and loss … plus bees (!) in a rich tapestry of folk tinged progressive rock. Lyrically intelligent and insightful, conveyed with integrity and emotion, and played with consummate skill and passion. Impossible to ignore – we all sort of knew it would be great. Of course it’s great!

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Simply stunning. Robin Armstrong has imagined a rich narrative of alien incursion (or paranoid breakdown?!) with sonic brilliance. The imaginative story is unnerving, whilst the music is captivating on a human level but cinematic in scope – ranging from crunching Purple riffs, through atmospheric acoustic passages to sweeping Floydian soundscapes. Undoubtedly, major contender for Album of the Year already from one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation.

Gary

Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)

HAWKWIND The Machine Stops

Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

Everything that Hawkwind evoke distilled into one disc. Great musicianship, tunes and tons of atmosphere make this the top of the pops for me. It’s been a long time since a Hawkwind album had such a buzz about it. Biggest regret – that I missed the live shows. Biggest hope – a proper live blu-ray & CD set is coming.

Aftermath

Preacher – Aftermath

Prog at it’s best for me needs a driver. Preacher use guitars. Proper guitars like your dad waffles on about when he talks about Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage, Jimmy Page and that time he watched Rory Gallagher play for 3 hours at the Hexagon Theatre and your mum was drinking pints and ended up paralytic, singing along to “Wayward Child” sat on his boss’s shoulders…

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I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time

Local boy’s debut embraces everything that is good about music. It has great tunes, off the wall lyrics and subjects that place it head and shoulders above most of what passes for modern music from the under 30’s. I’m looking forward to their next offering, be it a live gig in Reading or more music.

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

‘The Clockwork Fable’ is a Steam punk opera, like a space opera or a soap opera but without the bad romance and dodgy backdrops.

I loved the variety of musical genres used to tell a totally bonkers tale of clockwork suns and steam powered boys looking for missing cogs in a giant machine all played out in a cavernous underground city. There are rock tracks, some great drumming, some “epic” prog , some plaintive melodies and a host of guest vocalists and musicians, all of which add to the mix without overegging the lily.

The first time you listen you get sucked into the world presented here. It’s a Post apocalyptic, dark dystopian world but there are flashes of humour and the absurdity does not detract from the sheer brilliance of the effort here.

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Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

“left over’s” from ‘Hand .Cannot .Erase’ these track might have been, but as a snapshot of Mr Chuckletrousers ( © Angus Prune I Think) and his Zeus like stature in the modern Prog pantheon  this is sublime in its perfection. Hints of Zappa referencing impossible “stun guitar”, epic soundscape that demonstrate his skill as an arranger and bleak yet beautiful lyrics are all wrapped in a package that sticks 2 fingers up at the download and go generation. This is a quality production in every detail, lovingly constructed and presented for your pleasure.

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Shawn Dudley – (Progradar reviewer)

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Messenger – Threnodies

It took several spins for this album to truly work its magic on me, but once hooked it just won’t let me go.  A beautifully organic record, informed and powered by vintage sounds but not a slave to them.  The tastefully arranged guitar work on this album is a particular highlight.  Favorite tracks:  Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres. 

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Haken – Affinity

Haken leaves the 1970s sounds of ‘The Mountain’ behind, makes a brief stop in the 1980s for the song 1985 and then ventures forward into the future on Affinity.  An endlessly inventive collection of intricately designed and passionately performed pieces it’s one of the most thrillingly forward-looking albums of 2016.  It’s time to drop the “Prog Metal” genre tag, these guys have transcended it.  Favorite tracks:  The Architect, Red Giant

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Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

Purson’s follow-up to ‘The Circle And The Blue Door’ is essentially a solo album from Rosalie Cunningham who wrote, arranged, produced and performed the majority of D.M.T. herself.   A conceptual psychedelic journey influenced by her Father’s record collection and her own experimentation with mind-expanding substances.  Another case of an artist using the canvas of vintage instrumentation and production techniques to create very personal and unique modern music.   Favorite tracks:  The Sky Parade, The Bitter Suite.

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Big Big Train Folklore

Another beautiful collection of immaculately arranged and produced “pastoral prog” from this master collective of musicians.  I recommend going for the extended track-list available on the LP and High-Res download editions, I believe an even stronger collection than the shorter CD version.  Favorite tracks:  Salisbury Giant, London Plane

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A wonderfully quirky concoction of pop sensibility, progressive experimentation and the harmonic sophistication of jazz all mixed together into a thoroughly accessible brew.  And it’s fun!  Favorite tracks:  I Am Lost, I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait.

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Roger Trenwith – (TPA reviewer and Astounded by Sound blog)

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Bent Knee – Say So

An unparalleled triumph of invention, melody, and strangeitude, it will take some beating for album of the year.

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David Bowie – Blackstar

Hardly seems right relegating this poignant artistic statement and full stop on a career of a true visionary to No.2, but from a purely musical point of view, them’s the breaks.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A chronicle of loss leavened by hope, Knifeworld get better with each release. Criminally underrated.

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Body English – Stories of Earth

Is there a sub-genre called “prog-pop”? If not, this is it. A truly joyous record shining a light in this dark Year of Stupid.

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King Crimson – Live In Toronto – Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, Canada, 20th November 2015

Whatever I put here means leaving out at least half a dozen albums equally as good, so this came out on top after a complicated mathematical randomisation process involving dice, incantations, dead frogs, toads, and copious amounts of single malt. The mighty Crim remake, remodel like no-one else. The version of Epitaph will make you shiver, unless you have no soul. Superb!

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Kevin Thompson (LHS) – (Progradar reviewer)

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Big Big Train – Folklore

Does this really need a reason?, best of the Band’s excellent output so far and an album that will always be on my desert island disc list. As near to perfect as it gets…

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Long Distance Calling – Trips

There are so many bands in this area of music it’s hard to stand out, but, on this release, Long Distance Calling have…..

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

A tremendous 3 disc concept package of such quality. Never been better value for money and shames the bigger bands!!

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

A delicately beautiful album from this Russian duo added further poignancy with the heartfelt vocals from Mariusz Duda on the title track.

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Downriver Dead Men Go – Tides

Another band who came recommended and I’d not heard before buying. Slow, dark and emotional, this Dutch band surpassed my expectations.

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David Elliott – (Prog Guru™, TEP, Bad Elephant)

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Lazuli – Nos Âmes Saoules

There is nothing else quite like them, and they keep on going from strength to strength….

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Bent Knee – Say So

My first exposure to this amazing American band…genuine innovators, and hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck exciting!!

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The Dowling Poole – One, Hyde Park

Unashamedly unoriginal, but huge fun, and immaculately crafted. Big smiley music.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Banging tunes, a great groove, and more bassoon!!

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Frost* – Falling Satellites

A great return to the arena from the masters of modern progressive. Progressive rock with pop sensibilities – what’s not to like?

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John Simms – (Progradar reviewer, Rev Sky Pilot blog)

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Big Big train – Folklore

Consistently turning out excellent pastoral English progressive music, BBT have hit the motherlode again with this suite of songs celebrating the British folkloric tradition. From the sublime beauty of ‘Transit’ to the quirky tale of ‘Winkie’ the Pigeon, this is music of the highest calibre.

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Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge

This, for me, is simply the best music anyone connected with Yes has produced since ‘Awaken’. It draws on the bestaspects of Yes and Flower Kings and produces something sublime and beautiful. It was a very close call between my Top 2.

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Southern Empire – Southern Empire

One of the up sides to Unitopia folding a few years ago is that we now have both UPF and Southern Empire to carry on the legacy. This is a fine collection of melodic progressive rock music, exhibiting high levels of virtuosity and songmanship.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out of Eden

Another band with a unique style and approach to music making. This is a wonderful follow-up to ‘The Unravelling’ and Kavus and his band of minstrels continue to delight.

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

The best music is that which stands out from the crowd, and Mothertongue certainly do that. Ecclectic, bizarre, unexpected and bonkers, this is a wonderful collection of (un)songs.

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And finally my thoughts, this selection of five albums was incredibly difficult to pick but I’m pretty certain that, at this moment in time, it is my definitive top five!!!

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

With its incisive, intelligent lyrics and first-class musicianship, Unsongs is unlike anything you will have heard in recent years. The music will lead you on a roller-coaster journey of acid jazz inventiveness that’s a big heap of noisy and light and also includes a lot of brass because everyone likes brass, right? A musical breath of fresh air that you will return to again and again, it’s just brilliant!

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Big Big Train – Folklore

The acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling return with a fresh collection of tales gleaned from our heritage and history. With their penchant for heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music it is an involving and mesmerising journey that everyone should take at least once in their life.

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

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Tilt – Hinterland

A superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. By the way, three of these guys are better known as Fish’s backing band but, oh my god, have they risen well above that soubriquet now….

So, there you have it, a small selection of our own, very subjective, opinions on what has been the best music of a highly impressive first six months of 2016. You may agree, you may not but, one thing that everything agrees on is that the music just keeps getting better, and long may it continue!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable – by Progradar

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Cogtopolis – The city beneath the surface, no daylight has been seen by the inhabitants in living memory. The Sun: a whisper, a legend.

For two hundred years tales have been passed down from father to son. Tales of mankind’s folly and technical abominations. Tales of the day clouds engulfed the sun.

Tales of the twenty year winter and the slow, agonising death of “The Surface”. But the greatest tale of all was of mankind’s ultimate salvation within the warm, safe, belly of the earth……..

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“There is hope in dreams, imagination, and in the courage of those who wish to make those dreams a reality.”
Jonas Salk

Ambition is something that should be encouraged, lauded even, especially if what it produces is something quite remarkable and unique. However, there is a small proviso, ambition is no good if it isn’t backed up with the necessary skill and intelligence, for what is ambition without intelligence but a bird without wings ( I sort of borrowed that last bit from Walter H. Cottingham but, if you don’t tell him, neither will I…).

When Gandalf’s Fist announced that they were going to release a 3 CD Steampunk Concept album based in a world of their own creation I think quite a few people thought that they’d moved on from ambition into sheer madness and lunacy.

Would ‘The Clockwork Fable’ end up being a huge undertaking that could prove to be their undoing?, when I was sent this behemoth of musical enterprise I approached it with a lot of caution, not knowing what to expect and wondering if my friends had bitten off more than they could chew….

To be fair, three albums, thirty three tracks and over three hours long, it would tax even the most dedicated listener and, for me as a reviewer, would mean a complete sea change in how I would actually review this release. Normally, I do a track-by-track review which generally leads to something quite lengthy.

How would I write about this complex undertaking so as not to leave my readers comatose and in a world of TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read – you can thank David Elliott for that acronym) and yet be able to really encompass the whole musical endeavour and give people a flavour of what it is all about? That conundrum has taxed me for the last couple of weeks while I have spent the time to immerse myself completely in the wonders of Cogtopolis and its many and varied residents.

I think I’ve come up with an answer but, first, some background on Gandalf’s Fist and ‘The Clockwork Fable’

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Imagine, if you will, the parallel universe whereby Monty Python were commissioned to write a Doctor Who-style period drama which was subsequently scored by an imaginary supergroup formed by members of Maiden and ELP and you’d get somewhere close to what Gandalf’s Fist have created with “The Clockwork Fable”.

Originally formed in 2005 by Multi-Instrumentalist Dean Marsh and lyricist Luke SevernGandalf’s Fist draw on their mutual love for the ‘Golden Era’ of Progressive Rock, The New Wave of British Heavy Metal and even Renaissance Folk to create concept albums that are both nostalgically engaging and experimentally innovative in nature.

Following the addition of drummer Stefan Hepe and bassist Chris Ewen for their last album, the acclaimed ‘Forest of Fey’, ‘The Clockwork Fable’ is their second release as a four piece.

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Let’s start with my thoughts about what ‘The Clockwork Fable’ actually is. It is a huge project to get your head around, in no way a mere CD or album, it is progressive rock as musical theatre. Imagine, if you will, the sinister, yet childlike, humour of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ set in steampunk universe that has come straight from the mind of ‘His Dark Materials’ author Philip Pullman and you are still only scratching the surface of this epic labour of love.

It almost feels like it was written for the stage or screen with a darkly humerous script provided by the likes of Neil Gaiman or the recently departed Sir Terry Pratchett and then delivered in a kind of ‘War Of The Worlds’ fashion.

The band’s imagination holds no bounds as they have meticulously created the world of Cogtopolis, its residents going about their daily business in the three huge, interconnecting caverns of this subterranean city, Ardel, Cartoe and Porfan with their unique cultures and denizens.

It is a world that has been conceived down to the minutest detail, hierarchy of the society, religions and even their own ‘alphabet of the underworld’. With Braille and Morse Code among the many strands of knowledge and learning lost amidst theobliterated libraries of the surface, the industrious scholars of Cogtopolis devised Cypheridia. A new, basic way of writing that could be scratched into metal surfaces with ease, or – for the brass-bound worker – etched into the mud of the cavern floor at the very least.

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From this detailed and precisely constructed world emerge a cast of characters brought to life by a fantastic cast including Mark Benton, Zach GalliganBill Fellows and Alicia Marsh, to name a few. In fact, it was Mark himself who put the effort in to get the majority of the crew together.

Between them they bring the richly envisioned world of Cogtopolis and its inhabitants to life. At its heart, it is a story of the age long struggle between light and the dark. An utterly spellbinding tale brought to life by the fantastic cast of voice actors.

A suppressed populace labouring under a misheld belief that they will never see the light again. My fellow scribe Phil Lively, correctly, pointed out that it is the fight of the heroic northerners against the evil cockneys and Mark Benton’s jolly lamplighter is the first character we encounter. Living a lifetime among the bowels of Cogtopolis, scurrying tirelessly amidst the endless streets of derelict machinery, he has, man and boy, lit every lamp in the city beneath the surface.

It is a tale that we have heard many times before but we never grow tired of and, in this incarnation, you find yourself rapt as the establishment refuse to believe that the sun has returned to the surface, wanting to keep their citizens subjugated.

The Tinker and his assistant Eve are the hero and heroine of the tale, trying to repair the mechanism that will return sunlight to Cogtopolis and hounded by The Primarch and his cronies at every turn.

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Woven perfectly between the voice acting is an incredible music backdrop that blends with the storyline to create an amazing musical experience. The talented Arjen Lucassen, Blaze Bayley and Matt Stevens all add their considerable musical weight to ‘The Clockwork Fable’ to create something fantastical.

Melissa Hollick returns for the third album in a row, this time as the singing voice of Eve and you can hear her dulcet tones lighting up Shadowborn with it’s ‘female-fronted metal’ feel. What you have here are accomplished musicians who can turn their skills to virtually any musical style with aplomb. On the three epic Lamplighter tracks (one for each disc) we get proper, intricate progressive rock delivered expertly, each track a musical journey in its own right.

Eve’s Song is a delicate track of ethereal beauty where Melissa gives a delightful vocal performance that just leaves you open mouthed with admiration. The acoustic guitar the is prevalent throughout Victims Of The Light gives it a real feel of Richie Blackmore in his folk mindset before exploding into something from Neal Morse era Spocks Beard.

A particular favourite is the brilliant Ditchwater Daisies, a complex and involving track that enthralls from beginning to end. There is a touch of Pink Floyd to this song, in my opinion, thoughtful and nostalgic. A touch of early Genesis? That will be The Bewildering Conscience Of A Clockwork Child and A Solemn Toast For The Steam Ranger Reborn.

What you do get is the thought that every note is there for a reason, to tell more of this extraordinary tale, none of it is superfluous or gratuitous. The music blends seamlessly with the voice acting to enhance the story and give it added layers of meaning.

The Climb is a song that mixes the intricate with the dreamlike leaving you hanging on every word and note. These guys have the ability to draw you into their tale and making you feel like you belong there and it is the incisive and intelligent songwriting and voice script that is primary in their ability to do this.

I’d been waiting for a bit of a metal track and Fight For The Light gives you that with its symphonic power and tasteful vocals. There is a guitar section in here which could come from an early Maiden album and it just put a huge grin on my face.

The final track that really stood out for me was the title track. The Clockwork Fable is a heartfelt, fervent and wistful song that just grabs at your heartstrings and leaves an indelible impression, just beautiful.

And, well, The Lens, is that a tear in my eye? I’m not saying – Oh Bugger!

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So, do the citizens of Cogtopolis escape the dark underworld, do The Tinker and Eve repair the cog mechanism of The Aperture, despite the attentions of The Primarch and his allies, to finally return sunlight to the murky lives that they are forced to live? Don’t ask me, buy the album and find out what happens in this utterly captivating story yourselves.

Gandalf’s Fist have delivered a mesmerising musical masterpiece epic in scope and utterly breathtaking in its delivery. It’s length may deter you from listening but, believe me, you are missing something quite exceptional and utterly marvelous. This is not just  piece of music, it is a wholly engrossing experience that will make your life richer for having taken part.

Released 1st May 2016

Get your hands on The Clockwork Fable direct from Gandalf’s Fist

 

 

Gandalf’s Fist announce The Clockwork Fable Pre-Order

Progressive Rock innovators Gandalf’s Fist are delighted to announce “The Clockwork Fable”, a Prog-Rock Mind Movie in three oscillations.

As a follow-up to the acclaimed “A Forest of Fey”, they’ve gone all-out, creating a truly epic *TRIPLE* concept album.

Set in the fictional world of “Cogtopolis”, each CD of the record serves as a different “act” of the story, with Dean Marsh and Luke Severn, along with to-be-announced guest vocalists, providing the singing voices of the inhabitants. However things don’t end there; the characters are also brought to life by a 50-page script that has been professionally recorded by a range of hugely talented actors.

A far cry from a musical, where characters burst into song at the drop of a proverbial hat, ‘The Clockwork Fable’ serves as a sprawling motion picture that will play out in your Neocortex with Gandalf’s Fist, of course, providing the soundtrack.

Aside from the depth of story and characters, the band have also fully developed the world of Cogtopolis. From geography, religious doctrines, even down to the fictional language of Cypheridia… the amount of work that’s been put into this conceptual piece is staggering.

Dean adds: “It’s a sprawling record with so many different styles. Conceptually it’s War of the Worlds meets Monty Python, but musically there’s everything from Van der Graaf Generator to Black Sabbath in there. We’re extremely excited for everyone to hear a suite of songs based around the character of “The Lamplighter”, the first of which is the longest song we’ve ever written… and that’s only part one!”
But that’s not the best of it.

Gandalf’s Fist truly believe that this is the finest musical work that they have ever created. There’s a mix of all of their influences and, were you to put all of the best bits of our discography into a huge melting pot, you’d end up with something quite close (but not as awesome) as what the guys have created! But don’t just take their word for it – head over to the pre-order store and have a listen to a whopping 10 minutes of audio previews!

Enter the world of Cogtopolis here