Review – Pallas – The Messenger

‘The album that many believed would never be made, is here. And it’s about to blow your socks off!’

Forty years ago a band from Aberdeen recorded, not one, but two of the seminal albums of the 80s.

Now the classic Pallas line-up returns with ‘The Messenger’, an album which takes the preoccupations of that earlier age, and brings them right up to date. Where ‘The Sentinel’ echoed the concerns of the cold war and the shadows it cast on all of us, ‘The Messenger’ finds the band reacting to the existential threats to the world we find ourselves in. From what we’ve done to the world, to the politics that shape it.

This is an album which repays countless listens. With ‘The Messenger’, Pallas have created a rich musical tapestry which weaves back and forth from environmental concerns to a cold war grown hot once again. And the seeming inability of our leaders to do anything but pour fuel on the flames.

Capturing the bleakness that many of us feel at how the world continues to turn, it nevertheless contains hope. Alight in darkness, that all may not be lost. There is no outside help. No Sentinel to save us. This time the solution lives within us all.

Pallas have managed the seemingly impossible. – updating their sound without losing track of what gives them their identity. This album is dark, yet uplifting; It rocks out, yet has moments of tenderness and wonder. This is, without doubt, the album of their career.

There are some pretty bold claims in the above PR blurb that came with this, Pallas’ first new material for nearly twenty years and what could be a rebirth of one of the seminal Neo-Prog bands of the 80’s. Well, I am here to tell you why everything that is said about this new album is absolutely, 100% spot on!

From its bold, striking artwork to its immersive and eminently thoughtful songs, ‘The Messenger’ may be one of the most impressive albums that you will have heard over the last few years. It may be what seems like a musical eternity since the original line up of Pallas released any new music but it is as if they have never been away. Musicianship that is as tight and impressive as anything you have ever heard and superb, intelligent and earnest songwriting, coupled with Alan Reed’s mighty vocals, have created a piece of highly prominent musical drama that will leave you hanging on every note and every word.

From the opening dynamism of Sign of the Times it is evident that these musical troubadours have a dire story to tell. The impressive guitar work of Niall Mathewson is evident at every turn, allied with the subtle keyboard skills of Ronnie Brown, to give a driving life force to the music, one that is echoed by the superb bass work of Graeme Murray. This is all topped off with the charismatic and compelling voice of Alan Reed, as an opening statement of intent, it doesn’t get much better than this. Power and control, that’s what you get from the energetic The Great Attractor, pure bombastic theatre in musical form. A staccato riff hewn from granite and thunderous bass give an aggressive vigour to this strutting song and the vocals have a neat precision combined with a subtle arrogance, all told it is a mightily charismatic piece of music. Fever Pitch opens with a glorious piano led intro before a choral vocal gives an impression of something rather celestial. A hammering riff and drumbeat then arrive to give urgency to proceedings before the mystery unfolds. Alan’s inquisitive vocal draws you into the story that is opening up before you, it’s very clever and immersive songwriting and has a touch of musical theatre to it, like a prog rock version of Les Miserables maybe? A towering riff and demanding keyboards take up this entrancing tale of the harm our planet is going through and we should all really take note.

Heavy Air is a brooding song full of anticipation and apprehension, a storm is about to break and it is one that could herald the end of civilisation. The music has a feel of painful tenderness and Alan’s melancholic vocal conveys a light glimmer of hope that is gradually fading away. It’s a very emotive and heartfelt song with a powerful guitar solo just dripping with pain and regret and one that touches you at a very basic human level. A post-apocalyptic world is set out in front of us in The Nine, a potent foretelling of what our world could become, prophetic in nature and incredibly potent and compelling in intent and delivery. Like a sound track of dark, cinematic foretelling, there is an intentional bleak and sombre feel to the song, it demands your attention and insists you take note of the story unfolding in front of you. The sinuous, sinister guitar solo and stygian chants lay your soul bare. It’s a brilliant, if difficult listen and one that leaves you open-mouthed. The album closes with the epic title track, The Messenger, an end to what has been a dramatic and ominous journey towards oblivion and the end of the world as we know it. Could there be hope in the stars as our planet heads towards destruction? An electronic beat, almost dark synth-wave in composition, gives an off-kilter feel to the song as it begins before a wistful acoustic guitar and string like keyboards give an almost hopeful edge. The song ebbs and flows brilliantly, pulling you this way and that and the stirring vocals and irresistible guitar are just sublime. The uplifting ending makes me feel that here is something almost quasi-religious about this song as it talks about jubilation and a world reborn, maybe the creator hasn’t quite finished with us just yet…

Like a Phoenix risen from the ashes, with ‘The Messenger’, Pallas have returned triumphant with an incredible album that is so much more than a mere musical experience, it is a hugely compelling glimpse into what our future could be, delivered by four musicians who are truly at the top of their game and, surely, have much more still to give.

Released 15th December, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

The Messenger | Pallas (