This album is pure utter genius; an album that needs to be in your collection. If you only buy one album this year then this is the one.
2011 has started off as a good year with January seeing the release of the absolutely stupendous new PALLAS album XXV the bench mark prog album of the year. The band has not only returned with a follow up to the early 80's seminal "The Sentinel", they have far surpassed it by a mile. This for me is by far the prog album of 2011; I know it's early to be making sweeping statements like that but to be honest never a truer word has been spoken. If you like your prog bombastic, melodic and memorable, if you like your prog with an absolutely awesome concept and you like your prog to be immaculate then look no further than XXV as this is the album for you.
For the uninitiated PALLAS are Messer's Paul Mackie (vocals), Graeme Murray (bass, 12 string Taurus pedals, vocals), Niall Mathewson (guitars), Ronnie Brown (keyboard and vocals) and Colin Fraser (drums and vocals), for those not in the know. Paul has only been with the band for a short while, but has firmly stamped his indelible vocals all over the album being a most fitting successor to the previous vocalists. I was fortunate to witness the whole album being played live the other night, an event that lost none of its power, in fact it added dimension to the whole album.
Neo prog was the statement of the 80's, (in prog circles), PALLAS along with I.Q, Marillion and Twelfth Night being the real mainstream defining bands, who are all still in action to this day in one form or another. For me PALLAS has always been the one band from that era that produced high quality thought provoking albums none more so than this album.
The album kicks of with an opening phrasing from "Atlantis" seeing "Falling Down" taking the band into overdrive being underpinned by Brown's keyboards and Murray's Rickenbacker tones, which made the hair on the back of the neck stand up. Not happy with supplying the world with such a powerful opening song but the band steps up a gear with "Crash and Burn" a powerful statement that allows Mathewson's guitar to really ignite the piece, lead and rhythm passages being perfectly placed with impeccable delivery. "Something in the Deep" slows the pace down with its heady atmospheric structure and dreamy lyrics which really brings the dynamics of the piece to the front. The malevolent "Monster" stalks the listener with its punctuations and powerful message, a soundtrack that looks into the deep dark abyss.
"The Alien Messiah" is the statement of intent with Mathewson guitar interludes driving and weaving their musical crescendos, with the rest of the band following seeing Fraser's drum passages at their best with their powerhouse approach. "XXV Pt1" for me sums up the whole ethos of the album having a very clever analogy of modern society, with rip roaring word play, its electrifying structure and massive soundscapes, an almost quasi religious feel, a musical epiphany. Music like this is only created once, PALLAS have managed to create an album full of it. "Young God" takes a harder approach with its repeating rhythmic tones and aggressive punctuations. Mackie has stamped his personality all over the song, like a method actor, breathing, living every lyrical nuance, something which he has successfully achieved throughout. "Sacrifice" confirms that even when the band takes a more basic rock approach none of their magic or pizzazz is lost, Mathewson's fast pace guitars are to die for, bouncing bass and drum passages being the absolute perfect foundation, whilst Brown supplies very integral and important unobtrusive synth work, which all has a Blue Oyster Cult feel, stunning stuff indeed. "Blackwood" and "Violet Sky" segue into each other beautifully, being moody and melancholic, lyrically questioning the integrity of it all, with Melissa Allan's guest vocals being perfectly placed, inspiring, offering depth to the piece, the orchestral pieces alone are just stunning making it the perfect prelude to the succinct and powerful closing track "XXV Pt2". Again we see Mackie nailing the whole event with precise perfection.
Albums don't come much better than this. The whole balance of musical expression and intelligent word play is striking. The last time such an immediate, perfect combination of both that side swiped me like this was Floyds The Wall and The Final Cut. PALLAS has hit that perfect combination that will send shivers down your spine as you analogies what is happening this time around. Melody and hooks are not something that the band have ever struggled with here or ever for that matter, the music is just enriched, so alive, caressing the soul, lovingly, creations that need to be embodied by all, participating, being the forth dimension of the creation, that final ingredient for perfection. This has BIG TIME written all over it. I can't re-enforce enough how much this album needs to be heard and in your collection. BUY BUY BUY
1 Falling Down
2 Crash and Burn
3 Something in the Deep
5 The Alien Messiah
6 XXV Part 1
7 Young God
10 Violet Sky
11 XXV Part 2
Added: May 3rd 2011
Reviewer: John OBoyle
Related Link: www.pallas.f2s.com
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Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-05-03 19:28:03
The veteran Scottish prog act known as Pallas return with their latest release, a sequel to their classic album The Sentinel (marking the 25th anniversary of it) titled XXV. Not only is this their first release since the 2005 album The Dreams of Men, but it's also their first with new singer Paul Mackie, who replaces the departing Alan Reed. Though Reed was much loved by the dedicated Pallas fans, and he became an integral part of their sound over the years, for my ears, the band was sort of stagnating a bit and needed some sort of kick up their rears, and a change of vocalist seems to have done the trick. Mackie is a fine singer (at times sounding like a young Fish), and really fits the symphonic style of Pallas.
Not only is XXV quite symphonic, but also a bit heavier in spots than anything the band has recorded previously, certainly nothing like the rather bland material Pallas was starting to pump out in recent years. Dark, heavy guitar riffs, blazing synths, atmospheric Mellotron, and driving rhythms all make up the musical landscape here.
Plenty of highlights, including the crunchy hard rocker "Sacrifice", the dark prog masterpiece "Young God", the brooding "Falling Down", and the epic two-part title track. This is a concept album that really works, and it's more than just a sequel to The Sentinel, it's a great stand-alone work on its own.
Kudos also needs to go out for the spectacular artwork that adorns the gorgeous booklet. Sure, it's kind of cliche these days to feature all sorts of sci-fi & fantasty themes on a prog rock album, but this is extremely well done.
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