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Gandalf’s Fist: The (Re)master And The Monkey

The Master And The Monkey was the first tentative steps of a band who really have grown into something approaching prog-wizards under the name of Gandalf’s Fist. Now capable of weaving multi-story-lined-concept-radio plays that appear across multiple discs and releases, back in 2010 the Fist were almost a figment of the imagination. An idea cobbled together more as a way to pass the time than to realise serious recording ambitions, the pair of Dean Marsh (all instrumentation and much of the vocals) and Luke Severn (verse vocals) created what they back then admitted was a demo where little thought was paid to sound quality, or the concept of a frog transporting itself on a monkey’s head. Somehow though, it all took traction, received a release (of sorts), gained notice and spawned what has grown into a proper and rather splendiferous band.

Ever more interesting albums have followed, with the 2016 release The Clockwork Fable still, in my humble opinion, one of the crowning achievements of the recent UK prog scene. Now, some ten years old (and a bit) The (Re)master And The Monkey is an opportunity for an album that most GF fans have never even heard to receive a reappraisal. Well, I say that, but in essence, this isn’t just a remaster, or even a rerecording - although with the album’s two bookending epics lost in the mists of time and the rest of the album’s tracks restored and then some, it is both of those things - instead finding a new lyrical narrative, and much of the songs rebuilt from the ground up, it could be fair to suggest that this release is one ‘based on a (not so) true story’.

What that does mean, however, is that this fledgling step has been presented in a way that will immediately make the band’s current followers feel right at home. The narration of a tale where a frog gets up to all manner of medieval mischief, regrets it, but doesn’t and gets away with, while not really, is poised and polished, Alicia Marsh providing a spoken masterclass that meshes everything together perfectly. The music itself is accomplished UK prog fare that sparks with quite an intensity in places, with the longer pieces controlled sprawls that meld intricate interplay to quite clipped riffage and some almost metal tones.

Cleverly, the shorter escapades offer up something altogether different, folk tinged plunderings used to add a more ethereal note, while some of the other briefer sojourns are clearly joining passages that expertly allow the story to move from one set-play to the next. Good though it all is, it’s the epic two-part title-track where the magic truly happens, the full force of the current Fist - Dean Marsh, Luke Severn, Stefan Hepe (drums) and Ben Bell (synths) - augmented here by Keri Farish (lead vocals on one song), Faliq Auri (Uilleann pipes and whistles) and of course, Alicia Marsh. Majestic doesn’t even begin to do the breadth and scope of what’s being attempted and achieved justice and while not all of the album can quite be spoken about in those terms, the standard really is excellent throughout.

This may not be quite where it really all started for Gandalf’s Fist but these days it’s as close as we’re likely to get to hearing those early steps pitter pattering. For more recent followers like myself, it’s an exciting step into the past - and present - and one that pretty much enthrals from start to finish.

Track Listing
1. A Fool's Folly
2. The Master and the Monkey (Part1)
3. Seaworm!
4. Stakes at Low Tide
5. Momentous Days
6. The Siren's Kiss
7. Creatures Great, Creatures Small
8. Maurice the Bat
9. The Wandering Rocks
10. The Life and Crimes of Pierre du Gâteau
11. Croak of Truth
12. Dance of Umbra
13. A Trick of the Tongue
14. Xavier the Troll
15. All that Glisters...
16. The Master and the Monkey (Part2)

Added: February 3rd 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Gandalf's Fist @ bandcamp
Hits: 939
Language: english

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