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Pendragon: Believe

Four years after Not of This World, British neo proggers Pendragon return with a new album. As with every other Pendragon offering, the new CD, while staying true to the band's melodic roots and progressive orientation, has quite some new elements to offer. Nick Barrett's songwriting has certainly moved into a more acoustic-driven approach, utilising plenty of classical guitar, some flamenco, and even folky segments. Clive Nolan's input on keyboards seems to be slighlty reduced, especially if you are expecting a lot of keyboard-guitar interplay. However, Nolan is there in a different capacity. He helps create the dense and somewhat dreamy atmosphere on the album adding in quirky synth lines, various sound samples, and the classic Clive Nolan melodies fans of Pendragon and Arena have come to expect from him.

The short title track signals what the listener should expect from Believe, encompassing a mystic, slightly Eastern feel with a vast array of sound samples, soft female vocals that seem to sing in Gaelic, thick threads of atmospheric elements, and an enigmatic blues solo. Surprisingly though, the band displays a more hard rock style on the next piece "No Place for the Innocent", a straightahead rocker that will please fans of Led Zeppelin and Queen. Don't be mistaken, however. This is still Pendragon with numerous changes of speed and rhythm and a great contrast between acoustic and electric guitar. "The Wisdom of Solomon" may be the best cut to represent Believe as a whole, and one of the highlights of the album. Female vocals, sound samples and Barrett's amazing lead guitar work characterized by instantly memorable melodies kick the song off, leading into a lengthy acoustic guitar interlude that is right up there with the brilliance of Andy Latimer's work. There is even a jolty electronic section in the middle which showcases the experimental edge of the album. On top of all we have Nick Barrett's vocals which sound even stronger and more passionate than before. The strong lyrical content also embeds the piece as one of the best Pendragon songs.

"The Wishing Well" is the epic of Believe, with a remarkable length that breaks the 20-minute mark. The song is divided into four sub-sections, each focusing on different movements and venturing into different musical areas. Granted the song is well written and performed, some Pendragon fans may be taken aback by the somewhat drawn-out narrated parts by Nick Barrett on "For Your Journey", as meticulous synth work and female vocals echo deep down in the mix. The Celtic feel of "So by Sowest" lends the album a welcome folk sound along with Nick's plucked acoustic guitars and passionate vocal delivery. "We Talked" adds in some groove with a wide range of ethnic and pastoral elements, leading into the final section, "Two Roads", perhaps the band's most similar song to their earlier works. The song embodies lofty acoustics, smooth e-bow, vibrant drumming, continuous speed changes, a stunning guitar theme with a very catchy main chorus that just doesn't let go. The mystic elements resurface on the bass-driven "Learning Curve" which ends with an interesting coda for Spanish guitar and bleeds into the most heart-breaking Pendragon finale in the form of "The Edge of the World". Both spoken and sung lyrics, some of which sound Polish, mood-intensive acoustic guitars, a soulful vocal performance, and an amazing guitar solo that goes on and on make this piece one of Barrett's best compositions in his 20-year career.

Some Pendragon fans may find Believe lacking when it comes to huge symphonic sweeps of Clive Nolan's keys or they may miss Nick Barrett's memorable and melodious electric guitar hooks, or the drawn-out instrumental passages, but those who are expecting a mixture of all the strong sides of Pendragon melded together, with added acoustic beauty, will have Believe reach into their soul and take them on an ethereal musical journey.

Track Listing

  1. Believe
  2. No Place for the Innocent
  3. The Wisdom of Solomon
  4. The Wishing Well
    i. For Your Journey
    ii. So by Sowest
    iii. We Talked
    iv. Two Roads
  5. Learning Curve
  6. The Edge of the World

Added: September 16th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Pendragon website
Hits: 5874
Language: english

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