HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Pendragon - Believe
(Pendragon Toff/SPV)

One of a handful of neo-prog bands with roots back to the gulden UK scene of the mid-'80s, Pendragon have regularly, if not prolifically, released albums since 1985's rough but now-loved The Jewel. The sound on Believe (the band's seventh) is quite organic and very traditionally proggy (as well as hard-hitting). The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard come to mind, as does Fish and old Marillion, which leads one into comparisons with certain Floyd atmospherics and Genesis melodies. There's a mountain of instrumentation and arrangement, but this is very much classic prog rock in approach - warnings from leader Nick Barrett that this first all-new record in four years was to be sorta modern go unfounded. Acoustic (and even nylon-stringed) guitar is everywhere, and well, if there's higher technology, it's embedded and massaged into the grand old school miasma of the thing. And a certain Anglo eccentricity comes through as well - these guys have become akin to a cross between Caravan, Camel, Demon and modern day Holocaust! Gorgeous, old school production completes the coup, with Believe becoming sort of the timeless Pendragon album, strictly to the definition of timelessness, meaning there is nothing on here trendy to a time, nor does it sound like it's on a trajectory from previous Pendragon albums. Folky, dreamy, contemplative but still quite rhythmic, Believe is one of the most self-assured, seamless listening pleasures from the prog world in years. Not too ProTool-sounding, not too heavy but still grand, this is the kind of record some of these thinking-too-hard American bands ought to take to heart.
Rating 8

Edguy - Rocket Ride
(Nuclear Blast)

If you don't mind Stratovarius getting rock 'n' rollsy, or Alexi's hair metal covers, then Edguy's continued provocation toward various mainstream metal moves might come off as fresh, unselfconscious fun ('cos listening to music is supposed to be fun, not torture, right?). But if you want your heroes to keep their eye on the balls-out ball when it comes to their records, then Tobias might be a bit too irreverent for you. Popping synths, acoustic guitars, shameless balladeering, hair metal choruses, and tossed off lyrics (the album closes with a full-on parody of L.A. glam) are all over this record. There's also a grandness of production and dynamic which didn't work for Scorpions after Blackout, and might not be welcome back a mere two decades later. To my mind though, there's enough going on here, as well as a joie de vivre, and a sharpness and punch, to convert me to nodding a tentative yes to what is going to be a controversial, debated album. But in comparison, I'm still in awe at that last Falconer album, those guys finding a way to wink at metal conventions and clichˇs while still friggin' blazing a strip off the strip club. But yes, on the other hand, I'm hugely amused how this record, dropped into 1991, might have been seen as a heavy hair band album, its weird European twist wrinkling the nose of listeners in white cowboy boots, as they wrestle with a contextual vibe they couldn't have known came from an additional 15 years of metal evolution.
Rating 7.5

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