Every now and then the lunatics have an away day from the asylum; the Gandalf’s Fist collective are such a bunch of lunatics. The Prologue is really a tale within a tale, that fits somewhere, though where is a complete mystery to me. A number of songs that could have made the cut for A Clockwork Fable but didn’t. Another Gandalf Fist success then? Yes, and no, these songs are strong, but I can perhaps see why they were left, not quite fitting the Fable narrative. You again have that casserole of styles, mixed, allowed to simmer and producing something both beautiful and tasty, from the opening adventure with the ice badgers to the words of the Primarch. My only issue is with the use of the ‘F’ word in the conversation between Tinker and Henchman; no longer passenger-friendly, but that’s just me and it is an “adult” fairy tale.
In adding to the Cogtopolis storyline, it builds a little flesh on the original story, and what was an epic listen evolves into a saga. My suggested listening order might be CDs 1 and 2 of Fable, CDs 1 and 2 of Prologue, and finally CD 3 of Fable. Dean Marsh may differ on this opinion.
The voice talents have returned, this adds to the continuity of the album and its imagined world. The phrase ‘never again’ has been said, but we shall see as it was spoken thus after Fable, though long may the fertile imagination and weird and wonderful storytelling of this band continue. Who says the days of wizards and fairy tales have gone from prog? Even if this is more Steampunk than myth.
As it is a story it is hard to address the music in less than a procession, The Belly of the Earth is a folk-like entry track, short, quite elemental, and as it should be, a little quirky, leading onto Wardens via a spoken narrative. Wardens itself is a slice of AOR gateau with a few other bits thrown in, acoustic and metal overtones, or undertones, never quite sure.
The first Keri Farish vocal track is contemporary folk in style, a lovely voice, seemingly part ballad, everything is about telling the story. Solar Huntress is an earworm, it only takes a couple of plays before it becomes embedded. A great voice seemingly unlimited by range.
Supplies for The Festivities sees the very Steeleye Span guest vocals of Melissa Hollicks, with a great fiddle solo by William Stewart, worthy of anything by Fairport’s Chris and Ric, or Rachel Hall of Big Big Train. It’s a great tune, followed by the menacing bit with much swearing – be wary, or if it bothers you not just listen. The drum intro to Blackening from Stefan Hepe goes some way to addressing the metal area, Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne territory on the riffs, superb drums, and finishing with some rock solos courtesy of Ben Bell’s keys and guitar from Dean Marsh, shredding with the best. Blackening is another slice of the prog metal sort with some superb drumming from Herr Hepe, the inner Ozzy is channelled along with some more AOR-type vocalisation. It’s a nice piece. From here to disc two.
The story seems to run parallel to, and in step with Fable, the music is good with The Clokkemaker being the outstanding piece in my view. Keri’s voice is given full reign, delivering an epic performance. By far my favourite track on an album where nothing is less than good.
The Waxwork Downs is a chill-out track to my ears, and the delivery is great. Leader of Men, with its organ Men in Black waltz-like intro, is a cool piece of every genre, metal, rock, prog, classical, definitely worthy of resurrection for this album. So one more piece of dialogue and we end, but what a marvellous end, The Lamplighter (Overture) is, again, unbound by the limitations of genre, the Fist go for it. I thought they had already done so with Leader of Men, but the finale is worth the wait.
The album fits as a tale within; overacting barkingly joyously wonderful. Gandalf’s Fist have delivered again. It completes the Fable, and I really look forward to the next tale, even if the subject may change.
I have enjoyed this very much, I have yet to stop listening to a GF album without a smile on my face. This one is no different. I’m not prudish but the extent of the bad language did bother me, but perhaps I am being oversensitive. This wraps up the Cogtopolis saga and as such if you have the three discs you will want the additional two. I will sit down, armed only with brushes, paint and paper and listen to all five hours plus. I expect to still be smiling, and I know that my addled brain will enjoy the songs and music. I remain amazed at the packages this band put together and the incredible amount of hard work it must take; others could learn. It will go onto my wishlist, though the price they ask is a bargain. Both actors and musicians have assembled a fun presentation, so due credit to both. Thank you.
It won’t disappoint, and it completes the set…
[You can read Tony’s interview with Gandalf’s Fist HERE.]
CD1 – Part I: The Thaw
01. The Belly Of The Earth (0:58)
02. An Expedition Amidst The Ice Burrows (1:22)
03. Wardens (4:32)
04. Badgerwhacked (2:03)
05. Solar Huntress (6:43)
06. Dirty Doyle’s Surface Souvenirs (1:35)
07. Supplies For The Festivities (5:33)
08. Secrets, Traitors And A Smashing Set Of Porcelain Ducks On Layby (1:48)
09. Blackening (8:46)
10. Hall Of The Badger King (3:55)
CD 2 – Part II: The Pieces Of Our Time
11. Sun Sickness (1:58)
12. Menders Of Devices (6:14)
13. The Clokkemaker (12:52)
14. A Shortcut Across A Deranged Steam Conveyor (2:13)
15. The Waxwork Downs (4:27)
16. The Sovereign Airship Station (5:16)
17. Leader Of Men (8:08)
18. Wheels In Motion (3:12)
19. The Lamplighter (Overture) (15:36)
Total Time – 97:11
Dean Marsh – Guitars, Synth Programming, Mandolin, Octave Mandola, Additional Bass
Ben Bell – Piano, Hammond Organ, Synths, Fretless Bass, Nashville Guitar
Stefan Hepe – Drums, Percussion
Christopher Ewen – Bass
Luke Severn – Tubular Bells, Goose Flute
William Stewart – Violins
Keri Farish – The singing voice of the Clokkemaker and her all-seeing spyglasses
Dean Marsh – The singing voice of the good people of Cogtopolis
Luke Severn – The singing voice of the Nightkeepers
Ben Bell – The Choir of Doom
Melissa Hollick – Sung words of Eve
Mark Benton – Spoken words of King Dahks, City Announcer, City Official, distant expulsions of the Lamplighter
Tim Munro – Spoken words of The Tinker
Alicia Marsh – Spoken words of Eve, various market traders
Bill Fellows – Spoken words of Dirty Doyle, Irontooth, Nightkeeper Spy
Paul Kavanagh – Spoken words of The Primarch
Keri Farish – Spoken words of The Clokkemaker, Washer Ethel
Christopher Ewen – Spoken words of The Boy
Ben Bell – Spoken words of the deranged Steam-Conveyor
Rafferty Marsh – Spoken words of an urchin at the weasel pie stall
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st July 2019