A new album by Pallas, more than five years after their latest full-fledged studio CD Wearewhoweare in 2014 Yes and no. Yes, the material is indeed from the Scottish neo-prog band, and no, this isn’t new work but mostly adaptations of previously released material.
Pallas is one of the lesser known neo-prog bands from the eighties, never being able to match the popularity of contemporaries like Marillion, IQ and Pendragon. The band have apparently decided that it was time to do something with their extensive back catalogue and in addition they thought it appropriate that these anthology CDs should not be just another re-master or pale remix exercise, but “a deeper exploration of the varied trademarks”, according to the band. No lack of ambition there.
The first of these retrospective anthologies is entitled The Edge of Time, so I gather there are plans to work on the rest of the catalogue as well. Fair is fair: Pallas’ music has always been characterised by atmospheric and cinematic moments, this album can be deemed an valid attempt to further explore said element within the band.
The band’s nucleus, guitarist Niall Mathewson, bassist Graeme Murray and keyboardist Ronnie Brown, have been involved in side- and solo film music projects in the past and have added cinematic elements to some songs, while others have inherited a more atmospheric interpretation. The music takes you back to the time when we surrendered to the music with our eyes closed, big headphones on. The nature of this is reflected in the relaxed concept that the band has tried to shape. Let’s listen to what all this has resulted in.
The album starts in relatively familiar territory with the least stripped-down songs. Much of Ghostdancers‘ original instrumentation, from The Dreams of Men (2005), survives, but the emphasis is mainly on the violin parts, a contribution by acclaimed Scottish traditional violinist Paul Anderson. The song gains strength and bombast as a result, Mathewson’s guitar and mighty hits from Colin Fraser contribute even more. Ever atmospheric, Violet Sky, originally from XXV (2011), features a new section on Spanish guitar by Niall Mathewson against a background of ominous sounding synthesizers and a solitary piano. Rather beautiful.
We remain in atmospheric spheres with a “stripped-down” but nevertheless intriguing version of New Life, originally from most recent album Wearewhoweare. In this mix, the original (electric) solo has been replaced by a soft acoustic guitar. The voice of singer Paul Mackie sounds great in this version. No, please don’t fall asleep on me yet, we continue the relaxed atmosphere with a new rendition of Just A Memory, originally on The Wedge from 1986. The cello plays a leading role, spread on a bed of electronic percussion, light and soft.
A relatively radical reinterpretation of In Cold Blood, also known as wearewhoweare, could be the soundtrack for a modern horror film, with some imagination. We then go all the way back to 1984 and debut album The Sentinel with an orchestral and almost cinematic version of the iconic Ark of Infinity. A bit in the vein of Star Wars, a continuation of the original theme of this song, which is also about space travel.
We stay in orchestral atmospheres for a while with The Blinding Darkness of Science (from 2001’s The Cross and the Crucible), wandering female vocals giving the song an ethereal atmosphere. Something in the Deep, both atmospheric and cinematic, originally from XXV, gets a new ending complete with sirens (as in demi-god, not as in frightening sound signal).
This Haunted Land is a spooky song by keyboardist Ronnie Brown and Bill Marshall, leading seamlessly into the closing song, Stranger on the Edge of Time. This song once started life in the early ’80s as the experimental B-side of the single Arrive Alive. Ronnie Brown gets plenty of room for a quirky keyboard contribution, while singer Paul Mackie adds some “spacy” vocals, fade out.
Esoteric ambient music, suitable for yoga and relaxation. Pallas’ music lends itself perfectly to this type of arrangement: long melodic lines and a slow pace, reminiscent of Pink Floyd. The comparison with Vangelis’ more atmospheric work is also imperative: the instrumentation, with plenty of room for synthesizers, is responsible for this. Pleasant and above all soothing music for moments of reflection and relaxation. The music exudes a certain serenity; silence, calm and peace are other associations that resonate in the arrangements of most of the songs. But every now and then the sharper edges of the original music are sorely missed. And I’m not just talking about Mathewson’s guitar antics or Fraser’s mighty blows. Compliments for the excellent cover. Most likely to be continued.
01. Ghostdancers (8:51)
02. Violet Sky (5:54)
03. New Life (5:25)
04. Just A Memory (5:46)
05. In Cold Blood (6:36)
06. Ark of Infinity (8:20)
07. The Blinding Darkness of Science (4:35)
08. Something in the Deep (6:28)
09. This Haunted Land (6:26)
10. Stranger on the Edge of Time (7:01)
Total Time – 65:22
Ronnie Brown – Keyboards
Niall Mathewson – Guitars
Graeme Murray – Bass
Colin Fraser – Drums
Paul Mackie – Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 28th November 2019
– The Edge of Time (2019)
– Courage and Other Songs of War and Peace (2018)
– Eclectic Electric, Volume 1 (2015)
– Itiswhatitis (2014)
– Wearewwhoweare (2014)
– Live in Southampton 1986 (2013)
– Live at Loreley (2013)
– Pallas at high Voltage (2011)
– XXV (2011)
– Moment to Moment DVD (2008)
– The Dreams of Men (2005)
– The River Sessions 1 (2005)
– The River Sessions 2 (2005)
– The Blinding Darkness CD/DVD (2003)
– Mythopoeia (2002)
– The Cross and the Crucible (2001)
– Live Our Lives (2000)
– Beat the Drum (1998)
– Sketches (1989) [cassette]
– The Wedge (1986)
– The Knight Moves EP (1986)
– The Sentinel (1984)
– Arrive Alive (1981)