The Enid - Aerie Faerie Nonsense

Album cover

  1. A Heroes Life (7:09)
  2. Ondine (3:47)
  3. Interlude (0:57)
  4. Bridal Dance (6:43)
  5. Fand (29:36)

Mantella, 1977

This was a completely uninformed and random album purchase, at a time when I needed something to cheer me up. I thought that this band just looked interesting, with their extended classical-rock instrumental compositions. After hearing this I got the rest of the nine albums in quick succession over the next few months! The style is sweepingly romantic and theatrical. It's dominated by Robert John Godfrey's keyboards, with his big orchestral sounds creating a broad cinematic backdrop, and of course lots of piano. But it's a band effort, with the twin guitars of Stephen Stewart and Francis Lickerish and some grandiose drumming filling out the sound in style.

It seems to be built around a medieval romantic legend. The tracks are laid out like a classical symphony, beginning with the anthemic "A Heroes Life" (sic). "Ondine" serves as a slow movement, with a delicate lute theme given a lush but restrained orchestral treatment. "Bridal Dance" is a kind of scherzo, with an insistent rhythm that bashes you over the head with far too many climaxes for most people's taste!

The centrepiece is the Enid's most celebrated work, the rock symphonic poem "Fand". The version on this CD is remixed and extended by ten minutes from the original LP version and live performances. Purists might prefer the original, but this extended treatment does it full justice. After its brooding opening, its martial main theme is developed with exquisite timing for several minutes. The middle section seems to represent some kind of hero's quest, where the band have a lot of fun with a catchy English-sounding folk tune. These sections both conclude with the same theatrical climax, one of the most explosive in symphonic rock. The last ten minutes are purely string-based, with a very Vangelis-like sound. They wear their influences on their sleeve here, the repeated quotations from Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" are perhaps too obvious, and it tends to drag.

This is as good as symphonic rock gets, and belongs in the collection of all prog-heads. It might also appeal to listeners of romantic classical. But I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone else, because it's about as overblown and ponderous as they come! If you want to find out what the Enid are all about, then this is the place to start.

December 23, 2003

10 out of 10

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