Pendragon have been a guilty pleasure recently, easy comfort listening on a late train home. With this album, their most recent, I've finally realised why they appeal to me much more than some other bland neo-prog bands, who on the surface sound the same as them. It's because there's feeling and sincerity here. As annoying as Nick Barrett's voice and strained lyrics might be to most people, he really cares about the words he is singing. In fact these songs, on the subject of betrayal, jealousy and generally messy breakups, are clearly drawn from personal experience. Although there's the usual dodgy nautical and world travel metaphors peppered around the place, these lyrics are his strongest yet and not deserving of the stick heaped on previous efforts. An especially effective thing he does here is to repeat the most powerful phrases over and over again, making the betrayals more hard-hitting.
The music here is their best and most consistent since "The World", from the symphonic intro of "If I Were the Wind" through some driving riffs on "Seven Veils II" to the big finale. Sure, we've heard most of these chord sequences and guitar licks before, but they've taken care to arrange them into some powerful and strong pieces. Their grandiose pomp-rock is peppered with lots of choir oohs and aahs and Nick's fluid Gilmour-influenced guitar solos. Together with his histrionic vocal style, it's no doubt deeply, deeply uncool and embarrassing to be caught listening to. You probably know beforehand whether you're going to hate it, and if so then then stay well away, but it's a great example of this style well done.
February 2, 2004