Not Of This World

For most bands or artists, following up a masterpiece like The Masquerade Overture is an impossible task. They usually either disband or change their musical orientation completely. Not these guys.

Instead, Pendragon chose to go beyond Masquerade. Did it work? Unbelievably, it did!

Not Of This World (NOTW) shows Pendragon in a whole new light. Where Masquerade was an album that gripped you completely from the first notes, NOTW requires a bit of taming. From the first listen you know that it’s unbelievable music. But it works on so many levels that you need to listen to it several times to get the whole experience.

Most remarkable is the level of raw emotion that you can hear throughout this album. Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible for Pendragon to be so emotional (not that they weren’t before, but this is beyond anything they’ve ever done), but there it is. It’s a whole new (and quite welcome level) that they’ve added on to their music.

For fans of the band, you’ll realize that NOTW is in the same vein as their three previous studio albums (The World, The Window of Life and The Masquerade Overture), but again, as is true with each of these albums, the new one goes deeper into the sheer beauty and artistry of the music and the lyrics.

The musicians themselves are again at their peak. These four incredible artists create incredible music. But unlike what you see in other bands, they are never in competition with each other. The acoustic guitar, absent in Masquerade is a welcome addition to their sound.

Also, kudos to Karl Groom for his fabulous production work. It’s important to mention as well the beautiful backing and ambient vocal performances of Tina Riley, which add still more to the whole event.

As for the lyrical theme of the album, it’s all about love, but not on any simple level.

From the onslaught of If I Were The Wind through Green Eyed Angel (as catchy as The Shadow on Masquerade) through the very different and surprising A Man of Nomadic Traits and all the way to World’s End, Not Of This World will take you on a voyage you will want to experience again and again – traveling in a universe that will sometimes disturb you, but will also keep you returning for its sheer beauty. Proof indeed that the Pendragons are not of this world.

The Masquerade Overture

The problem with Pendragon is that once you hear an album, you want all of them. Progressive Rock may not be your cup of tea, and that’s fine, but I’ve had at least a dozen people who don’t like Prog Rock listen to this album and they all loved it.First, these guys are all accomplished musicians. The production is spotless. The sound? Try mixing classical Genesis (the Gabriel and Hackett albums), add some Marillion for good measure, then throw in some Pink Floyd and you get an idea of the sound. But it’s much more than the sum of its parts. As I said, these guys are all accomplished musicians, which is not the case with Genesis, Marillion or Pink Floyd (although they have some accomplished musicians, most of them are not).

The first impression you get of this album comes from the beautiful booklet, done by Simon Williams. Nice to see an album that has something other the artist’s photo on the cover.

The first song, The Masquerade Overture might throw some people off. It’s an opera piece, in Italian, featuring the beautiful voice of Gwen Ross. Although it’s not your typical opera piece. Beautifully done, giving the tone for the album.

It is skilfully followed by a piece called As Good As Gold, a more commercial piece, yet not to the point of being played on format radio stations. Paintbox is a longer piece, melody being of prime importance.

The Pursuit of Excellence is the most commercial, and the shortest, song on the album. Yet it is not out of place withing the concept. Sort of an interlude, marking a passage from where you’ve been to where you’re going. It leaves you asking where?

Guardian of My Soul is a bit heavier piece. Well-rendered, in my opinion, the best song on the album. It goes through many phases, from the heavier parts to more melodic moments.

Next is most people’s favorite, The Shadow. Another long (although it sounds too short), melodic piece. The chorus of the song comes completely at the end and contains the hook. You’ll find yourself singing that chorus for hours. To the point where you’ll be annoying others around you. But that’s OK, just get them to listen to the song and they’ll be singing it too.

The final song is Masters of Illusion. If you like Pink Floyd, this will be your favorite song. The ending in particular is typical Floyd in style. The untrained ear will think this is Pink Floyd, while the trained ear will recognize the Rat distortion and the overall sound of the guitar which is different from David Gilmour’s.

My copy is a limited edition with a second CD containing 4 extra songs. I traded my original copy in to get this version… It has “AM radio” versions of As Good As Gold and Masters of Illusion. The bonus is the other two songs, Schizo and The King of the Castle (The Shadow, Part 2). This last one picks up on the hook from The Shadow and adds to it. Based on the acoustic guitar and with a slower tempo than The Shadow, it makes great use of the haunting harmonic vocals. Very much worthwhile.