This project is not only of the highest level musically, it is also superbly produced by Karl Groom. Furthermore, the other artistic dimensions shine brightly. The front cover jacket of a twisted and chained human being in a glass box renders precisely the feeling of angst that permeates this opus. It is in itself a great work of contemporary art. There is even a ray of hope with the back cover where we can see that the prisoner has escaped (at least it is what I hope and think). The lyrics are also chiseled to express eloquently the major theme of this album, which is, in most our lives, the difficulty and perils of treading the path of our existence and reflecting upon it, of growing up. This is an album anchored in maturity.
The band has also a new sound, more on the hard edges of rock (Comatose for instance) than in the symphonic prog realm. Still, we recognised Pendragon, but the addition of Scott Higham at drum is a welcome infusion of energy. As always, the guitars of Nick Barrett are mind blowing. For instance, near the end of the tune Indigo, it borders on sublime. Peter Gee bass is excellent, as is the magnificent keys of Clive Nolan. The vocal are also outstanding. This project shows musical complexity, surprises, and emotions, serious and poetic lyrics on the human condition at the beginning of the XXI century. That is a true concept album in the full sense of the word.
“Indigo” begins en force this masterpiece and set the tone of near despair and dark thoughts ever present on this album. Wrap in his coat of Indigo, the character struggles to free his self (as portrait on the cover), and maybe preserve his sanity. The music has many nice twists and all band members contribute aptly, but the guitar is absolutely magnificent. The dialogue between the guitar and the voice has touches me deeply. This is a mostly a hard rock tune, but in neoprog realm.
“Eraserhead” continues with a superb ambiance created at first by the keys. The lyrics criticize many aspects of our current fad from the point of view of a disillusioned young character. I love the nuances and the subtle structure of this song. As always, the guitar is incredibly good, but it is the synths (very good solo…) that made it for me on this tune. This could be a great tune as the theme of a SF film score of the cyberpunk genre.
“Comatose (I View From the Seashore)” is a suite in three pieces, a form often used in the past by Pendragon. The title is very explicit and conveys well the difficulty of growing up, of evolving. We recognize here the Pendragon style of symphonic progressive rock beef up by metal influences. This first part is a gem of progressive rock; the music blending really well with the lyrics. I simply adore it. Near the end, we hear what seems to be violin and that creates a superb effect.
“Comatose (II Space Cadet)” is flying high; like a roller coaster of emotions, but very critical of today’s youth (happy stupid lucky). The tone changes in the middle and we sail on a darker sea. In the end, the ugly face of mindless youth violence is implied subtly.
“Comatose (III Home and Dry)” is more calm, but in a way more intense. I can take it anymore. Sadly, we hear that often. And it is a profound sadness that we feel listening to this song. It is full of nostalgia and unmet hopes. I see Comatose as one of the best epic length track I listen to in a long time.
“The Freak Show” begins powerfully with a good hard rock beat. It is in the best tradition of that genre. It is another tune grounded in sorrow and pain, an effort to keep control on oneself. It is also structured as a pop song in the brit pop tradition.
“It’s Only Me” opens with the harmonica almost crying. The music is sown in emotions. The chorus is touching and powerful, with hint of hope mix with sadness. And the guitar…
I recommend it to all progressive rock fans. It is a must, a defining album that could be among the best albums of the genre ever produced. It is that good in my view. I can stop listening to it, and I'm still finding something new to ponder each time. My very highest recommendations indeed.