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Pallas - The Cross And The Crucible CD (album) cover

THE CROSS AND THE CRUCIBLE

Pallas

 

Neo-Prog

3.51 | 173 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars "How can these mighty opponents be reconciled?"

Despite the fact that the opening track of this excellent Neo-Progressive album is called The Big Bang, it certainly does not open with a bang. At first I did not understand the point of this very discrete opening sequence, but now I find it quite brilliant. As the title implies it is about the big bang. Make sure you play this loud otherwise the quiet, discrete vocal will pass you by; 'From a single point of light, the universe began'. Talk about taking the bigger perspective on things! The theme of this album is about as far away from the typical themes of conventional Rock and Pop as you could possibly come! Yet, while on paper it might sound pretentious, it does not come across that way at all. Rather, I find this profound and deeply reflective.

The title track also begins very quietly, but the powerful bass line that enters about one minute into the track finally breaks the stillness, this time with a bang. We are now treated to a full on band with howling guitars and powerful symphonic keyboards over propulsive bass lines and dramatic choir vocals. All this becomes all the more powerful in contrast with the very quiet opening of the album. This song features an excellent lyric that continues the theme of the first; 'In the beginning there was darkness, and in the darkness there was fear, and fear gave birth to God, whose rule was harsh but clear. But reason led to questioning and God became a man, he retreated to the skies, though some began a search to comprehend the universe, the men of God screamed out - you must not question why!' Utterly brilliant!

This song also features possibly the most memorable line of the whole album: 'How can these mighty opponents be reconciled?' - the opponents in question being reason and religion, the conflict between which constitutes the overarching theme of the whole album. But as with all great conceptual albums, the individual songs do not stay too close to the theme, allowing them to express something each on their own too.

The vocals of Alan Reed are fragile yet powerful and have a unique tone. On the first couple of listens I thought the vocals were to low in the mix, but I now suspect that this might be intentional and it does not bother me any more - provided I play this loud! (which is probably the way the band intended it to be played). Though, I strongly recommend following the lyrics on a lyric sheet while listening to the music, because it is often a bit difficult to hear clearly what Alan Reed is singing. This is especially true given that these lyrics contain some words that probably never have been used before in a Rock context! After all, how often do you use the word 'crucible' in everyday speech? Or make a reference to the Dogon tribe of Africa? Or use the expression 'promethian fire'?

I have seldom found such potent and effective lyrics and this clearly gives the impression that the lyrics were written first and the music was composed to fit the theme rather than the other way around. I don't know if this is how they did it, but it comes across that way.

The hard rocking For The Greater Glory, and the acoustic ballad Who's To Blame also feature lyrical passages that will either make you think or make you cry, or both! Towers Of Babble and Midas Touch are among the longest tracks of the album and perhaps the ones that comes closest to the "typical" Neo-Prog sound with slightly more theatrical vocals, keyboard solos and nice guitar work. Otherwise, I think that Pallas has their very own sound that is not very similar to other bands. My usual problem with Neo-Progressive bands - that they are too derivative and stay too close to other bands (most often 80's Marillion and 70's Genesis) - is thus not a problem I have with Pallas. This band is special and the present album is their best work by far in my opinion. Dark, heavy and reflective yet full of fragility and emotion.

Generations is a more conventional song both lyrically and musically, but within the context of the other songs, this too gains a deeper meaning that it would not have had standing on its own, I think. The album closes with Celebration, which indeed sound a bit like one!

To sum up, The Cross And The Crucible is a fantastic concept album with truly intelligent lyrics, distinctive vocals and very strong musicianship. It both requires and deserves repeated listens. This is clearly one of my favourite albums in the Neo-Prog category behind the best works by Arena.

A minor masterpiece!

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |

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