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Pendragon - Pure CD (album) cover





3.89 | 602 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars An attempt to "think outside the box"?

While all of the Pendragon studio releases from 1991's The World up till and including 2001's Not Of This World were quite similar to each other and followed a similar formula (even the album sleeves of these releases are similar!), 2005's Believe diverted from that formula and was different in many ways. This divided the fans. Some thought that Believe was the band's best album ever, while others thought it was one of the least good of their albums! Personally, I belong to the former camp. Even though I have never been a very big fan of Pendragon, I found Believe unbelievably good and certainly more interesting than any of the previous albums by the band. It somehow had more substance and a Rock edge that the 90's albums in particular lacked but at the same time it still managed to be 100% Pendragon.

This follow up, entitled Pure, is quite different yet again, both in relation to Believe and in relation to the earlier albums. The hard edge is even stronger here and some passages are even heavy and border on Metal territory! This is something that was totally unimaginable coming from the same band that made such lightweight albums as The World and The Masquerade Overture. It seems that the intention here was to bring the band's sound "up to date", but I must say that this modern production doesn't really fit the band that well. Pendragon was always a band that ignored trends and opted for a sound that somehow defied time, but here it occasionally sounds as if they are just trying too hard to be contemporary - they somehow come across as trying very hard to be something they're not. It is almost as if the band were imprisoned in a confined space, like the person trapped in a glass box depicted on the sleeve, for ten years, and when they finally escaped they didn't quite know who they were and exactly what they wanted to do anymore.

On a positive note, new drummer Scott Higham injects new energy in the rhythm department (but I like his contribution even more on the live DVD Concerto Maximo where he injects new life into older Pendragon songs) and Clive is back in full force here on the keyboards after playing only a minor role in the sound on the previous album. The acoustic side of the band that was stronger than ever on the folky Believe is, however, almost totally absent here. Some of the World-Music influences from that album remain, though.

But the most important thing in music generally is the songwriting, the material itself. And the songs on Pure are quite alright even if I find these songs less memorable than most of the songs from the previous three or four albums. The nearly 14 minute opener Indigo is the best of the set and this number holds up quite well in the overall Pendragon catalogue. Eraserhead is another strong tune with a nice riff. Yes, several of these songs are actually based on riffs rather than melodies and the usual sustained guitar solos! There are also some grey areas on this album. Even after repeated listens I don't seem to remember much from the three-part Comatose or the closer It's Only Me. They're pleasant, but they don't stick.

For me Pure was actually something of a disappointment, not only since the previous album had impressed me so much, but even in relation to earlier albums. Even the 90's albums, that I like but never have been too impressed by, sound at least more honest and "genuine" in a way that Pure somehow doesn't. Still, Pure is not a bad album but it is not, despite the high average rating, the best place to start investigating Pendragon. The aforementioned live DVD Concerto Maximo is a much better recent release from the band that contains a couple of songs from this album in addition to lots of classics.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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