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GANDALF'S FIST

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Gandalf's Fist picture
Gandalf's Fist biography
UK act GANDALF'S FIST is the creative vehicle of duo Luke Severn and Dean Marsh, with varying musicians, compatriots and otherwise like-minded people affecting the proceedings apparently. And while their MySpace site inform that they currently reside in Mordor, Cumbria in England is the home turf of this act. Which may or may not be a contradiction in terms or a specification of the former, depending on point of view.

After five years of wandering to and from the studio and the literary heritage of good, old Tolkien, this creative duo decided it was time to fire up their respective creative engines, and set them to work producing material. The result of this process appeared in the shape of a concept album: The Master and the Monkey.

With their creative enginges still humming in harmony, another project was kicked off right away. And in 2011 Gandalf's Fist had their sophomore production ready, this one called Road to Darkness. What the future holds in store for this creative duo, apart from flogging ridicilous amounts of ale and indulging themselves in Tolkien's fantastic universe yet again, remains to be seen. If enough people like what they have done and perhaps even consider sending some money their way, they may be able to finance even more music in the future. Perhaps even a few ales to go, for recharging their batteries after long, draining studio sessions.

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Buy GANDALF'S FIST Music


The Master and the MonkeyThe Master and the Monkey
Gandalf's Fist 2011
Audio CD$10.98
$7.79 (used)
From a Point of ExistenceFrom a Point of Existence
Gandalf's Fist 2012
Audio CD$8.98
Road to DarknessRoad to Darkness
Gandalf's Fist 2012
Audio CD$8.98
A Forest of FeyA Forest of Fey
Import
Gandalf's Fist 2014
Audio CD$9.98
$29.80 (used)
Live from a Post-Apocalyptic PowercutLive from a Post-Apocalyptic Powercut
Gandalf's Fist 2015
Audio CD$9.98
A Day in the Life of a Universal WandererA Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer
Gandalf's Fist 2013
Audio CD$9.98
Road to Darkness by Gandalf's FistRoad to Darkness by Gandalf's Fist
Gandalf's Fist
Audio CD$40.55
A Forest of Fey by Gandalf's FistA Forest of Fey by Gandalf's Fist
Gandalf's Fist
Audio CD$60.96
A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer by Gandalf's FistA Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer by Gandalf's Fist
Gandalf's Fist
Audio CD$60.96
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GANDALF'S FIST discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

GANDALF'S FIST top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.33 | 38 ratings
The Master And The Monkey
2010
3.79 | 78 ratings
Road To Darkness
2011
3.68 | 65 ratings
From A Point Of Existence
2012
3.96 | 111 ratings
A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer
2013
3.87 | 159 ratings
A Forest of Fey
2014
3.99 | 158 ratings
The Clockwork Fable
2016

GANDALF'S FIST Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

GANDALF'S FIST Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

GANDALF'S FIST Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.74 | 10 ratings
Uprooted
2015
4.29 | 5 ratings
The Lamplighter's Tale
2016

GANDALF'S FIST Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 9 ratings
Emerald Eyes
2011
3.56 | 9 ratings
Stakes At Low Tide
2011
4.28 | 20 ratings
Songs From The Solway
2011
3.43 | 16 ratings
The Wizard's Study
2011
2.17 | 16 ratings
There and Back Again
2012
4.18 | 11 ratings
The Wizard's Study II: Balrog Boogaloo
2012
4.33 | 3 ratings
The Snows They Melt the Soonest
2014
5.00 | 3 ratings
Live From A Post-Apocalyptic Powercut
2015
4.67 | 3 ratings
The First Lamplighter (Memories of Nuclear Snow)
2015
4.50 | 4 ratings
Hearth and Ale
2016

GANDALF'S FIST Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Lamplighter's Tale by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2016
4.29 | 5 ratings

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The Lamplighter's Tale
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by chiang

4 stars Maybe some people think a three CDs album is too much. Well, in my opinion they are wrong in this case. OK, if you don't have much time, you can listen to only the "Lamplighter" tracks of the "Clockwork Fable", buy you will be mising some great music. I think the idea of delivering just samples of the album in a good promo move. In fact I have listenig to just this three tracks, but only as a passtime and knowing that it destroys que concept of the full album. I feel that this three tracks are great, but I like to listen to que complete work. (OK, I don't have problems by skipping the theatrical parts). Summarizing: This is very good music, but please, don't buy this CD. Buy the complete "Clockwork Fable" instead. It's one of the best 2016 albums and deserves it.
 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by Karnataka

5 stars I came upon Gandalfs Fist via a track on a sampler CD. On the strength of the track, which came from 'Clockwork Fable', i bought that CD. I have been completely blown away by what is essentially a three act play in words and music. It's quite unlike any other prog rock CD I have. The story line reminds me a bit of the film 'City of Ember.' It's about a world where the inhabitants live underground as the surface is uninhabitable-the Sun has gone out and there are interminable winters. The band has created a complete planet with its own language and hierarchy, It's breathtaking in its breadth and depth, crammed full with quite wonderful music, each linked by spoken passages which taken as a whole carries the listener along at great pace. Its an astonishing piece of work, a tour de force and the bands magnum opus. It would grace anybody's music collection, let alone being pigeon holed as prog rock. Goodness only knows how the band will follow this up.
 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars As a rule, I am not a big fan of epic albums with narration, which is why I have failed to add applause to such celebrated albums as Rick Wakeman's "Voyage to the Center of the Earth" (the original and the more recent remake). I just prefer musical arrangements before anything. Ayreon's magnificent "The Electric Castle" was one of the very successful epics that had both narrators and singers that blended well with the punchy music. It's no surprise that Arjen Lucassen is a guest vocalist here and he may also have been a source of inspiration as well. A live setting may be a different feeling but on recordings, just give me the tunes, please. Gandalf's Fist has provided a stunning 2016 opus with the massive "The Clockwork Fable", a 3 CD affair chock full of memorable slices of sonic genius, though it must be said that their sound is much sharper and harder than ever before. Way less overtly Floydian than their previous releases such as the masterful trio of "Road to Darkness" (2011), "A Day in the Life" (2013) and "Forest of Fey" (2014), the core of singer Luke Severn and multi-instrumentalist Dean Marsh have decided to widen their sound by solidifying the rhythmic tandem by adding a full-time bassist in Christopher Ewen as well as solid thumper Stefan Hepe, giving Marsh all the space needed for his keyboard and guitar ornamentations. 194 minutes is a daunting task to wolf down in one helping, so I helped myself to reorganize a playlist of songs only, which may take away from the narrative but does focus cuttingly on the music. If you mostly want to follow the storyline just buy the album for the entire experience. Throw in former Gryphon vocalist/percussionist David Oberlé who supplies the folkier side , ex-Iron Maiden lung Blaze Bayley the helium yell and guitar maestro Matt Stevens adding his ambient skills and you get the complete picture. The core section of the work is found in the multi-part suite "The Lamplighter" that is liberally strewn among the three CDs , each over an hour long.

On the first CD "The Day the Great Cog Failed" , there are some delectable pieces to highlight such as the drop dead dazzling ballad "Eve's Song", a stirring and symphonic composition featuring a melody both haunting and reflective, a truly winning epic tremendously sung by Melissa Hollick. The delicate finale is precious metal incarnate. Things are fine-tuned from the start with the scorching "Shadowborn", chugging metallic guitar wrangling with a wicked synthesizer gone haywire, the rhythmic locomotive spewing smoke as the magical flute twirls in Tullian fashion. Listen to the thrilling "The Great Cog" with its echo-affected drum beats, reptilian bass attack and Luke's patented "pillow" vocals, flickered with endless sparks of slippery synth warbles, and you should come to the conclusion that this is going to be quite the entertainment package. Maintaining the urgency, the highly cinematographic "The Capture" is prog ?opera at its finest, bombastic orchestrations, pummelled by cannonading drums, garlanded by some whirling dervish synths salvos and some colossal Wagnerian choirs, slain by some snarly vocals.

Second CD "Of Men & Worms" is the showstopper section as it blends on "Victims of the Light" some outright folk of the vivid British kind with some breathless melodies affirmed by both starting lead vocals as well as massive choir work, an extensive acoustic guitar foray that is spellbinding from the get go. Another memorable air is to be found on "Ditchwater Daisies", a suave ballad that resonates with imagery, the art of combining a good story with a simple melody and wrap that in a pared-down arrangement and letting it all fall into place. Tragically beautiful. Luke's patented hushed voice is a pure delight and incredibly effective in creating celestial sentiments that seduces the musical soul. The pastoral sensation returns early on "the Bewildering", a shimmering fluffy cloud of atmospherics that gets accosted by a stubborn guitar riff from Mr. Marsh, interspaced with ambient flicks of the wrist (Matt Stevens), taking the whole thing into a complex universe of staccato rhythms, carpeted mellotron for Luke to swoon over, the fluttering flute (not credited anywhere) and a whole lot of adventure. But it's on the beguiling "A Solemn Toast for the Steam Ranger Reborn" that the magic really hits hard, brilliant vocals, sputtering synth bubbles, Spanish guitar fingerings, tinkling piano and marshal drums uniting in the cause. This is a tremendous piece that sweeps you into the clouds of fantasy, reminding me of their classic song "Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet". Delirious music.

The third act, "From Burrows we Came", here the overall texture definitely hardens, perhaps due to the Iron Maiden influences that are bursting through the speakers' seams, leaping into a harsher climate as on the dizzying "The Climb", maintain a highly melodic and dramatic urgency, upgraded by marvelous operatic vocals from Melissa Hollick, who really shines throughout. The improbable bass guitar/synth duet is a total stunner. The screeching electric finale is fast, furious and heavy. The rambling "Fight for the Light" is a shadow box of various explosive chords, tempered by those divine hushed vocals that instill a sense of yearning that gets me every time. Then Blaze grasps the mike with brazen authority and with the correct guitar barrage, the mood is clearly in jet propulsion mode. The slipstream synths warble madly, chasing the challenging melody. This greasier rock bravura is pushed along further on the next track, the colossal "At the Sign of Aperture", a towering and bold musical statement that swerves in various summersaults sung by "the chosen one", slashing mightily with passion and awareness. The 'sparks are flying' guitar solo is a classic Van Halen-like affair, unparalleled technique and emotional frenzy. The shimmering title track welds piano and acoustic guitar together, Luke swooning engagingly amid the clicking timepieces and ticking mechanisms, buoyed by lush symphonics in the use of various synthesizers. Truly terrific piece. "Through the Lens" gives licence to the piano pursue its magical journey, as Melissa adds a stirring and convincing farewell.

I have edited the playlist, as suggested by others, in order to lean exclusively on the songs and the result is quite an entertaining ride. Whichever way you want to approach this massive opus, either in whole or in part, Gandalf's Fist has dared to conquer and has vanquished. I cannot fathom how they can possibly top this crowning achievement.

5 Device stories

 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by chiang

5 stars This is a great album!!! Never heard of "Gandalf's Fist" before and, being a Tolkien's fan, I have to say that I came here cause the name. But I found a great band (or a great musician, cause most of the music is Marsh's work). Three C.D.s, three hours, lot of good songs, a nice story (better than most on lots of concept albums). The idea of the interspersed radio play bits is nice but I don´t like to listen to them more than twice; fortunately I can skip them. "The Lamplighter" is a great epic. "The capture", "Victims of the light" and "Fight for the light" are very good also. In fact I like all the songs, and the musicians are very well chosen. Every moment of the story has a correct musical feelling. The album cover (the whole pack in fact) is a very good work, dark but beautiful. I don't miss the old 12in paperboard anymore. One of the best albums from 2016.
 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by Roane

1 stars Sorry but, as far as I'm concerned, that is not good... With the willing to be ambitious, you may risk to be pretentious... 194 minutes long: a performance which is difficult to follow. Then of course, the principle of a concept album is always interesting, and trying to revisit the approach is daring, actually through a kind of musical story with a track out of two with no music and only talking. At the end of the day it could be OK if songs were good but it is not the case: instrumentally and vocally quite poor, sometimes remembering me basic hard rock riffs from the eighties. So boring at the end of the day...
 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by omphaloskepsis

5 stars I'm Befuddled "The Clockwork Fable" has but 100 or so ratings. By far my favorite album of 2016. I feel a tad guilty that I haven't reviewed this beauty till now. 2016 was young when I preordered Gandalf Fist's triple disc Steam Punk musical. Clockwork Fable is comparable to "The Wall", "Tommy", "War of the Worlds", and best of Ayreon.

I suppose the triple album length and the plethora of albums that prog aficionados shuffle through yearly, partly explain the lack of collaborator reviews. What a shame. I understand. I own a few thousand albums and CD's, yet I don't have enough time to give my precious collection of classic albums, the attention the albums deserve.

"The Clockwork Fable" transports me to the days of my youth when I would warp and wear out vinyl. Less then a year old, The Clockwork Fable has become an dear old friend who comforts and pleasures moi.

I adore every song but in this review I won't go through a song by song critique. Trust me, resplendent tunes abound. For a deeper peek into the music, please read other reviews for song by song details. The same holds true for a detailed history of Gandalf's Fist. Until a year ago, Gandalf's Fist was but a name that reminded me of kinky hobbits. Wow, I was wrong. Although, kinky double entendres, aplenty, pop up like tarts to entertain and amuse.

I purchased The Clockwork Fable because of the shear ambitious audacity of the project. I thought, " Either Clockwork Fable is a swing and a miss or a grand slam." I happy to report Gandalf's Fist hits this baby outta of park! These guys went all-the- way. Maps, alphabet, original lingo, extended metaphors and a plot line worthy of a major movie musical. They even produced an excellent youtube movie preview for the Fable masterwork. Every song is memorable and sublime! The lyrics superb. Since other reviewers have covered the music portion of the album, I'll speak to the spoken dialog.

Every other selection on The Clockwork Fable uses dialog to further the story. You would think after 40 spins I'd skip the spoken dialog. Oh contraire. The dialog is spoken by professional actors and flows like honey. For God's sake, these actors populate the world of Doctor Who! The dialogue is Dickensian, poetic, humorous, full of intrigue. I find myself rooting for the different characters. Political, social, and religious satire abound.

It's amazing what Gandalf's Fist did with the annual "Shadow Mass" holiday. Just genius.

Cogs and gears grind melodiously dark yet heighten the underworld that is Cogtopolis. Every word and gear adds atmosphere, melody, or rhythm to this post-apocalyptic tour de force. Embedded within the vinyl grooves of The Clockwork Fable" Cogtopolis's history comes alive and is made real. Shadow is light. Everything topsy-turvy yet right on. Very Steampunk and deep ( multiple layers of meaning) Absolutely brilliant ! If you dig English humor you're in for a treat. At times the melodious dialogue reminds me of Shakespeare. I just blasphemed. So be it. It's obvious the actors have Shakespearian training. If you enjoy musicals that keep getting better with each viewing this is a MUST HAVE! It's such a fantastic album, I can't help but give 5 stars.

So friends, if you dig concept albums with an extremely well defined plot line, multiple vocalists, post apocalyptic stories, and an entire world unto it's own, this triple disc steampunk musical is just what the doctor ordered! One of favorite albums ever. Thank you universe!

 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by CaptainOctopus

5 stars For my first review on PA I want to cover an album I'm flabbergasted people aren't raving about! I'm not sure where to start with this album other than to say it's the finest conceptual record I've heard in a considerable time. At 3 CD's long and over 3 hours in total, one would assume that this would be an over-log, bloated release but this could not be further from the truth. The tracks are varied and well produced, crossing a range of styles and the story is fully engaging and unique. Speaking of which, Gandalf's Fist have employed professional actors to narrate the tale in between songs. Many names are recognisable from BBC drama, such as Mark Benton, but most interestingly is the inclusion of American Actor Zach Galligan, famous for playing "Billy" in gremlins. The result of which brings about more of a BBC radio play/cinematic quality than the "rock opera" kind of concept album that we are all used to. The band call it a "Mind Movie", which, actually, is a pretty good way of looking at it! The radio play carries the story allowing the songs to breathe and drive the mood of the album. All of which is refreshing as many concept albums in the past have suffered from relying on the lyrical content to drive a story and as such the focus on songwriting had suffered? no such complaints here, the songs are excellent, even in isolation. With special mention to the epic "Lamplighter" suite of songs as well as "Shadowborn" and "Victims of the Light". As with their previous release, Gandalf's Fist have also harnessed some familiar names from the world of Prog (and metal!) to fill their musical ranks. Dave Oberle from Gryphon, Matt Stevens (the fierce and the dead) return again but also in come Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and even Blaze Bayley (ex-iron maiden) to help voice some of the characters in the songs. I have to give credit to the amount of effort the band have put into creating this world, the album's booklet and supporting website is full of details and back story right down to the religious structure and language of the world?. you truly do feel immersed in the story. Also, so yourself a favour and get the CD version rather than the download ? the packaging is brilliant? it's got a cool "DVD boxset What it boils down to is, really, an essential album. The music is varied and contains without a doubt the band's finest selection of songs and the story is engaging, extremely witty (in a monty python style at times), and even sometimes quite touching. If you haven't checked it out yet, I emplore you to do so, if you're put off by the idea of the acted sections between songs: Give it a chance. Stick with it. I can guarantee that you'll regularly crack a smile. We're dealing with progressive rock, and what a great, progressive and unique way of presenting an album. I can't think of another record that puts across the story in quite the same way? I suppose you'll have to put aside some listening time to see what I mean!

 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by Progrussia

4 stars If listening to a 3 CD album seems daunting to you, take solace in that half of the tracks are narrative. Musically, it's the peculiar but familiar for their listeners formula of taking fantasy folk, epic hard rock in Iron Maiden style, your typical Genesis influence and wrap it in a psychedelic package, with its far-out, culturally-familiar-but-inverted concepts. In essense, hobbit campfire sing-a-long.

The Clockwork Fable continues the line of Forest of Fey by emphasizing the folk and shifting focus to (better) guest vocalists. Does it work? Story and music are well integrated (usually for prog, the story is just a device, but here it is the music that serves the story). Strictly musically, its pleasant and not too complicated, despite the average 10-minute (save for the occasional bursts of metal and folkish instrumental wankery). But the album does seem to be dragged out a bit, especially the middle which sometimes feels uneventful and too simliar in vibe.

 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by Rosscoe

4 stars Having loitered and read lots of reviews on this site for quite a while, it's time I wrote my first review. I have selected this album not because it is my favourite (it isn't) but the sheer effort that has been put into this, and it's undeniable quality, demands that it gets a wider listening. Reviews and scores are consistently high, but the number of scores is low in comparison. I expect that its threediscness is putting many people off.

When I first read about this album I was both intrigued and somewhat tentative. Unwilling to splash out on a triple album without hearing some of it first, I tried it out on Spotify. The downside of this is that it shuffles the tracks, which are 50% radio play. However, a short amount of listening was enough to convince me that the music tracks were to my tastes and that the "story" tracks were high quality and worthy of a proper listen.

So I purchased a download (£7.99 is a bargain, believe me), and selected a day when I was working from home and I set out to listen to it in its entirety. And with the exception of a few conference calls to break things up I managed it.

Unusually for me, I was able to follow the story. I am usually terrible at following albums which supposedly tell a story (e.g. "Snow"), but with actual radio plays interspersing the music there really is no excuse hear. Although every other track is non-music at least 2/3 of the running time is attributed to the music, which is what you would expect to listen to once you are familiar with the story.

The quality of the music is high, and also consistent. But there is also a fair degree of variety and many of the tracks are memorable after only one listen. Highlights for me are the Lamplighter suite, Eve's Song, Ditchwater Daisies, and my favourite The Climb. Iron Maiden influences are noticeable here and there, but are mixed up with mellower moments and the use of different vocalists helps prevent the music from sounding samey.

So, like many other reviewers, I encourage others to try this out. It doesn't require as much patience as you might think. The whole production is fantastic ? the effort that has gone into it is admirable and the band deserves much respect.

The only downside I can think of is something a bit picky and personal. I lament that so much prog music demands nasty, clanky, trebly bass tone, and the tone on this album is probably the worst I have heard. Even when using an octave pedal, the tone is thin and weedy and lacks any presence. However, I know some of you guys dig that sound so it won't bother you.

Overall 4 stars. This is very, very good, but not earth-shatteringly outstanding.

 The Clockwork Fable by GANDALF'S FIST album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 158 ratings

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The Clockwork Fable
Gandalf's Fist Neo-Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

5 stars A while back now, for my 100th review, I expressed my thoughts and impressions of Ayreon's "Human Equation" a double-disc concept narrative album, and one which I enjoyed thoroughly. Now I have reached my 200th review and I am very thrilled about reviewing yet another masterpiece of a concept narrative, the triple disc steampunk story "The Clockwork Fable" by Gandalf's Fist.

This is the band's sixth album but only the first to be welcomed into my music collection. The band had been on my radar for a while, and with the subsequent drop in the value of the British pound after the Brexit vote, I took advantage and ordered a bunch of CDs from the U.K. that were more expensive or even unavailable in Japan. Thus the pricy, three-CD, digipak became somewhat affordable for me.

The story takes place in the subterranean city of Cogtopolis, a refuge for humanity from some great catastrophe that befell the surface. Radiation, 20-year winters, and the disappearance of the sun suggest that there may have been a nuclear war. Cogtopolis has existed for well over 200 years, all its denizens being shadowborn and subject to religious indoctrination, though it is only the weak-minded who truly submit to the religious brainwashing of the Pastors. We begin with our encounter with the Lamplighter. Yes, "we" because we, "you the listener" play the role of The Traveller. We surprise the Lamplighter as he is making his rounds, lighting lamps, and at first he is startled and not very impressed with us. However, he soon softens as he gets over his surprise and he offers us a grand tour of Cogtopolis. Here then the first song begins and it sounds very much to me like an 80's prog metal inspired piece. The vocals are high in register and the guitars, though metal, are not produced heavy and loud, and so I feel it's a very 80's prog metal type of music. There's even a part that sounds very Iron Maiden.

We are back with the Lamplighter and we've reached the Great Cog, the Giant One, the "marvel of engineering" that is the heart of the city. The Lamplighter expounds poetically on its importance and wonder. We then move on to the first eight parts of the "Lamplighter" suite, an epic track with softer parts, solemn segments, beautiful passages and heavy moments. Two vocalists share duties here, one I believe to be Melissa Hollick, who provides the angelic singing voice for the character Eve, and a breathy masculine voice whose owner I can't confirm from the CD info alone.

The story begins to take shape now as we hear the conversation between The Tinker, a kind of incessantly cheerful madman of a scientist who loves "gizmos, doo-hickies, and thingamy-traptions" and Eve, a young girl who looks to The Tinker as a mentor. Eve is late because the city streets are packed with revelers on the Eve of Shadowmass, the single most important religious holiday of the underworld. Tinker reveals to Eve that his measurements show that the Great Cog is slowing down and that furthermore, in spite of the disaster a stagnating cog would portent, all remains functioning normally in the city, pressure gauges normal, "vending machine chicken soup inedible" as always. Then Tinker lets her know the great secret, that his gauges and measurements from the most upper regions of the huge underground cavern suggest that the sun has returned to the surface!

A song for the Giant One follows, led by a very cool bass line and drums with synthesizer showing up. It's a moody, haunting piece.

Now the plot of the story begins to unfold with several dialogues in succession, each separated by a churning, steam engine sound that could be a train or the Great Cog turning. The Nightkeeper Spy has been put in charge of finding "The Alpha and the Omega" though he has no idea where he should start looking. Then we meet the Primarch, the anointed chief protector of Cogtopolis as he meets privately with Pastor Simon. The Primarch fears the rumours of the sun returning and is worried that someone will try to open the Aperture, the passageway to the world above and the way that the founders of Cogtopolis came into the great cavern. Opening the Aperture will release deadly radiation from the surface into the cavern. The Pastor is more worried about heresy and blasphemy and wants to root out the spreaders of these rumours.

From here on it is tempting to write about every dialogue and every song because I enjoyed the story tremendously. Most concept narrative albums tell the story within the lyrics of the songs and at times, some more than others, use spoken dialogue and sound effects to add drama to the story in song. However, "The Clockwork Fable" makes great use of the voice actors, dialogues and sound effects to tell the story which comes across like a BBC radio play with a classic Doctor Who bent. Many of the spoken tracks are over three minutes long and as the story builds and we approach the climax, I found myself on the first listen almost disappointed when another 10- minute song wedged itself in between the captivating dialogues. And there is quite a cast of characters and an exciting story as Eve, The Tinker and a Steam Ranger they encounter in prison try to reach the aperture and hopefully acquire "the Alpha and the Omega" cogs that are necessary to open the Aperture, while the Primarch and the Pastor both try to stop them, each for their own differing reasons. From time to time, we and our guide, the Lamplighter, rove about Cogtopolis as he tells us about what's going on with Shadowmass and explains the wars that ultimately led to the rise of the current religion.

There is still a hefty dose of music too and after the second listen through it became easier to take the time to enjoy each song because I was no longer impatient to know what was going to happen next in the story. The music covers a fair range of styles and approaches, often within a single track. There's more early progressive metal and even a bit more Iron Maiden-influenced playing (note: former lead vocalist, Blaze Bailey sings the sung parts of the Primarch), some more neo-prog parts like Arena and IQ or Pallas from "XXV", gentle and beautiful piano parts with strings and Hollick's soul-soothing vocals, moody and brooding parts, Renaissance, folk and Celtic leanings and even a nod to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall".

One interesting thought is all the allegory one can infer from the story. The concept of everyone being "shadowborn" and civilization having gone underground, living in darkness could be a metaphor for our "lost civilization" ruled by evil and corruption. Or the Shadow Church could be seen as the Catholic Church keeping everyone in the dark. When the Tinker calls out, "The Light shall prevail!" it seems an obvious message for humanity. And of course that the way out requires the ascension of a great ladder up to the aperture, which opens to the sun, also makes a great religious symbol. But even though there are messages that could be seen as religious messages (for or against), scientists get a barb in the side as well when the Tinker cries out, "I'm a scientist, Eve. I did it because I could!"

My final opinion, and I've truncated this review seriously, is that this is a very entertaining album with a captivating story, excellent voice actors, and some stellar music. That said, it is three discs with over 60 minutes per disc, thus making it quite a lot to listen through at once. I can get through half during my commute to work and the other half on the way home. For that reason, it is not an album I am likely to spin often. I love "The Human Equation", "The Wall" and IQ's "Subterranea" too but I don't play them often.

So, bravo to Gandalf's Fist for combining music, story-telling, and audio theater on one very impressive collection of sound. But I can see some people feeling it's a bit long and others, like me, loving it but not letting it play much because of the time required to hear the whole thing. Nevertheless, two big thumbs up!

Thanks to windhawk for the artist addition.

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