PENDRAGON

Non-Metal / Metal Related • United Kingdom
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Pendragon is a progressive rock band formed in 1978 in Stroud, Gloucestershire under the name Zeus Pendragon, but they shortened it to 'Pendragon' soon after.

Their early style was mostly progressive rock combined with pop and classical influences, but once they released the album 'Pure' in 2008 they switched to a more progressive metal style.

They have released 7 studio albums with their early prog style and 2 studio albums with a prog metal twinged sound.

Their latest album, MEN WHO CLIMB MOUNTAINS, was released in 2014. It follows a mellower sound unlike the two heavier preceding albums.

(Biography written by Unitron on August 12th 2014)
Thanks to Unitron for the addition and VerticalUprising, adg211288 for the updates

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PENDRAGON Discography

PENDRAGON albums / top albums

PENDRAGON The Jewel album cover 3.21 | 4 ratings
The Jewel
Non-Metal 1985
PENDRAGON Kowtow album cover 2.08 | 4 ratings
Kowtow
Non-Metal 1988
PENDRAGON The World album cover 3.82 | 6 ratings
The World
Non-Metal 1991
PENDRAGON The Window of Life album cover 4.25 | 6 ratings
The Window of Life
Non-Metal 1993
PENDRAGON The Masquerade Overture album cover 4.22 | 5 ratings
The Masquerade Overture
Non-Metal 1996
PENDRAGON Not of This World album cover 3.62 | 4 ratings
Not of This World
Non-Metal 2001
PENDRAGON Believe album cover 3.44 | 5 ratings
Believe
Non-Metal 2005
PENDRAGON Pure album cover 4.25 | 6 ratings
Pure
Metal Related 2008
PENDRAGON Passion album cover 3.80 | 6 ratings
Passion
Metal Related 2011
PENDRAGON Men Who Climb Mountains album cover 3.56 | 4 ratings
Men Who Climb Mountains
Non-Metal 2014

PENDRAGON EPs & splits

PENDRAGON Fly High Fall Far album cover 2.50 | 2 ratings
Fly High Fall Far
Non-Metal 1984
PENDRAGON Red Shoes album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Red Shoes
Non-Metal 1987
PENDRAGON Saved by You album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Saved by You
Non-Metal 1991
PENDRAGON Nostradamus album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Nostradamus
Non-Metal 1993
PENDRAGON Fallen Dreams and Angels album cover 4.17 | 2 ratings
Fallen Dreams and Angels
Non-Metal 1994
PENDRAGON As Good As Gold album cover 3.75 | 2 ratings
As Good As Gold
Non-Metal 1996

PENDRAGON live albums

PENDRAGON 9:15 Live album cover 3.00 | 2 ratings
9:15 Live
Non-Metal 1986
PENDRAGON Utrecht ...The Final Frontier album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Utrecht ...The Final Frontier
Non-Metal 1995
PENDRAGON Live In Krakow 1996 album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Live In Krakow 1996
Non-Metal 1997
PENDRAGON Acoustically Challenged album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Acoustically Challenged
Non-Metal 2002
PENDRAGON Liveosity album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Liveosity
Non-Metal 2004
PENDRAGON Concerto Maximo album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Concerto Maximo
Metal Related 2009
PENDRAGON Out of Order Comes Chaos album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Out of Order Comes Chaos
Metal Related 2013

PENDRAGON demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

PENDRAGON re-issues & compilations

PENDRAGON The Rest of Pendragon album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Rest of Pendragon
Non-Metal 1991
PENDRAGON 1984-96 Overture album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
1984-96 Overture
Non-Metal 1998
PENDRAGON Once Upon A Time In England Volume 1 album cover 3.33 | 2 ratings
Once Upon A Time In England Volume 1
Non-Metal 1999
PENDRAGON Once Upon A Time In England Volume 2 album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Once Upon A Time In England Volume 2
Non-Metal 1999
PENDRAGON The History 1984-2000 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The History 1984-2000
Non-Metal 2000
PENDRAGON Introducing Pendragon album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Introducing Pendragon
Metal Related 2013

PENDRAGON singles (0)

PENDRAGON movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
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Live At Last ... And More
Non-Metal 2002
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And Now Everybody To The Stage
Non-Metal 2006
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Past And Presence
Non-Metal 2007
.. Album Cover
5.00 | 1 ratings
Concerto Maximo
Metal Related 2009
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Out of Order Comes Chaos
Metal Related 2012

PENDRAGON Reviews

PENDRAGON The Window of Life

Album · 1993 · Non-Metal
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Once PENDRAGON moved on from the train wreck that they released in the form of “Kowtow,” the band developed into a neo-prog powerhouse and released some of the best albums of the genre in the 90s starting with “The World.” With the stable lineup of Nick Barrett (guitars, vocals), Clive Nolan (keyboards), Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (yep, a drummer named Fudgie!), PENDRAGON continued to exhibit a compositional maturity only matched by bands like IQ and Nolan’s other gig, Arena.

With THE WINDOW OF LIFE, PENDRAGON crafted six strong tracks that found the band’s instrumental interplay blossoming on a whole new level. Recorded at the band’s new 24 track studio, it really sounds like the musicians took their sweet time in composing the best melodic emotional displays of neo-prog prowess that they could muster up and when the album hit the market in November of 1993, the band found a surge in its popularity and has remained one of the top dogs in the neo-prog world ever since. (Reissues have four extra bonus tracks which are weak and forgettable.)

The album immediately starts out bursting with confidence as a four minute bombastic organ run augmented by a very Pink Floydian guitar solo slowly ratchets up the tension before the vocals kick in along with the walls of atmospheric synth sounds, a bleating bass and drums. The band also began to develop the modern neo-prog staple of ratcheting up the dynamics ever so gently until crescendoing in heavily distorted rock guitar bombast and cyclical looped melodic riffs that offer subtle variations complete with various guitar antics to add some spice. True a Marillion classic sound but PENDRAGON was exploring the nooks and crannies and filling the cracks with various tones and timbres.

“Ghosts” displays Clive Nolan’s keyboard techniques as he adds various timbres through the piano and other keyboard sounds. The track is more of an instant emotional connection as the intro is less dynamic and the focus is on the lyrical delivery which finds Nick Barrett’s vocal performances in top form. Less prominent is drummer Fudge Smith’s excellent and tasteful drum fills as his role is subdued by the overpowering melodic harmonies and thematic presentations but still vital for the overall dynamism of THE WINDOW OF LIFE. While much of neo-prog could be considered nothing more than progressive ballads or sophisticated AOR a lot of the time, “Breaking The Spell” is clearly the most mellow track on board with a soft introduction and a slow ratcheting up effect that slinks over the nine minute mark but never breaks mid-tempo at best.

“The Last Man On Earth” is my personal fave. It nearly hits the 15 minute mark and has some of the best melodies, most outstanding twists and turns and maintains its emotional tug throughout its run and best of all never wears out its welcome. Roughly speaking, it changes gear every couple of minutes and offers new variation on old themes. Careful listening will reveal how clever these guys are at the subtle differences that affect the emotional center in subliminal delivers. It has one of the most unique parts of the album with guest musician Simon Forster delivering a wild harmonica performance with what sounds like a banjo accompaniment towards the end.

“Nostradamus (Stargazing)” has another Floydian intro at least as far as the sonic textures and slow spacey effects are concerned but sounds very different as far as the riffs and keyboard mixes are concerned. This one was a favorite as an opener for live shows at the time. While mostly a ballad, the album turns into a veritable rocker towards the end and reminds a lot of the Fish era Marillion rockers at their best with lots of key changes and that distinct bouncy bass groove. The album closes with “Am I Really Losing You?” which as expected is a tear jerking ballad which is soft and tinny and my least favorite track on the album as it is just too cliche for its own good but also thankfully the shortest track and forgettable.

In summary, THE WINDOW OF LIFE delivers all the neo-prog goods with an excellent band back on track and on the right course to deliver a few more excellent albums that follow. Only the last track rubs me the wrong way as it’s just too sappy and predictable but the rest of the album is chock full of beautiful melodies crafted by the beautiful entwinement of instrumental harmonies that result in a beautiful display of atmospheric progressive rock in all its glory. After hearing THE WINDOW OF LIFE, it’s quite obvious as to why PENDRAGON began to stand out of the neo-prog pack that was getting bigger by the day. Despite all the excellent tracks, they flow together so well and each has its own distinct personality. Personally i’m not sure if this one or the following “The Masquerade Overture” is my favorite of the PENDRAGON lot but all i can say is that for anyone who loves the progressive space pop sounds of neo-prog can’t go wrong with this beautiful specimen of the genre.

PENDRAGON The World

Album · 1991 · Non-Metal
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After the train wreck that resulted from the ill fated commercial nonsense attempted on “Kowtow,” PENDRAGON learned the lessons of straying too far from its neo-prog aspirations and bounced back pretending as if the previous album was nothing more than a very bad dream. While the usual neo-prog cheese is displayed in full progressive pop splendor, the band was looking more towards “Wind & Wuthering” era Genesis and 80s Marillion for their return to the progressive rock universe and in the process launched themselves into the spotlight as one of the best neo-prog bands to sail through the 90s and into the 21st century.

PENDRAGON’s third album THE WORLD redefined the quartet of Nick Barrett (guitars, vocals), Clive Nolan (keyboards), Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (drums) de-cheesifying from what many consider the awful 80s (in terms of progressive rock) and allowed them to join the new renaissance of prog with the band’s first 90s offering. Before the world of neo-prog adopted a more hardened exterior by adopting metal guitar riffs and a more bombastic approach, the style went through its fluffy bunny and unicorn stage as evidenced on THE WORLD’s fantastical album cover art. With a penchant for the late 70s symphonic prog sound, the style was evolving slowly into its own and PENDRAGON was along for the ride.

“Back In The Spotlight” exudes a rather 80s feel with U2 styled jangled guitar riffs as made famous by The Edge and a Peter Gabriel type of melodic drive similar to early tracks like “Salisbury Hill” but subtly recycled throughout his career. The keyboards generate an atmospheric resonance that extend into the entire near hour playing time and the vocals of Nick Barrett propelled PENDRAGON into the forefront of the neo-prog scene which would continue with a series of strong albums. “The Voyager” is the epic track of the album and dips past the 12 minute mark. It’s here where PENDRAGON really blooms into a veritable neo-prog band. The composition takes on meany meandering fantasy fueled themes with Steve Hackett inspired soaring guitar work, emotional tugs in the form of nebulous visions of ocean dreamers and playing dolphins and a strong sense of compositional fortitude that builds up the intensity.

“Shane” delivers a more space rock vibe from the Pink Floyd playbook whereas “Prayer” is a piano driven tune that brings classic 70s Supertramp to mind complete with military drum marches and a folky flavor. “Queen of Hearts” while technically three tracks is basically a three part suite and the result of various song ideas being stitched together into a more cohesive whole and perhaps the most 80s Marillion sounding track of the album although Marillion were clearly one of the major influences as was most neo-prog of this era. The rest of the album follows suit with similar tracks taking the usual neo-prog twists and turns however different guitar riffs and the mixing it up of Floydian space rock with Mariliion and Genesis inspired symphonic elements keeps it from becoming monotonous.

While i wouldn’t call THE WORLD the defining moment of PENDRAGON it’s certainly no slouch. That is if you can stomach the somewhat cheesified hangover from the 80s only crafted into a more palatable 90s approach. Neo-prog by definition exudes a strong connection to pop music and in that regard THE WORLD succeeds in crafting instantly cute and cuddly melodies that grab you by the hand and take you to that world where nothing bad is lurking in the shadows. While i find the albums that follow to be of better quality, THE WORLD dishes out an album’s worth of strong tunes that while not revolutionary in any particular way sure don’t disappoint in the presentation of the classic neo-prog sound. As with any examples of this style of prog, if the vocalist doesn’t cut the mustard then the experience will fail miserable but Barrett does an excellent job at crafting the nice vocal subtleties that make this album work for me.

PENDRAGON Kowtow

Album · 1988 · Non-Metal
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While PENDRAGON’s debut album may have landed without crashing, it didn’t exactly land on two feet as it was a mix of AOR dross cross-pollinated with high class Marillion inspired 80s neo-prog. The sophomore effort which came out three years later in 1988 found the band completely wiping out altogether. Despite the band starting to gain some momentum with the neo-prog sounds that would emerge in the 90s on the debut, on KOWTOW the band made a complete retrograde and in the process dumped its weakest albums of its career much less the neo-prog universe in general. This was the first album to see the debut of keyboardist Clive Nolan who had only worked with a band called The Cast at this point and while Nolan has been one of the bigwigs in the world of symphonic prog ever since, on this debut one could hardly guess that fact in any way, shape or form.

Not only did Nolan replace keyboardist Rik Carter but Nigel Harris was also replaced by percussionist Fudge Smith who would also stick around for the next eighteen years up until 2006. Pretty much considered PENDRAGON’s absolute worst effort, KOWTOW went off the rails and created the ultimately bad AOR infused album with only a few progressive moments. While everyone knows neo-prog is in the pop oriented sector of the prog supermarket, KOWTOW takes things to the ultimate extreme and dishes out a bunch of sappy overweening tracks that fail to take into account that good AOR music requires two vital elements. Number one: catchy well crafted pop hooks which are woefully missing from every track included here and number two: a competent vocalist that can focus the attention on the lyrical content. Neither are present here and while Nick Barrett would improve his vocal talents, here he falls woefully flat.

While the album is primarily a batch of irritating crappy pop tracks that are rich in tinny keyboard sounds and lifeless drum programming, the album’s saving grace is the decent but yet unremarkable “The Haunting” which hints at the more sophisticated epic themes that would emerge on the next album “The World.” There are also the occasional jazzy touches (by session musicians) with on “I Walk The Rope” and “2 AM” that unfortunately remind me more of Kenny G than Miles Davis. Barrett’s vocals have a very strange quality of sounding like a mix between a less talented Geddy Lee mixed with the Clash’s Joe Strummer at times and at other times hint at achieving some sort of deliverable goods but doesn’t quite cut the mustard leaving behind an unfulfilled promise where all the proper fluffing was delivered but no climactic resolution.

There are only so many ways to express how bad an album is. While i can understand why neo-proggers would want to craft some commercial success after once great legendary prog bands like Yes and Genesis were tearing up the pop charts and supergroups like Asia were raking in the bucks off their popification of prog, someone forgot to explain to PENDRAGON at this point that the songs would have to be irresistibly infectious and in the case of KOWTOW it is exactly the opposite. This is a difficult listen and i’m a very tolerant music lover to be fair. While i try to find any redeeming value in any given album i experience, KOWTOW is truly one of those absolute worst of the worst and a true burden to sit through for this review. Soulless and as plastic as Barbie’s bosom, KOWTOW is as bottom of the barrel as any album with the prog tag could possibly sink. To be avoided at all cost and a useful torture device for your enemies. Their heads will explode like the aliens on the movie “Mars Attacks!”

PENDRAGON The Jewel

Album · 1985 · Non-Metal
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Amongst the bands that kept progressive rock on life support in the 80s, only Marillion gained superstardom and achieved arena live setting status but there were quite a few other bands that came and went without much fanfare. Included on a different list is the band PENDRAGON who came but never went away and in the process found relative success in the 80s neo-prog boom along with other bands such as Pallas, Solstice and Twelfth Night. The band actually was formed all the way back in 1978 by vocalist and guitarist Nick Barrett but soon joined by bassist Peter Gee. The two have been the only constant members since the band’s inception when it was called Zeus Pendragon. The Zeus part was quickly dropped.

The band went through several lineup changes and released a few EPs before crafting the debut album THE JEWEL which is the only album not to feature long time keyboardist Clive Nolan. At this early stage that task was performed by Rik Carter who was actually the second keyboardist after John Barnfield. The band was completed with drummer Nigel Harris who himself would soon be replaced after this album. While many neo-prog artists in the mid-80s were starting to differentiate, PENDRAGON followed the playbook of imitating Fish-era Marillion, the symphonic prog of 70s Genesis as well as the space rock of 70s Pink Floyd although like many contemporaries traded in the Moogs and mellotrons for digital 80s synthesizers that gave many of these bands a clear connection to the era.

THE JEWEL is the typical neo-prog album of the 80s that implemented the dramatic emotional lyrical outpouring with heavy keyboard-laden arrangements that ran the gamut from the cheesy AOR pop opener “Higher Circles” to the more fully gestated multi-suite prog gem “Alaska.” Despite a fairly consistent set of tracks that display the bands talents and showcase a somewhat gentler approach than the bombastic theatrical nature of Marillion, THE JEWEL unfortunately suffers from an extra weak production and if you ask me, nothing sounds worse than the one two punch of cheesy synth sounds of the 80s with a lackluster production job, however not all is lost as the compositions keep an even keel pace that allows the emotional connection to remain despite the flaws on board.

While not exactly excelling as they would with their 90s works, PENDRAGON became one of the more active bands which led them into the next chapter of the progressive rock revival that began in the 90s and in many ways the most familiar neo-prog sounds of that era resemble what PENDRAGON was doing at this moment rather than the idiosyncratic style of Marillion. While a pleasant experience of early neo-prog, i wouldn’t call THE JEWEL an absolutely essential piece of its history at least for a top dog in the quality department. While historically important for its role in defining the sub-genre as it evolved, THE JEWEL basically comes off as a typical example of 80s synth-laden progressive rock with a firm connection to the AOR melodic rock scene that was all the rage at the time.

Nothing is particularly bad here. Barrett’s vocals are in top form. The melodic guitar solos the same and the compositions are well done as well however neo-prog is a style of music that requires a decent production job and in the case of THE JEWEL even the 2005 remastered versions can’t quite make it sound complete, however definitely not a bad beginning and one that should be explored if you have any interest in PENDRAGON’s early origins that allowed them to garner enough clout to continue on as one of neo-prog’s most successful artists. The album was originally recorded at Soundmill Studios and Cloud Nine Studios in 1984-85 and then remastered at Thin Ice Studios in 2005 but in this case everyone failed in that department. So a crown JEWEL? Not really but one that was dug up and needs a little TLC to make it shine.

PENDRAGON The Jewel

Album · 1985 · Non-Metal
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Modrigue
A semi-precious neo-prog gemstone

With MARILLION's (overrated) "Misplaced Childhood" and IQ's "The Wake", 1985 was definitely important for the development of the neo-progressive genre. Nonetheless, considering the same year, my preference goes to the lesser-known rocking PENDRAGON's debut album. Why? Because, despite shorter compositions, this was one of the most original opus in the genre at the time, different than the two aforementioned bands, still inspired by GENESIS, and more epic than PALLAS' "The Sentinel". In fact, the genuine influence of "The Jewel" may be SAGA.

The two first songs are however not the best choices for a beginning. "Higher Circles" seems inspired by STYX, but is a little cheesy. "The Pleasure of Hope" is slightly better, even if its melody remains average. Don't leave now, the real adventure starts now with the fantasy rock "Leviathan" and its enchanting keyboards. The opening of "Alaska" may sound a bit floydian, but then become more melancholic and typically neo-prog-esque with its nervous synthesizer and guitar soli. This rocks!

"Circus" is also quite lively and possesses an enjoyable new-wave feel, a groovy bass, and other elements showing the band's various inspirations. The journey continues with the very nice "Oh Divineo", a piece alternating calm, playful and bravery. Nonetheless, the jewel of the album is clearly the mini-epic "The Black Knight". Longest composition, a true musical fairytale, and one of the best creations of the neo-prog genre! Released as a single one year before, the hard rocking heroic "Fly High Fall Far" is really powerful! Unfortunately, this deluge of epicness is stopped by "Victims of Life", also released in 1984, but a little uneven and hard to follow.

Whereas MARILLION and IQ were merging the style of the 70's prog ancients - such as GENESIS and PINK FLOYD - into the musical landscape of the 80's, which was also pleasant, I personally find that PENDRAGON took the reverse approach by painting the catchy sharp rock of the eighties with progressive colors. For sure, it contains a few moments influenced by the Gabriel-era of you-know-you, but this not the musicians' primary intention. Here you hold a refreshing neo-prog disc full of knights and legends! Not a surprise for a band whose name is Pendragon. The only thing you have to do is to cut the beginning and the ending...

Despite its typically 80's sonorities sounding a bit dated, "The Jewel" is one of the best PENDRAGON releases, more inspired than the commercial-oriented "Kowtow" and than their soapy FLOYD-inspired efforts of the 90's. One of the rock-iest albums of the neo-progressive genre!

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