Review

PENDRAGON The Jewel

Album · 1985 · Non-Metal
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3.5/5 ·
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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