Scotland's Pallas were once part
of the U.K. art-rock scene of the early 80's along with Marillion,IQ,
Pendragon and Twelvth Night, and return here with one of the
top records of 2005 in the often called 'neo-prog' genre.
Four years has passed since their excellent 'Cross & The Crucible'
album from 2001, and although Pallas releases are few and
far between, it is often worth the wait.
'Dreams Of Men' continues in the
more symphonic direction they embarked on when they first
returned to active service in 1998 with their 'Beat the Drum'
album, and here they waste no time making up for lost time
with a solid- though lengthy- 70+ minutes of cinematic and
melodic rock which goes through many moods and textures ranging
from dramatic orchestral washes to heavier, almost prog-metal
guitar bite. This is modern Neo with some meat on the bones,
and though this lengthy disc is filled to the end with music,
it's solid and still merits repeat listenings. Lyrically,
'Dreams' has a loose concept about, well, the dreams of mankind-
what drives us, our hearts desires, our darkests fears and
anxieties. Cheery stuff, I know, and occasionally preachy,
but the songs stand alone, so any linking thread can be irrelevant.
The album starts off powerful, but
the best material is towards the end. The line-up remains
the same as ever: guitarist Niall Mathewson, keyboardist Ronnie
Brown, drummer Colin Fraser, Graeme Murray playing some fine
Chris Squire-esque bass and of course vocalist Alan Reed.
The artwork is excellent, though that one band photo is a
THE BRINGER OF DREAMS:
An orchestral intro opens the circus
of dreams, finally breaking through with powerful guitar,
and drags you through ten minutes of prime Pallas. All the
trademarks of their last album 'Cross & The Crucible' come
to the table here, a solid opener and a good taster for what
both this album and Pallas are about.
Rush-like guitar opens this rocker
about the dreams of the fanatical 'holy warrior', the type
who would, say, ram a hijacked plane into a building of innocents
who never saw it coming. A more guitar-driven track.
a violin opens this sombre track
about the New World told from the point of view of first the
immigrant and later, the Native American. With guest violin,
some of this track has a distinct sound of American proggers
Kansas. Powerful lyrics, though the chanting and gunshot sound
at the end may have been an overdone cliche.
TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN:
This one is a progressive rock
lover's dream, going through some tasty instrumental flavors
and changes. Special mention must go to the nice Emerson-style
synthesizer bits from Ronnie Brown. I gather this song is
about our natural flair for going too far in pursuit of our
dreams and the inevitable consequences. 'Don't fly too close,
the wax may melt'.
A shorter and almost funky rock
track similar to an earlier Pallas track called
'Dinosaur'. Murray's bass also reminds me of 'The Messenger'
from Yes' 1999 album 'The Ladder'. I hear some Squire in there.
I think this track is a dig at George Bush. There's guest
female vocals at the end too.
a beautiful instrumental with nice
guitar and atmospheric keyboards. Being an often vocal/lyric-oriented
genre, there are precious few neo-prog instrumental moments,
with the exception of some Pendragon and early IQ material.
This is a reflective calm from the stormy songs around it,
and a pleasant track indeed. No words are needed to convey
that this track is meant to be about your(you the listener)own
dreams and desires. When you wish upon a star...
another shorter track(six minutes
is short for Pallas)with a somewhat Gothic feel with use of
some organ. This is probably about the selfishness of those
whose dreams are material gains at the expense of others.
This theme moves into the next track as well.
the last two tracks on this album
are astounding. This one is the longest and most involved
track, separated into 'movements', and going through many
dramatic sections. The sound of a machine-like percussion
pattern repeats its way around Alan Reed declaring 'It's my
life, and YOU CAN'T HAVE IT!'. This is not too unlike something
from IQ's 'Seventh House' in places. Basically this one's
about how we're all expected to be numbers, living robotic
lives endlessly working and pumping money into our credit
cards while chasing unattainable goals and going along with
whatever corporations feed us. Yet invincible if we dare to
THE LAST ANGEL:
an emotional anthem closes this
disc, one with all the trademarks of some of the best melodic
Neo elements. It starts as a mellow almost Peter Gabriel-like
slow theme(think Biko, but that's stretching it), and goes
through a Hackett-like guitar bit, an Arena-like dark section,
and a powerful anthemic close with additional female vocals.
A powerful closer, play this one loud. I believe this may
be about an Angel who comes to help mankind, only to find
nothing worth saving. However this album is worth saving for
your collection, and stands with Arena's 'Pepper's Ghost',
Pendragon's 'Believe' and Kino's 'Picture' as best Neo albums
of 2005. Also- the 'special edition' comes with a second disc,
also stuffed to the guts with 70+ minutes of music, which
features remixes of some album tracks, instrumental tracks(very
tasty) and another version of 'Fragments Of The Sun' from
the 'Beat The Drum' album. Of course get the two disc version