Pallas - The Cross & The Crucible

Year of Release: 2001
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 079
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:40:00

When one talks about Marillion, chances are you'll think about IQ, Pendragon and Twelfth Night in the same instance. To a much lesser extent the name of Scottish proggers Pallas will spring to mind, although they kicked off as being probably the most "prog" of the bunch, having worked with acclaimed producer Eddie Offord (Yes, ELP) on the Patrick Woodroffe packaged debut Sentinel. That was 1984. The original vocalist was replaced by Alan Reed who recorded The Wedge in 1986. Produced by Mick Glossop (UFO) the vinyl album shifted 100,000 units in Europe alone.

Although Pallas delivered the odd track for many a compilation album, it took the lads no less than thirteen years before their third album was released. That was Beat The Drum, an album containing many ideas that dated back more than a decade, yet holding that typical Pallas trademark throughout. The fire was back in the band and with loads of positive feedback and enthusiasm, the band started from scratch like a painter who has been given a blank canvas. The result is a new painting called The Cross & The Crucible, sporting nine new audio images, all based upon the history and the endeavours and fate of humankind. The band is interested in the contradictions of the human individual able to achieve wonderful things at one time, yet kill and destroy the next. The irony of religion, which first teaches things like love and peace, but which has killed millions throughout the centuries is the main theme on this brand new album.

Because Pallas is an album band they can kick off this concept album with a weird sounding track. "The Big Bang" is indeed a sound collage of noise building up the tension so as to almost explode. Fierce bass playing finally takes us out of the ambient pool in order to introduce a more rhythmic approach. The song builds and builds and by adding huge choir sounds, it forms the ideal counterpoint for some great guitarsolos. The underlying synths together with the military drum sounds turn "For The Greater Glory" into a very dramatic whole. The shouting throughout the song kind of reminds me of Pink Floyd's The Wall. Towards the end of the song the atmosphere turns towards Pendragon, what with Niall's fine guitar playing blending nicely with Ronnie's keyboards. "Who's To Blame" forms a nice resting point, being built around a fragile acoustic guitar that kind of steers the song into Moody Blues territory. "The Blinding Darkness" incorporates some ethnic rhythms, of which you can make comparisons to Peter Gabriel's earlier work.

The acoustic guitar in the opening section of "Towers Of Babble" sounds very much like Steve Howe, and to be honest, some more Yes-like ditties will emerge towards the end of this album. Real violins are added to give the song an even more original hook, whilst a choir steps in to add a certain solemn element to this great composition. The moment church organ sets in, the song itself steers towards Yes around the Going For The One period. The same kind of approach creeps into "Generations," which is clearly not sung by Alan Reed. It is very, very Yes-like where build up and arrangement is concerned. Both bass and guitar get so close to their Yes equivalent that at times you'd think Pallas has joined forces with Anderson and friends, or maybe old pal Eddie Offord gave them an old reel of unissued Yes material ?

The absolute highlight on this album certainly has to be the lengthy "Midas Touch" containing so many different atmospheres, it's as if they were different chapters in a book. When the bass guitar roars its ugly head and Niall puts some slide guitar on top, well, it's like Squire and Howe are at it again. Playful synths complement the arrangement, but suddenly it's like you're listening to the end section of "Awaken," as the breaks, the guitar, and the bass really sound like true Yes before piano and strings end this remarkable song. The album closes with a positive song in the form of "Celebration!" which once again has that thundering bass guitar as the backbone for the uptempo end conclusion. The build up here is very Genesis-like from around the Duke period, adding tubular bells towards the end in order to end in a majestic way, a well deserved ending to a milestone in the Pallas history and another proof that this band certainly deserves a second chance. Without any doubt the band's very best effort to date. Personally I'd like to see the band deliver more material like the second part of the album as to me there is a difference between the first five songs and the latter four. The final four are much more "vintage" prog sounding that the first five, but then again maybe I'm becoming too old for this game anyway?

Released in North America by InsideOut Music America (IOMACD 2024-2)

The Big Bang (3:08) / The Cross & The Crucible (9:17) / For The Greater Glory (7:37) / Who's To Blame (4:45) / The Blinding Darkness (6:41) / Towers Of Babble (8:11) / Generations (5:21) / Midas Touch (11:16) / Celebration (7:24)

Alan Reed - vocals
Niall Mathewson - guitars
Ronnie Brown - keyboards
Graeme Murray - bass
Colin Frazer - drums

Arrive Alive (1981)
The Sentinel (1984/2000)
The Knightmoves EP (1985)
The Wedge (1986/2000)
Knightmoves To Wedge (combo reissue)
Beat The Drum (1999)
Live Our Lives (2000)
The Cross And The Crucible (2001)
Blinding Darkness (2003)
The Dreams Of Men (2005)
XXV (2011)

Blinding Darkness (DVD) (2003)
Live From London (DVD) (2008)
Moment To Moment (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: June 13th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 955
Language: english


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