Exposé Online banner

Pendragon — The Masquerade Overture
(Snapper Music SDPCD185, 1996/2005, CD)

by Mike Ezzo, 1996-08-01:

The Masquerade Overture Cover art

Unlike Marillion, Pendragon have had to slog it out arduously throughout their career in order to achieve their level of success. The latest offering is an ambitious project to say the least. And if you miss the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style of cover art that once graced Marillion albums, that's here too! A double-CD package, this release consists of the album proper on disc one, plus an extra disc of new material, limited to the first pressing. As goes this pressing , so goes the bonus disc. Arrangement-wise Pendragon puts more of their emphasis on the lyrics and vocal delivery than on instrumental flights of fancy. The songs are structured rather basically nowadays, but their playing is a lot stronger, and does allow for some short solo sections where Clive Nolan gets to show his synth work. But he tends to stick to the same few patterns. This band captures quite deftly the late 70s sound of Genesis (circa And Then There Were Three) and some of Pink Floyd's sound on The Wall. Nick Barrett certainly contributes to this with his very fine Gilmour-esque guitar playing; I wish they'd give him more room to stretch out. What really separates Pendragon from others of their ilk though, is Nick's voice, and his penchant for constructing those kinds of memorable, reach-for-the-stars melodies, and robust arrangements. Fans will be happy to know that they have made little concession to commerciality here, though "As Good as Gold" is as accessible as one can get and still avert the inevitable tomatoes labeled 'commercial' being hurled at you. The bonus disc gives you some single remixes, plus three more tracks including the twelve-minute "Master of Illusion." This material doesn't pack much in the way of surprises. Rather it is largely more of the same as was presented on disc one.


by Steve Robey, 1996-08-01:

Pendragon's new release, The Masquerade Overture, further proves that this band is one of the better proponents of neo-progressive rock. Not because of any great originality, but because of their sincerity and trueness to timeless styles. Masquerade Overture is full of references to Duke-era Genesis, Marillion, and even ELP. I have heard a few Pendragon songs in the past, and was impressed by the way they took chances with tricky arrangements. This new album has all that and more, with a couple of catchy potential singles to frame the album. "As Good as Gold" is a memorable song that is deceptively simple, but quite impressive musically. It's at least as good as anything Marillion has done in the last six years. That says a lot. While the sound is primarily keyboard-based, Pendragon also possesses a fine guitarist in the Steve Rothery style, and an excellent vocalist. Just witness the drama of "Guardian of My Soul" for proof of this. Unlike many neo-prog bands I have heard, this band effectively evokes the theatrical intensity of Genesis and Marillion, while steering clear of direct copying of their styles. Limited editions of the CD were released with a bonus disc, featuring edited versions of "As Good as Gold" and "Masters of Illusion," two potential singles. However, the bonus disc also includes the moody "Schizo," which is in a quite different style from the album, and is actually one of my favorites. Recommended highly. Try to get the bonus disc if you can.


by Jeff Melton, 1996-08-01:

For 15 years Pendragon has been a fixture on the English progressive scene. They've got solid support from a devoted European fan base, consistent albums, and a refined sound. They've got power chords and major key signatures in 4/4 time. All this sound familiar? Nick Barrett is the key songwriter who demonstrates a keen ability to create a formulaic style based on one of the "standard" progressive rock formats — typical vocal lines, piercing lead guitars, dramatic keyboards, and thunderous drums. Ho hum. Sounds like almost every prog hook, theme and coda have been incorporated into Nick's songs. It's no big challenge to figure out which classic prog track has been nicked, diffused and incorporated into an all-too-familiar "new" piece of music. This may be okay — I'm still undecided at this point. Their new effort has managed to garner the same kind of support in the U.S. as some of their contemporaries (e.g. IQ or Jadis). It may also be less cliché than their last few releases, but there are no new tracks of the caliber of "Alaska" and "The Black Knight" from The Jewel. Are there any new surprises for fans? Not per se. More of the same unadventurous approach, which could be considered good since they do have their own style down pat. Do I dare call them the Journey of prog rock? The lead-off track "As Good as Gold," with its cliché rock lyrics, could have been big 20 years ago. And its intro choir: yikes! Am I at a high mass or what? That part could scare people into lunging for the fast-forward button. In my opinion the most memorable things are the album artwork and impressive packaging. Early releases of the album come with an additional bonus disc that contains four tracks.


Filed under: Reissues , Issue 10 , 2005 releases, 1996 releases

Related artist(s): Pendragon, Clive Nolan, Tracy Hitchings

More info

Latest news

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Deus Ex Machina - Deus Ex Machina – Stylistically, Deus Ex Machina is very unique and not without their share of quirkiness and idiosyncracies. Some moments remind me of a heavier Gentle Giant, others make me think of both Camel and...  (1994) » Read more

Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa – It’s been amusing to read the attempts of reviewers in the alternative / independent press to write about this album. They find the music so strange that they have difficulty describing it, even...  (2006) » Read more

Kansas - Kansas & Song for America – The first two Kansas albums contain some of the group's best material and show a band on the way up in their formative years. Commercial success for the band would not arrive until two albums...  (2004) » Read more

Pierrot Lunaire - Gudrun – Of the avant-progressive scene in Italy – i.e. Opus Avantra, Alfredo Tisocco, Franco Battiato and many others – Pierrot Lunaire's second has to rate as one of the very best. It's...  (1995) » Read more

Nurse with Wound - Rock n Roll Station – Somewhere within the seven pieces that comprise Rock ‘n’ Roll Station a sadly conformist aesthetic emerges, apparently in conformity with its own tradition of non-conformity. The main...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues