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(73:00; Gandalf's Fist)
I missed out on the early Gandalf’s Fist albums – one day I will make the effort and get hold of them – but when I came across 2016’s ‘The Clockwork Fable’ I was just blown away, and there is no doubt it is one of the most impressive progressive albums released in the last decade – a perfect blend of storytelling and wonderful music. Since then, I have kept an eye out for their releases, and am now listening to their latest, 2022’s ‘Widdershins’. They are firmly set as a six-piece with newest recruits, keyboard player Ben Bell and singer Keri Farish who joined for 2019’s ‘The Clockwork Prologue’, both contributing to the writing, while the rest of the line-up is still multi-instrumentalist Dean Marsh, singer Luke Severn, bassist Chris Ewen and drummer Stefan Hepe. The music is complex, bringing in elements from different areas, so one never knows where it is going to lead, but it is likely to be unexpected and always a lot of fun. Some prog seems almost lightweight and transparent, but this is deep and weighty, with a lead singer who provides plenty of drama as she lives the story she is singing. Ben is happy playing piano or synths, but he also has a great touch on Hammond, and it is when that is to the fore that they are at their most Uriah Heep, but there is also plenty of folk and 70’s prog, while the layerings and arrangements are massively complicated. This really does feel like music from a bygone age as the care and time which has gone into it is substantial. This is not quick throwaway music, but something which has been crafted and nurtured, honed and polished until there is nothing else which can be done as it shines brightly in the darkness. We have loads of dramatic contrast, multiple singers as both Dean and Luke also take lead roles at times which given the dexterity of Keri shows the depth they have at their command, so much so that Tim “Ripper” Owens is involved in opener “Sacrament” but only on additional vocals, not lead. As with the other albums of theirs I have heard, there is a great deal to take in, and one only gets the full beauty and depth of this on the fourth or fifth time of playing, after which it happily stays on the player as it is packed so full of drama and presence. Yet again Gandalf’s Fist have produced an album which is absolutely essential for those who enjoy their prog to be meaty and bold, never settling in one direction or form, but going where the story leads, never holding back or being constrained in any way.
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