Review Summary: A great return of Pallas. It follows the steps of Beat The Drum.
“The Cross And The Crucible” is the fourth studio album of Pallas that was released in 2001. The line up on the album is Alan Reed, Niall Matthewson, Ronnie Brown, Graeme Murray and Colin Fraser. The album had also the participation of Gill Main, Claire Bleadsdale, Laura Sinclair, Trevor Gray, Alastair Taylor and Laura Harrow.
Pallas is a British prog rock band formed in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1975. Beginning life as Rainbow, they changed their name after Ritchie Blackmore has founded Rainbow. The band toured in the British club circuits for many years. They recorded a demo album in 1981 “Arrive Alive” with high quality. The band released their debut studio album “The Sentinel” in 1984. This was an ambitious and intricate concept album, a revival in fiction of the myth of Atlantis, which shows the group’s Marillion and Yes’ influences. In 1985 they released the EP “Knightmoves” and in 1986 their second studio album “The Wedge”. Despite of its commercial failure, Pallas remained together and after thirteen years they released their third studio album “Beat The Drum” in 1998. “Beat The Drum” was an album very well received by critics and fans which opened the door for the band to record their fourth studio album “The Cross And The Crucible” in 2001.
With “The Cross And The Crucible”, Pallas celebrate an intense prog rock music where the basis of which is initially not too quite different from the more well known big names in the neo-prog scene like Marillion, IQ or Pendragon. In addition, Pallas knows very well how to incorporate elements and styles of some other musical genres and cultures into their songs without losing the homogeneity of their overall sound. Pallas looks particularly comfortable with the use of choirs and church organs, but you can also find brass arrangements or tribal drums just as well implemented on “The Cross And The Crucible”, but always integrated into the music so discreetly and unobtrusively that everything together results in an amazing coherent whole. And subtle is also a term that can be used for the song writing on the album with emotional and beautiful vocal melodies and the song arrangements that are offered on “The Cross And The Crucible”.
The album of Pallas has nine tracks. It starts with “The Big Bang”, an introduction to the concept story, which involves something as simple and large as mankind. Unlike you would probably expect it doesn’t starts with a loud bang. It starts with choral vocal parts supported by a beautiful keyboard intro. In the title track, after a slow beginning, the band starts up-tempo with melodic guitar pieces, bombastic keyboards and a pumping rhythm section. The music is certainly more epic than on the two previous Pallas’ works. It’s more in vein of “The Sentinel”. “For The Greater Glory” is an up-tempo rock piece where the pace of song is quite low, but in the end there is again a very melodic guitar piece. It has very intelligent song writing, surprising breaks and a great vocal work of Alan Reed. “Who’s To Blame?” is a rather peaceful track, a nice mellow ballad with a catchy refrain and where the folk melodies aren’t bad. There are also some wailing female vocals in here. The music on “The Blinding Darkness Of Science” opens with cosmic keyboards with some vacant vocals with a mysterious air. It’s a good composition that sounds simple with a lot of variations and many atmospheres. “Towers Of Babble” opens with acoustic guitar. It’s followed by choral voices, in fact quite a few religious influences, but also some great vocals. It offers an incredibly fascinating atmosphere. “Generations” is a very soulful ballad. It features strumming acoustic guitar and rather naked vocals. The music then becomes more uplifting with friendly sounding keyboards. “Midas Touch” is the lengthiest track that starts with a narration. After over a minute the bass starts pounding it out, with rather dry sounding drums in the back. The song quickly develops into a very bombastic piece with strong running themes. “Celebration!” is exactly how it sounds. By the title and the beginning, you know this is going to be a happy song. For the last time we can enjoy the melodic guitars and beautiful keyboard sounds joined by the steady rhythm section. This song is like a happy ending that finishes the album in a positive note.
Conclusion: With “The Cross And The Crucible” Pallas have grown and have taken another step in their relatively “small” and “modest” career. It’s pretty obvious that the band put an awful lot of work on this album. The sound and production are great. There’s a high contrast between quiet and heavy parts, and both come out of the mix very good. Some influences are from the earlier days of prog rock and from other kinds of music. All in all, one can really speak of an all-round successful prog rock album. The band succeeded quite well in renewing and refreshing themselves, not giving us another “Beat The Drum”, not even another “The Sentinel”, but something else altogether, but keeping all the basic elements of Pallas completely intact. “The Cross And The Crucible” is a brilliant album for who like the mature modern prog rock. I can only strongly recommend this album to all those who like to get a taste of this genre of prog.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel