Pallas - The Sentinel

Year of Release: 1984
Label: EMI/Harvest
Catalog Number: EMI ST-12350
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:00:00

Pallas' The Sentinel will see a re-release later this year on CD, with extra tracks not included on the vinyl version. This review is, however, based on that vinyl version.

In listening to this after quite awhile, there's more I'm noticing than when I first bought this about seven years ago (second hand and at a steal). The way I hear this, Pallas has a sound closer to Saga than, say, Marillion. There are some elements that are Marillion-esque - neo-prog-esque. Mainly this is in the keys, making you think of Script-era Marillion. But, for the most part, it is similiar in vein to Saga.

But, focusing away from that, this has a bit more punch than typical neo. The drums are quite boomy - far from being metal, but quite boomy nonetheless. "Cut And Run" ends in epic neo fashion - classically - keyboards and guitars up front.

The Sentinel is a concept album that touches upon many common wartime themes - the hero returning to a changed homeland being but one of them. Given the timing of it's release, 1984, the parallels could very well be the Falkland's War, the Iran/Iraq war ... or going further back to World War II. All of these perhaps. There may even be some additional subtexts I'm not aware of.

Regardless, war is the catalyst for the story told in this sonic tapestry. The album cover is a facinating piece of art in and of itself - a melding of Roger Dean, Michael Whelan, and Norman Rockwell (more of the first, less of the last). But for the larger size of the album jacket and the smaller size of my scanner, I would have reproduced the cover for this review. However, I am diverting you to a page on Pallas' website where you can get some idea of what it looks like. [Of course, now we have a scan of it, thanks to Bobo - ed.] The image reproduced there is a bit over-exposed (and a word of visual warning, the colors used on this site are very, very bright - imagine that dreadful neon paper), but you can see that it was quite a package. A gatefold cover, lyrics inside. [Pallas' site has since changed, and evolved over the years, so that colour warning is now moot -ed.]

Not to focus to much attention on the cover - it's the music I'm reviewing, after all - but the art evokes for me a combination (thematically) of Jules Verne and a futuristic Mark Twain. You get a sense of movement, of a journey.

And, indeed, a journey is going on here; just one more texture to the tapestry. A journey that leads to "Atlantis" ... or an Atlantis at the very least. The album contains a complex narrative, that touches upon many themes: estrangement, paranoia, distrust, determination, hope ... others I've not named.

The closing section of "Rise and Fall" is particularly effective, both with keyboard textures (Ronnie Brown) and the guitar solo that ends the track (Niall Matheson).

"Shock Treatment" made me think of Egdon Heath, though Pallas predates them by at least five years. The bass is up front, and if it were a bit crunchier (so to speak), it would fit right in as a prog metal track. There's an element here, too, of Pink Floyd, a heavy, bottom end sound - Dark Side... era or so.

As is my wont, there is a great temptation to step through each of the story elements, to examine and comment on them, draw the parallels, etc. While I won't go any deeper than I have already done so, I will say that, at least thematically, this album becomes richer and richer the more it is explored. While to me is a hallmark of good progressive music. While average pop music can be "got" in a minute, on a first listening, there is an element to progressive music (vocal and instrumental) that draws one back to explore a little more, a little deeper, to read between the lines...

On that basis, and more, this is a really good album, not great, as there are production issues (vocals mixed a little low, most noticable on the closer "Atlantis"), but well worth seeking out when the re-release is issued. Whether those production issues will become moot with the CD edition, only time will tell.

Eyes In The Night (Arrive Alive) / Cut and Run / Rise and Fall / Shock Treatment / Ark of Infinity / Atlantis

Euan Lowson - lead and backing vocals
Graham Murray - bass, guitar, vocals, and backing vocals
Ronnie Brown - synthesizers, piano, and backing vocals
Niall Mathewson - guitars, synthesizer, e-bow, and backing vocals
Derek Forman - drums, percussion and backing vocals

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: October 18th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1310
Language: english


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