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Gandalf's Fist - 'The Clockwork Prologue' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/9a/c3/76/gandalfs-fist-the-clockwork-prologue-78-1565357253.jpg Hot

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A hugely rewarding experience.

Released some three years ago, 'The Clockwork Fable' was a landmark offering from UK Prog masters Gandalf's Fist. Unquestionably a band who are always keen to weave deeply complex conceptual creations into their rich musical frameworks, they took the risk of recording a three-disc album that was part Prog workout and part radio play. Set deep underground in Cogtopolis after the human race had been forced below the planet's surface due to the apparent destruction of what lay above, it was my own personal favourite release of 2016 and widely acclaimed as something of a masterpiece. However, the question I asked at its conclusion was where could Gandalf's Fist go from there?

We now have the answer; it's back to Cogtopolis and back in time with the 'Clockwork Prologue'. Combining some tracks that couldn't be fitted into the aforementioned fable with brand-new compositions, we yet again are spoiled by a full and fantastic cast that take on the roles of the characters we meet. Star billing again goes to Mark Benton – currently of 'Shakespeare & Hathaway – Private Investigators' fame on the BBC – with the equally talented Bill Fellows, Paul Kavanagh, Tim Munro and Alicia Marsh also taking on key roles alongside Gandalf's singer Keri Farish and bassist Chris Ewan.

With the theme of the first release being the fight of The Primarch to keep his subjugated population underground and under his control as The Tinker, accompanied by his mechanical son, strove to convince everyone that they should head to the surface once more due to the slowing of "The Cog", we now head deeper into the tale. The band are describing it as an "expansion pack" which any gamer will tell you is an extension to the established world that works within the framework already laid down.

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This time we find ourselves in the 'Hall Of The Badger King', taking a trip via 'A Shortcut Across A Deranged Steam Conveyor' and in the company of 'The Clokkemaker'. Through its very nature, the second trip into this "Steam Punk world" isn't quite as tight in terms of story as that which came before. However, across this double-disc affair we are still taken on a voyage of intrigue, danger, excitement and no little humour, replete with underground Zeppelins, bassoon exhausts and that ancient misunderstood relic... couscous... yuck!

Of course, none of this would matter if the music wasn't up to snuff, but whether encountering the languid surge of 'The Waxwork Downs', the grandiose Uriah-Heep-meets-Iron-Maiden-styled 'Leader Of Men', the more Saracen-like 'Wardens' or the glorious Folk Prog workout that is 'Supplies For The Festivities', there's not a cog that isn't turning perfectly. In fact, now expanded to a six-piece of Farish, Ewan, Luke Severn (vocals), Stefan Hepe (drums), Ben Bell (keys) and Dean Marsh (guitar/vocals/synths), the Fist have never sounded better.

If you've already plunged into the depths of Cogtopolis with 'The Clockwork Fable', then a return trip for 'The Clockwork Prologue' is something not to be missed. However, if you haven't previously been under the evil tyranny of The Primarch or journeyed with The Tinker, then I suggest you do so quick haste. For the full effect, investing in all five discs across both albums is advised, but 'The Clockwork Prologue' is still a hugely rewarding experience in its own right.

Steven Reid

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