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Gandalf's Fist - 'The Clockwork Fable' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/80/30/87/gandalfs-fist-the-clockwork-fable-69-1471635598.jpg Hot

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Conceptual, Progressive Rock genuinely doesn't get better than this.

...and the award for most fully rounded concept album of this millennium goes to... (pause for effect, as everyone shouts "oh get on with it" at their TV screens)... 'The Clockwork Fable' by Gandalf's Fist! (rapturous applause, followed by knowing nods of approval and close-ups of the stars whispering, "who the hell are Randolph's Tryst???", while silently cursing that they haven't won). Yes, it's an unlikely tale. So much so in fact, that GF probably wrote it, although there's maybe not enough ferrets, badgers or woodwind cake-launchers involved for their taste!

In all seriousness, what we have here is quite an achievement, and one that works on many levels. Three discs, an intricate tale masterfully told with oodles of off-the-wall humour, and the intricate brushstrokes of a true storyteller. In total, you get roughly two hours of stunning Progressive Rock which runs the gamut between traditional seventies fare, Neo-eighties newness, and sharper new millennium maturity, alongside a further hour interspersed with not just narration, but top notch "radio play" quality dialogue. The acting talent involved have featured in 'Dr. Who', 'Gremlins', 'Downton Abbey' and much, much more (Mark Benton, Zach Galligan, Bill Fellows, Paul Kavanagh, Tim Munro, Paul Barnhill, Alicia Marsh and GF bassist Chris Ewen are your cast). The results genuinely could be a BBC radio play and, dare I say it, beyond 'War Of The Worlds', it's hard to think of a time this style of thing has been done with a sharper understanding of how to blend story and music, and still hold the listener completely.

Each character also has a singing voice; Fist front-man Dean Marsh playing "the people of Cogtopolis" (the fictional underground city that the human race has been forced to inhabit since consigning the Earth's surface to wintery, dark death), and Luke Severn, "the singing voice of the Nightkeepers" (those who live only to ensure the residents of the city harbor no desires to think of returning to a surface still believed utterly dead and uninhabitable). In addition, the singing cast contains no less than: Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden, who has NEVER sounded better than he does here), Dave Oberlé (Gryphon), and finally Dying Seed and recurring GF guest Melissa Hollick. The story follows the fight to discover whether the Earth's surface is now bathed in sun once more; the forces of "dark" and "light" pitted against one another in a fully-realised world with its own religious factions, alphabet and folklore. All these aspects are investigated in the beautiful accompanying booklet (which comes housed in a stunning four panel digi-pack), and with the design and look every bit as impressive as the intricate story the album revolves round, 'The Clockwork Fable' really is a rare beast in terms of scope and, crucially, execution.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Musically, the songs, which run from short bursts of energetic Maiden or Saracen-inspired bombast, to lengthy Progressive epics, are nothing short of stunning. The intricacy and eye for detail are not forgotten in this vital department, as drummer Stefan Hepe combines with Marsh, Severn and Ewen expertly; while Matt Stevens (The Fierce And The Dead) adds ambient guitars and sound effects. If you love seventies Prog with an eye for Jethro Tull, Genesis and the Pop leanings of Greg Lake, the eighties update the likes of IQ, Galahad or Twelfth Night provided, or even the more pointed stabs of Porcupine Tree, you'll find them all here. As you will a slice of Prog Metal technicality and hefty helping of intrinsically British NWOBHM fret fury – and obviously the storytelling of '...Worlds'.

If I was searching high and low for reasons to complain, then the sheer breadth and scope of what's been created by Gandalf's Fist on their sixth, and by far, most ambitious album, is indeed so finally worked that it may never, through length and complexity, be a casual listen. Or that with the content spread across three discs (you need the physical version to really immerse yourself), opting out of the spoken parts isn't really an option. However, these are minuscule niggles when balanced against an album that genuinely deserves to be given the accolade of current and future classic. Conceptual, Progressive Rock genuinely doesn't get better than this.

Steven Reid

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