Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable (2016)

Artist: Gandalf’s Fist
Title: The Clockwork Fable
Year Of Release: 2016
Label: Self Released
Genre: Progressive Rock
Quality: FLAC (tracks)
Total Time: 03:13:53
Total Size: 1.07 GB

Tracklist:

CD 1 – Act I: The Day the Great Cog Failed (66:55)
1. The Traveller and the Lighter (4:13)
2. Shadowborn (6:51)
3. The Unminable Zone (2:32)
4. The Lamplighter (Parts I-VIII) (15:57)
5. In the Cavern of the Great Cog (3:52)
6. The Great Cog (5:15)
7. The Shadow Rises… (5:52)
8. The Capture (Including the Song for a Fallen Nightkeeper) (6:51)
9. Waiting for Exile (7:05)
10. Eve’s Song (8:27)

CD 2 – Act II: Of Men and Worms (65:15)
1. A Sermon for Shadowmas (1:18)
2. Victims of the Light (9:10)
3. Old Friends, New Enemies (4:23)
4. Ditchwater Daisies (7:22)
5. De-ranged (3:30)
6. The Lamplighter (Parts IX-XIII) (12:13)
7. In the Name of the Spy (2:56)
8. The Bewildering Conscience of a Clockwork Child (10:20)
9. Escape! (3:25)
10. A Solemn Toast for the Steam Ranger Reborn (10:38)

CD 3 – Act III: From Burrows We Came (61:52)
1. The Oldest Flame (1:58)
2. The Lamplighter (Parts XIV-XV) (2:58)
3. Flight for the Surface (2:10)
4. The Climb (12:24)
5. At the Summit (8:05)
6. Fight for the Light (8:08)
7. Quest for Power (1:12)
8. At the Sign of the Aperture (12:33)
9. A Machine Serves His Purpose (1:30)
10. The Clockwork Fable (5:13)
11. Escape from Cogtopolis (1:14)
12. Through the Lens (3:25)
13. Epilogue – Oh Bugger! (1:02)

…And the award for most fully rounded, realised, concept story album of the 2000s 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 the imaginary prize). Yes, it’s an unlikely tale, so much so in fact that Gandalf’s Fist 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 CDs, an intricate tale masterfully told with oodles of off the wall humour and the intricate brushstrokes of the true storyteller. Across the discs you get roughly two hours of stunning progressive rock which runs the gamut between traditional 70s fare, Neo 80s newness and sharper 00s maturity, alongside a further hour interspersed with not just narration, but top notch radio play quality dialogue; the acting talent involved having 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 G’sF bassist Chris Ewen, 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 frontmen Dean Marsh playing ‘the people of Cogtopolis’ (the fictional underground city 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 harbour 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 Oberl√© (Gryphon), 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 digipack), 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.

Musically, the songs, which run from short bursts of energetic Iron Maiden or Saracen inspired bombast, to lengthy progressive epics, is nothing short of stunning. The intricacy and eye for detail not forgotten in this vital department, as drummer Stefan Hepe combines with Marsh, Severn and Ewan expertly, while The Fierce And The Dead’s Matt Stevens adds ‘ambient guitars and SoundFX’. If you love 70s prog with an eye for Jethro Tull, Genesis and the Pop leanings of Greg Lake, the 80s 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 War Of The Worlds.

If I was searching high and low for reasons to complain (and I’m reviewing this, so the hunt is on!), 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 practical. However, these are minor, 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.

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