I AM THE PENDRAGON- The Castle of Lost Hope
This is a difficult album to get a grasp on. The album cover art and band photo don’t help either. The cover art features a sort of comic book style art, while the band photo features one of the band members wearing what looks like a wrestling mask, and the other two members standing nearby with arms crossed. So even before I’ve popped in the disc, I’m a little bit confused—what’s the point of the mask?
Hoping that it has something to do with the storyline, I delve into the music. A haunting piano-led intro with a very young female voice narrating some back story about the Pendragon, in a sort of epic fantasy style. It takes guts to open an album in this way. An intro like this suggests that the music that follows will be epic, worthy of such a film sequence. So what follows?
After having listened to the album 3-4 times, I’m still puzzled as to what Castle is all about. The music ranges from riff-heavy nu metal with touches of hardcore screaming, to more straight-forward rock and a couple of nearly worshipful ballads. The album is ambitious, to say the least. But in this case, that’s more of a problem than an asset—it’s too ambitious. The hardcore screams don’t work in the midst of the slower, metallic riffs. The riffs themselves are sloppy. The vocals are gratingly pitchy at times, meaning that some songs do not a pleasant listening experience make.
On top of all that, the storyline itself is hard to follow. In a concept album, it’s important to either have a relatively simple/easy-to-follow storyline, OR a vague/ambiguous one that can apply to a number of situations. Castle unfortunately fails at either of these because although it seems that the band want to convey an important message, it’s not entirely clear what that message is.
That doesn’t mean it’s all bad. The bass groove intro on “Closer” shows clear talent. And while overall, the vocals on the album are not endearing to my ears, when things slow down on the final three tracks, they work much better. “The Boy Who Never Knew” has an acoustic emo feel, while “Falling Stars” (ironically the song that seems not to fit with the concept of the album’s epic storyline) is the strongest song on the album and is essentially a rock worship song that will entice you to sing along, “I for one will live to see Your Kingdom come.”
If you like radio-friendly rock/metal of the mid-2000s, you might want to seek this out, but sadly I did not enjoy this release. (Raven Faith Records) 2 out of 5 Stars