Review: Gandalf’s Fist – A Forest of Fey

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So once more I sat down and looked at the directories full of albums still to review and thought “shit, I missed a release date again – they sent me that ages ago.” And then I checked the promo sheet, which informed me that Gandalf’s Fist had actually just been reall clever and sent me a copy of A Forest of Fey ages ago so that such a situation could be avoided. In other words “Yay! The album comes out on October 20th!”. At least, the physical release does so I’m focussing on that one.

A former Band of the Day back in July 2013, Gandalf’s Fist come from a part of Middle Earth called Cumbria. They label their music as “medieval space rock”, which to the rest of us is vaguely psychedelic progressive.

It’s fairly apparent to those who read the page frequently that I prefer the heavier stuff, but I still appreciate good songwriting and musicianship (which is why I’d like to see Simon Cowell’s head on a spike). A Forest of Fey is laden with both. It’s roughly fifty minutes of music to sit back and drink ale to. It also involves the talents of one hell of a lot of people.

As well as the core band of Dan, Luke, Chris and Stefan, lead vocals are performed by the delicately crafted vocal cords of Melissa Hollick (who sang on the end credits of Wolfenstein: The New Order so has nerd cred). There are eight other guest appearances on the album ranging from Cumbrian bouzouki, to backing vocals and voice acting (from people such as Troy Donockley of Nightwish, John Mitchell of It Bites and Clive Nolan of Pendragon). It’s quite the impressive bit of work! Oh, and the lyrics to one of the tracks are by some dude called William Blake. Apparently he’s famous or something.

What gets me is that although the music is intricate and – as with a lot of prog – meanders somewhat, it doesn’t run on. With only one exception – the title track – all the songs run for a fairly standard  length. In other words, there’s no wasted time or unnecessary widdling. It’s just a lovely piece of music.

I think I picked the right time to listen to it as well. For me, at least, this is a mood piece. I happened to put it on for review purposes at the end of a long-ish day just after sitting down with one of those aforementioned beers (Newcastle Brown, for those wishing to emulate my experience). It’s worked very well indeed. Slow-paced, ethereal, with more than a handful of cool and unusual little tweeks it makes for the kind of background listening you suddenly blink and find you’ve become immersed in for fifteen minutes.

I don’t think it’s unfair to cite Pink Floyd as an obvious influence and of you like their weirder stuff, then you really have to listen to this.

Stand-out tracks? I personally quite like “Gardens of the Lost” and “The Circus in the Clearing”.

Oh, and I love the cover art. German artist Thomas Huth should take a bow.

The track list is as follows:

  1. Childhood Ghosts
  2. Gardens of the Lost *Featuring Troy Donockley (Tin Whistles, Low Whistle)
  3. A Forest of Fey (Including Wisdom of the Reptile and the Lament for a Silent Verse) *Featuring Troy Donockley (Low Whistles)
  4. The Figure Speaks
  5. The World We Created
  6. The Circus in the Clearing (Including the Fanfare for the King’s Tournament) *Featuring Troy Donockley (Cumbrian Bouzouki)
  7. Blood for a Royal Pardon *Featuring Troy Donockley (Tin Whistle)
  8. Drifter on the Edge of Time *Featuring Clive Nolan (Keys) & Matt Stevens (Ambient Intro Guitar)
  9. Forest Rose (Coming Home)
  10. Return from the Tournament *Featuring Troy Donockley (Cumbrian Bouzouki) and Dave Oberlé (Vocals & Bodhran)
  11. Stories Old and Stories Told (Of Children Brave and Children Bold) *Featuring John Mitchell (Vocals) & Matt Stevens (Ambient Intro Guitar)
  12. A Poison Tree

You’ll be able to get the album on CD via their official page, or on Amazon from Monday. Digital download from Amazon, Google Play, Rhapsody, iTunes, etc.

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