Let’s be honest, Gandalf’s Fist are asking for it.
Nothing about this Cumbrian quartet – the daft name, the Tolkien obsession, the concept albums about interstellar travel – does much to subvert the tired old notions about prog rock. Charting the journey of a lost girl in a malevolent forest, it’s unlikely that A Forest Of Fey will endear them to the doubters either, yet there are some genuinely fine moments here. The Circus In The Clearing rubs a delicate psychedelic glaze over their folksy space rock, while Forest Rose (Coming Home) sounds like a woody cousin of Jethro Tull’s back-to-nature phase of the late 70s. Regular guest vocalist Melissa Hollick provides real uplift to a fair portion of these songs. Also at hand is a decent spread of guests: Troy Donockley of Nightwish, Gryphon’s Dave Oberlé, Pendragon keyboardist Clive Nolan and The Fierce And The Dead’s Matt Stevens. It Bites’ John Mitchell, meanwhile, is potent on the Genesis-styled pomp of Stories Old And Stories Told. Unfortunately, as fun as it is, much of the rest isn’t quite as persuasive, the cause not helped by lyrics so cliché-ridden that it’s sometimes hard not to wince.