“Having suffered something of an identity crisis, minor blemishes don’t stop it being their best album in decades”: Pallas’ The Messenger

The return of singer Alan Reed – who rebuffed a previous invitation – is an indicator of its quality

Pallas - The Messenger
(Image: © Pallas)

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Pallas have had a stuttering career. Their previous seven albums have come across three short bursts of productivity, separated by prolonged periods of inactivity and line-up changes.

However, with singer Alan Reed – who fronted the Aberdeen band between 1986 and 2010 – back in the fold, they have rediscovered their form having suffered something of an identity crisis across their two most recent Reed-less albums. 

The singer’s return is an indicator of the quality of The Messenger. Reed previously said he would never have considered a reunion, even rebuffing an approach a few years ago. But the high standard of the early demos of songs that would appear on The Messenger, which he said “sounded like Pallas again,” convinced him otherwise.

That statement resonates throughout the album’s 50-minute playtime. The band have always reflected what they see in the wider world through their music, and here they continue their trend of contemporary commentary topped by a bedrock of uneasy musicality.

Fever Pitch, a retort to the rich/poor divide of the pandemic and global warming, feels like archetypal Pallas. Often sedated, always dark, the song is sorrowful and minimalist in its composition, leaving acres of space for Reed’s musing refrains to take centre stage.

The singer’s occasional vocal imperfections, meanwhile, complement the sense of doom that underpins The Nine, a song about the human race entering the gates of Hell after its fall from grace. Throughout, the song wrestles with a Jekyll & Hyde tonality – gritty hellfire grandeur dropping down to solemn lows and back again to great effect.

The title track is a diverse, ever-evolving song and its fluidity is credit to the seasoned writers behind it

At just over four minutes, The Great Attractor is their snappiest track. It draws heavily on gnarly King Crimson-esque riffs, with a jagged, harmonic-ravaged rhythm preceding saxophone-mimicking lead guitars and villainous jazz motifs.

They leave their lengthiest piece, the 13-minute title track, to last – and, unsurprisingly, they throw the kitchen sink at it. Hope-pocked crescendos sweeten jittering time-signature shifts, classical guitar interludes, spacious, emotion-draped solos and Reed’s layered vocals. It’s a diverse, ever-evolving song and its fluidity is credit to the seasoned writers behind it.

There are, however, a handful of flaws to the record. Sadly, the band are without a real drummer, which is something of a hindrance. While the programmed drums are inoffensive and have been mapped out with care, they lack the punch and humanity of someone thumping a real kit. Yet minor blemishes don’t prevent The Messenger from being Pallas’ best album in decades.

The Messenger is available in multiple formats via Pallas’ Bandcamp page.

Phil Weller

You can usually find this Prog scribe writing about the heavier side of the genre, chatting to bands for features and news pieces or introducing you to exciting new bands that deserve your attention. Elsewhere, Phil can be found on stage with progressive metallers Prognosis or behind a camera teaching filmmaking skills to young people.