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Pallas: Wearewhoweare

Neo-prog veterans combine old and new values.

Pallas will never abandon certain musical imprints that have helped to make their name.

Among them are the guitar refrains of Niall Mathewson and the keyboard washes of Ronnie Brown, dating right back to The Sentinel more than 30 years ago. It’s what Pallas fans would want.

However, within these constructs, the band have always been capable of making musical mischief, of taking risks with small steps. There’s nothing radical on Wearewhoweare, but what they have done is synchronise occasional moments of surprise with the expected. On opener Shadow Of The Sun, there’s an insistent, underlying funkiness that adds fulsome flavour. This is more obvious on And I Wonder Why, allowing Graeme Murray to develop a bass line more in keeping with Steely Dan than these veteran Scots. And just when you think you have a handle on its groove, the track ends with a mystical clash of vocal sounds and keyboards, leading into Dominion.

This ability to stray from the narrow path is repeated again and again, so just when you have Dominion marked as an intelligent pop song – the sort Genesis might have revealed in the 80s – the band throw in a dramatic concoction of Middle Eastern strings and echoey piano, before returning to the main theme.

Paul Mackie’s vocals really have come into their own. If he displayed confidence and style on 2011’s XXV, then he takes these to new levels the second time around. You get an impression of his dramatic spectrum on Wake Up Call, where he traverses emotions from distant desperation to more strident demand. And he does this constantly, able to bring out meaning through a slight shift in emphasis on a syllable. It keeps the listener ever engaged, and proves he has transcended those inevitable comparisons with his predecessors.

Lyrically, the album is about control. Pallas appear to be calling for us all to take situations and turn them to our advantage, to face even the gravest threats with positivity. Songs that could be superficially interpreted as being about midlife crises take on a different perspective. Even In Cold Blood, which has a mournful tread, bursts with optimism.

Everything is summed up in final song Winter Is Coming, which tells us that whatever the bleakness, you should stay true to your individuality because this is all you have left, and it’s worth all the sacrifices.

It’s easy to see Wearewhoweare as a cycle of metaphors about death, but Pallas project the spark of a renewed life.