Pallas had released a 7" EP with four songs early 1978, but shortly after, guitarist David Holt's limited abilities led him to be asked to leave, to be replaced by string master Niall Mathewson, and singer Craig Anderson called it a day, and was replaced by a charismatic Euan Lowson. The musical direction changed to a mix of heavy rock from the influences of the new guitarist, and symphonic, theatrical rock. The live set changed quickly, the songs got longer and more dramatic. And after original keyboard player Mike Stobbie left in September 1979, and was replaced by Ronnie Brown, who I like to think was playing more progressively compared to Mike, probably thanks to his classical music training, this was even further refined the sound of the band towards a really unique style.
In April of 1981, the band recorded a live show at the Bungalow Bar in Paisley, Scotland. Most of the songs played were quite new, and showed the direction the band was heading. They were still a young band, a bit naive and rough. But they are also innovative, and the roughness brings freshness as well, although the songs' mood and atmosphere is dark, and the lyrical content deal with nuclear disaster, serial killers, and genocide. The music ranges from mystical to agressive. It's away from the cold progressives, and although influences are present as with every other band, comparing this to Genesis makes no sense and proves you are either just not listening or simply biased.
The music is more guitar-oriented, Niall being influenced by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and their likes. Even now, the occasional cover tunes played were Kashmir and Black Night. Pallas are and have never been, by no means, a so-called "neo-progressive" rock band. It's more rock, it's more emotion, it's heavier. It's more.
Originally, Arrive Alive was released as a cassette, on the band's own label - Granite Wax. The first release contained the songs Five To Four (9:40), Queen Of The Deep (11:00), Flashpoint (6:46), Heart Attack (8:19), Crown Of Thorns (8:57), and The Ripper (13:00).
Five To Four was inspired by Mike Stobbie leaving the band, going from five musicians to four. It rocks, with a quieter chorus leading into the heavier verses and a fierce instrumental section. Flashpoint is in the same vein, but a bit weirder, especially the vocal lines. Dramatics are taken care of already.
The dramatics are taken a step further in songs like Crown Of Thorns, Queen Of The Deep, and The Ripper. Euan Lowson really lives the characters in the songs. Guitar lines cutting like a knife, or rocking like the sea during a force ten gale, and keyboards from dark and mysterious water bubbles to heavy layers of symphonic power. As always, one of their trade marks, Graeme's pounding bass, not only providing a rhythm, but contributing to the overall sound in which is happening so many different things. The whole of this is powerful, melodic, and symphonic rock.
During a studio session later in the year of 1981, they wrote a simple rock tune - Arrive Alive, a more sophisticated rock tune - The Hammer Falls, a weird and impressive slow track - Paris Is Burning, and a bizarre electronic track - Stranger On The Edge Of Time. One session showing four sides to a single band. The tracks were written with the idea to show different styles of the band, to possibly interest record companies.
This recording of the song Arrive Alive was later released on a single (Stranger On The Edge Of Time was the B-side), and when the original cassette live album was released on LP, by Cool King Records, they included the studio recording on it. Due to the vinyl format's time limitations, they also had to drop a few tracks, which were Five To Four and Flashpoint.
Since then, the LP became the best-known format of the album, and especially outside of the UK, many people didn't know about the songs dropped from the original recording, or that the original tape didn't have the title track on it at all!
In 1998, the band re-issued the live stuff on CD. Although the live version of Crown Of Thorns has been replaced by a superior studio version, and Heart Attack was left off, it still stands as a testament of what Pallas were in those days.
Essential. Simply essential. Note that when the songs were recorded, there wasn't anything like "neo-progressive" rock. When the LP was released, in early 1983, Marillion had just begun sounding remotely interesting, and were, to be honest, in a completely different field, so I don't know why I am even saying this. With Twelfth Night, Pallas were the originals between a large number of bands playing real "neo-progressive" rock.
Written by Jerry van Kooten