Legend – Cardinal Points

After a fifteen year wait between studio albums, any band’s new output is going to meet some level of anticipation, regardless of how popular they were during their golden years. The UK melodic progressive act Legend has been out of the spotlight for quite some time, leaving listeners with a trilogy of records that earned them something of an underground fanbase. Coming back with promises of another great record to round off their saga, Legend returns with ‘Cardinal Points’, an album that continues their chronological album number concept by focusing the record around the number four; more specifically, the four primal elements.With an epic track devoted to earth, air, fire and water respectively, this feels like fairly standard prog rock canon. While Legend’s ambition does not necessarily fail them here, the music on ‘Cardinal Points’ rarely feels as if it works well with the epic format, and coupled with a dated 80′s sound and somewhat dry presentation, Legend gives a very mixed impression with their comeback record.

Although Legend is commonly given the rather dated label of ‘neo-prog’ to describe their music, the band certainly does have more going on to their sound than a single term would do justice to. Although very melodic in nature, Legend has a more longwinded approach to their music making, often making use of alot of folkish ambiance to get the point across. With each of these epics that Legend has crafted to represent the elements, there are fairly common sections where the music is kept slow and subtle. In some parts, this laid-back approach works very well. The opening minutes of ‘Carved In Stone’ are calming and mystical, keeping pretty mellow, yet keeping the sound dense with different soundscaping techniques and details that are often hidden deep within the mix. ‘Drop In The Ocean’ features some of the album’s most heartfelt moments, using light acoustics and synthesizers to create a muddy dreamscape. While the mellow approach that Legend takes to many of these epics works well in small doses, it can make these so-called ‘epics’ into a fairly monotonous journey, especially considering that the more energetic segments of ‘Cardinal Points’ can be downright annoying.

Although Legend show their maturity through their attention to detail, the songwriting and composition itself really does not sit well with me. While each of these tracks are fairly lengthy (ranging from thirteen minutes to seventeen), they all have parts to them that are best described as ‘choruses’; catchy sections that are repeated to death throughout the track. Unfortunately, these choruses are not only malfitting of an epic, they are downright irritating. The bouncy, synth-laden chorus of ‘Spark To A Flame’ feels like it is ripped straight out of a female-fronted 80′s arena pop group. The vocals here also really tend to hurt the instrumentation and ambiance of the record. While vocalist Kerry Parker has a decent voice in parts, her singing often feels strained, especially when she tries to hit the higher notes. They result in fairly cringe-worthy moments where she warbles out of key, and while I am a fan of her full-sounding lower register, I can’t say the same the higher.

Legend’s ‘Cardinal Points’ is disappointing both for its rather uneventful compositions and the fact that the album came to me with the highest of recommendations. Along with a very muddy production job that tends to take away from the music even more, ‘Cardinal Points’ is washed away with the legions of other prog albums this year that have failed to grab my imagination. That being said, Legend does get points for ambition and a clever insight into detail and soundscaping, but it can be a tough sell when put in the context of the album’s weaknesses.


1. Carved in Stone (13:09)
2. Whisper on the Wind (14:42)
3. Spark to a Flame (13:57)
4. Drop in the Ocean (17:03)


* Kerry Parker – vocals
* Steve Paine – keyboards
* Dave Foster – guitars
* Dan Nelson – bass
* John Macklin – drums



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