Released via SPV 26 February 2016)
West Midlands based melodic hard rock band Magnum issue their 18th studio album, continuing to ride the crest of a wave. The band have had a purple patch since their reformation at the turn of the millennium.
Formed in the mid 70s, the band came to prominence in the late 70s and early 80s, signing to the Jet label and releasing some of the best melodic / hard rock albums of the era. Kingdom Of Madness, Eleventh Hour and Chase The Dragon all set a template, and saw a longtime working relationship and friendship with fantasy sleeve designer Rodney Matthews.
Fronted by vocalist Bob Catley and guitarist / songwriter Tony Clarkin, the band went from strength to strength, with On A Story Teller’s Night a magnum opus (pun intended) and Wings Of Heaven taking the band into both the singles and albums charts.
The band split in the early 90s, but have since reformed, and continued a string of wonderful and acclaimed albums, including Brand New Morning and 2014’s Escape From The Shadow Garden (and more than a few compilations and live sets along the way).
Again working with Rodney Matthews, the band are now pretty stable with longtime pianist Mark Stanway, bassist Al Barrow and drummer Harry James alongside Clarkin and Catley. What’s not to love? And that’s before we’ve even started. The band wrote over 20 songs for this album, and the 10 we get here (13 on the 2disc version) are strong throughout.
The title track fades in with a good riff and some strong vocals, the drums and bass double the power a minute in and the track is instantly captivating. The melody to the vocals, the catchy riff, the layered backing vocals, it’s sounding like classic heavy Magnum from the start. The vocals are clean and clear, equally solid and, like the guitar, the phrasing as perfect as ever. The standout guitar solo heavier than the usual Magnum fare.
Keyboards and strings open ‘Crazy Old Mothers’, a mid tempo heavy solid beat, a piano led track with heavy and quieter parts. Tight and well produced, it has a modern feel. ‘Gypsy Queen’ is more atmospheric, and the melodic feel is a nod back to the mid 80s, and in contrast ‘Princess In Rags’ has a more rock’n’roll feel. The intricate keyboards fit in well, this one guaranteed to get the crowd moving, I believe will become a live favourite. ‘Afraid Of The Night’ is another rocker I love, a stand out. Your Dreams Won’t Die is a big number, musically and lyrically heartfelt too, has an epic feel.
‘Twelve Men Wise And Just’ is a 6 minute epic, one I will definitely going back to repeatedly.
A tight unit, solid and on form. And though the keyboards are a prominent feature, this is more of a guitar led album than some previously. Equally wonderful cover art from Matthews too. 8.8/10