Album Reviews
Band: Magnum

Title: The Serpent Rings

Label: SPV Records

 

The last time I reviewed Magnum, I had a dig at the so-called 'top-end' music journos out there calling for Bob and the band to call it a day, stating they sounded 'past their best' recently.  Well chaps, I take it all back, continue with your endeavors, as after listening to this, their latest album, you have my and no doubt the fan's blessing ... 'cos it's bleedin' obvious the more you write your crap like that, Magnum are only going to shove it back down your throat, releasing cracking album after cracking album just to show you how wrong you are!!

 

'The Serpent Rings' is, in layman terms, an 'old school' Magnum album, a return to those heady days that got us into the band in the first place, and it's Tony Clarkin once again that we can all thank for that ( Ta Tony!!), as it is this fella that writes, produces and no doubt sees he gets the best out of the band when necessary, and along with Bob Catley, the other original member of the band, well, the results are here for us all to enjoy!

 

Opening with the orchestrated lead 'Where Are You Eden?', harder round the edges with the riffage, there's no turning back, and as the huge wall of guitars lead 'You Can't Run Faster Than Bullets' into play, sounding heavier than usual, and with possibly the best song title for many a year, you know this is going to be special,! Rick Benton's 'popping' keys brings in the mid-tempo, thought-provoking rocker 'Madman or Messiah'.  Clarkin's guitar not over-powerful, but still pushing the song forward.  Bob's vocals rasping out the message of warning to us all, (see America!), all held together by new boy on bass Dennis Ward (from my faves Pink Cream 69!) and Lee Morris on drums.  This is Magnum at their very best and how they're still relevant in Rock today.  AND there's a tambourine in tow as well, so winner, winner chicken dinner!!!!

 

When I said that this was 'old school' Magnum I wasn't kidding, as the epic 'The Archway Of Tears' has the lads at their uber pompness that we've associated Magnum with over the years, soaring keys, solos, the hand-flicking vocals and powerful rhythm section.  I mean, what more would you want or need, it's all here in this song, taking this listener back to Newcastle City Hall when he had hair! 

 

'Not Forgiven' simply kicks ass from the rocking intro, the foot-stomping drumbeat and riff setting the tone of the song, joined by touches of atmospheric keys to lift the song up to the Heavens and back, Bob obviously enjoying this one by the sounds of it, as his voice simply nails it.  Bravo!! The title track brings to light the fantasy, magical side that Magnum love to display from time to time, and this is no exception, panpipes, oriental leanings, thrusting solos, mystical lyrics, lush orchestration. You name it, it's here in droves ... and y'bugger, ain't it good!!

 

Wahey, Magnum play da Blues! Yes folks, albeit with some pulsating Rock tendencies along the way, 'House Of Kings'  is defo blues-orientated ma-an, I mean, dig that keyboard and horn section ... where did THIS come from??!! Even Bob comes across a tad 'I mean business, dude' on the vocals, but the highlight is surely the smokey bar room piano section mid way through ... absolute cracker of a song, that is not only brave but a game-changer within the album.  Quite marvelous chaps!! 

 

The balladesque 'The Great Unknown' is one of those songs that will send shivers up your spine when witnessed 'live', the tempo ebbs and flows on a bed of gentle keys and bass then powerful drumming and guitar work, Bob's vocals matching each mood with consummate ease, one you could again say is the quintessential Magnum song, eerily followed by 'Man', the intro a moody, dark key'd affair, quickly followed by a gritty riff and sombre drum pattern that only helps to paint the picture of Clarkin's message of the rotten human behaviour that is now over-running our lost planet, and the Yes-like harmonies stating 'words won't kill you' quite chilling in their delivery, and quite rightly if they want to get the message through. 

 

'The Last One On Earth' almost feels like Bob is laying his heart on the line here, such is the way he is presenting the lyrics, full of emotion as the music swells around him in a cloak of comfort as he claims 'the sun don't shine anymore', the keys again the main ingredient on this melodic, sad song, as they do on the closing track, 'Crimson On The White Sand', semi-ballad/rock, with that hint of 'pomp' just to help finish off what is easily going to be voted one of the best Rock Albums of 2020. 

 

So there you go, prestigious Rock journos, go do your best, let's see what Magnum can come up with next time!! Ha!!

Review by: Robb Baldwin

 

Tracklisting:

1.  Where are you Eden?
2.  You can't run faster than Bullets
3.  Madman or Messiah
4.  The archway of Tears
5.  Not Forgiven
6.  The serpent Rings
7.  House of Kings
8.  The great Unknown
9.  Man
10. The last man on Earth
11. Crimson on the white Sand

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