Magnum can now consider themselves back in the game with a solid effort, very pleasing indeed and one that should please both prog-heads and AORsters alike.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: The Serpent Rings
SERIAL: SPV 267262 CD
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Tony Clarkin – guitar * Bob Catley – vocals * Dennis Ward – bass * Rick Benton – keyboards * Lee Morris – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Where Are You Eden? * 02 You Can’t Run Faster Than Bullets * 03 Madman Or Messiah * 04 The Archway Of Tears * 05 Not Forgiven * 06 The Serpent Rings * 07 House Of Kings * 08 The Great Unknown * 09 Man * 10 The Last One On Earth * 11 Crimson On The White Sand
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Birmingham favourites Magnum are quick out of the blocks in 2020, and as highlighted by several advance videos shown here at Glory Daze, we’ve had advance warning of their imminent arrival. Our on-again-off-again love affair with the band has been going on at Glory Daze for well over a decade, more off then on I would say.
If you read through our previous articles (click the tag below), you’ll know which ones stand out and which ones bomb out. The band have bought in well-known bassist and producer Dennis Ward, who replaces Al Barrow. That must rate as a bit of a coup to sign him up. It will be interesting to see how Magnum fair when they hit the road to support the new album.
So, what of ‘The Serpent Rings’? It’s just about two years to the date since their last album ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’. We gave that one a fairly warm review (85/100), so we are hopeful of the same on this new one.
‘Where Are You Eden?’ – begins the album in a fairly pompous and brazen manner. Rick Benton provides the parping sequences which gives the song a bit of oomph. Midway through, the song readily accepts an orchestral overview making a near cinematic experience. A very expansive entrance to the album. I’m guessing this will be the live opener when they get on tour. Great start.
‘You Can’t Run Faster Than Bullets’ – is next up, with Tony Clarkin ensuring the guitar quotient is evened up judging by the riffs kicking the tune off. The song-title might imply a degree of aggression, and though Bob Catley adds a touch of toughness in the vocal and the verses are suitably edgy, the choruses are restrained, which middle things up.
‘Madman Or Messiah’ – is a song that fits the template of Magnum’s songwriting construction to a tee. The Wurlitzer keyboard parts a la Supertramp from Benton add an interesting touch, but by and large, this track could sit pretty on any Magnum album going back the best part of thirty years.
‘The Archway Of Tears’ – is introduced by a delicate piano part, combining with a synchronising guitar run. The build-up through the verses is a patient one, before unloading on to a wonderful chorus, which kind of reminds me of the stuff that Fortune and Harlan Cage used to do. In fact, the chorus reminded me of the drama contained in Fortune‘s classic ‘Dearborn Station’.
‘Not Forgiven’ – assumes the role of the album’s ‘guitar rocker’ moment. Clarkin leads the way here, and though the chorus slows up momentarily, this one is delivered without any fuss.
‘The Serpent Rings’ – is the title-track, and as one can probably tell, is the anchor-point of the album. At seven minutes, it’s a lengthy affair, and contains all the Magnum trademarks you’d expect on a track of this nature. The orchestration is there, so too a soaring guitar solo. The imagery of the album cover also adding to the intrigue. Definitely an album highlight.
‘House Of Kings’ – moves into boisterous mode with this one. Catley lifts the energy with another tough vocal, Benton joins in on the action with more parping brass work through the verses, plus a change-up jazz-styled piano on the bridge. That change was a surprising move.
‘The Great Unknown’ – reveals more of the Magnum songwriting secret, with lovely intricate keyboard parts through the verses before accelerating into a heavier chorus. The lyrics are a bit exotic, but hey, you wouldn’t expect anything less!
‘Man’ – is a punctuated and dense rocker, which talks about the greed and exploitative nature of ‘man’, also predicting that ‘man won’t live forever’. That much is true.
‘The Last One On Earth’ – takes on the mantle of the album’s ‘thinking man’s moment’. The song reflects the plaintive nature of the music and lyrics. Not exactly a song of lost hope or hopelessness, but an observation of life as one gets to a point of reflection of circumstances going on around them.
‘Crimson On The White Sand’ – signs off the album, musically its another Magnum track which could’ve graced an earlier album. Though the lyrics touch on mortality and pain, I’m not so sure it’s about war. More about one’s life struggles I’m guessing.
Magnum can now consider themselves back in the game with a solid effort, very pleasing indeed and one that should please both prog-heads and AORsters alike. Released Friday 17th January 2020, the new year gets off to a terrific start, and no doubt we’ll be hearing more about Magnum during this early tage of the year. Consider this album a ‘stand-out’ and not a ‘bomb-out’.
Bob Catley interview
Where Are You Eden?