Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album that gets better with each listen…it may not be up there with Kingdom, but it’s pretty damn close.
In case all you think of when you hear the word Magnum is a provocatively eaten ice cream or a two-bottle bottle, I will add just this… Magnum are the stalwarts and, some would say, one of the seminal melodic rock bands. Led by guitarist, composer and producer Tony Clarkin, the band has been producing quality rock since their debut, the masterful Kingdom of Madness back in 1978. Apart from a six-year period where Tony and vocalist Bob Catley released a couple of albums under the Hard Rain moniker, they have been a constant in the melodic rock world. A trio of Magnum albums: Lost on the Road to Eternity, The Serpent Rings and last year’s compilation album, Dance of the Black Tattoo, have been reviewed by Bluesdoodles. I will also add that I have never, ever understood how a band who virtually invented the genre are less lauded than some of the distinctly inferior bands that have formed in the years since Magnum’s significant debut.
This is their twenty-second studio album, called suitably, The Monster Roars. It may be fifty years since they formed but, having defied the pandemic, with Clarkin’s prolific pen, they have crafted a dozen songs that never fail to live up to the legacy although there is the odd surprise awaiting…more of which later.
A lot of fans, like me, will be slightly surprised and maybe a little disappointed that the usual Rodney Matthews artwork is missing: instead, we have an image of a white-haired horned creature glaring balefully out and into the observer…it’s nice to know that it was photographed by Rob Barrow, brother of former Magnum bassist Al Barrow and so has familial ties too.
Anyway, the music is the key and the title track kicks everything off with a gentle start of piano and the trademark tones of Catley…then one more classic riff is added to the Magnum portfolio as the band bring the weight to alternate with the quiet passages…a short and bouncy solo shows that Clarkin hasn’t lost his touch either.
Remember also starts with a quiet passage of paint and voice before the rhythm and main melodies hit…this is quality melodic rock even though I get a hint of BOC, it’s all Magnum because it also has an echo of The Archway of Tears from the last album and the key-driven bridge (Hammond, piano and synth) leads to an atmospheric piano piece. All You Believe In is archetypal Magnum that remains different enough to slot in seamlessly with their significant back catalogue as you sing along with Bob…and you will! The same positives can be found in the next two tracks:
I Won’t Let You Down with its clever plucked riff and ‘orchestration’ and The Present Not The Past with acoustic washes hark back to the Magnum we love but still bring a freshness to the whole genre. The surprise is No Steppin’ Stones, after crowd chatter and cheering opens with triumphant brass and then joins and backs the Clarkin Classic riff…it all works a treat and makes you feel good as you bounce along. That Freedom Word hides its weight in the intro of string bends and voice because when the riff hits, it’s yet another classic that defies the ages of music and listener.
Your Blood Is Violence starts with a nice Rhodes riff and then the guitar harmonises to sound almost purple-hued…a mid-pace, a weight that works makes for a great track. Walk The Silent Hours is a balladic but heavy track and has a certain majesty in the way it builds to the chorus.
The Day After The Night Before is riffy from the off and, apart from the space for the verses, stays that way as a great rolling drum pattern pins it all brilliantly. Come Holy Men isn’t, mercifully, a belated Christmas song but with the keys/guitar harmony intro and riff is neat as it evolves into prime-time Magnum. The final track, Can’t Buy Yourself A Heaven, is my favourite for the simple reason that Clarkin delivers a truly superb but woefully short, wah guitar solo that is slightly unexpected on first listen as the acoustic backed intro, harmonies and melodies make you think melodic prog…then Magnum are back and that solo arrives.
This may not be the best Magnum album ever, but it is damn good and fits seamlessly and rightly with their extensive catalogue. Lovers of melodic rock rejoice for the monster does indeed roar.
The Monster Roars
All You Believe In
I Won’t Let You Down
The Present Not The Past
No Steppin’ Stones
That Freedom Word
Your Blood Is Violence
Walk The Silent Hours
The Day After The Night Before
Come Holy Men
Can’t Buy Yourself A Heaven
The Monster Roars is out on January 14th 2022 via Steamhammer/SPV as a CD DigiPak, 2-LP gatefold, limited CD/LP and T-shirt bundle and, if you hurry, there is a limited box set with a bonus CD, a Cassette (yes, a cassette), pin badge, a patch, a magnet, photo card and sticker. The bonus CD’s three tracks are a new version of ‘Days Of No Trust’, the opener of their 1988 album
Wings Of Heaven, a new remastered version of Sweets For My Sweet, their very first single release from 1975, as well as a previously unreleased track from the same era.
Tony Clarkin: guitar
Bob Catley: vocals
Rick Benton: keyboards
Dennis Ward: bass
Lee Morris: drums
Shaz Benton: backing vocals
Chris Aldridge and Nick Dewhurst: brass
European Tour 2022
28.03. UK-Cambridge – Junction
29.03. UK-Norwich – Waterfront
30.03. UK-London – Islington Assembly Hall
31.03. UK-Birmingham – Symphony Hall
03.04. UK-Southampton – Engine Rooms
04.04. UK-Cardiff – Tramshed
17.04. NL-Weert – De Bosuil
18.04. DE-Frankfurt – Batschkapp (with Gotthard)
19.04. DE-Fürth – Stadthalle (with Gotthard)
20.04. DE-Hannover – Capitol (with Gotthard)
22.04. DE-Singen – Stadthalle (with Gotthard)
23.04. DE-Balingen – Volksbankmesse (with Gotthard)
24.04. DE-Regensburg – Airport Obertraubling (with Gotthard)
26.04. DE-Munich – Tonhalle (with Gotthard)
(iTunes gave me lots more Magnum before moving to a band I had forgotten I bought! Back in 2005 Majestic Vanguard (a Swedish “Christian Power Metal” band with just the one album to their name) released Beyond The Moon…I heard the track Don’t Want To Be An Actor and bought it on the strength of this very good song.)