Magnum – The Serpent Rings

Magnum – The Serpent Rings
Steamhammer
Release Date: 17/01/2020
Running Time: 57:06
Review by Paul Monkhouse
8/10

Whilst most of their peers have retired or rest on their laurels, Magnum just keep on getting better, with each new album better than the previous one. Musically hitting the same run of success that saw them ascend to headlining arenas in the 1980’s, Messrs. Clarkin and Catley bring a partnership that has been forged through the fire and flame of almost fifty years together and it looks like they have no intention of slowing down. “The Serpent Rings” has all the hallmarks of classic Magnum from the beautiful Rodney Matthews cover onwards and is filled with the magnificently melodic hard rock that their legions of fans have all come to know and love. This certainly isn’t a case of going over old ground for songwriter Tony Clarkin though as he continues to push himself and the band to new heights.

Having been through a major shake-up of the band in the past three years, with new members on keys, drums and bass, rather than derail the band it seems like there’s a new fire and desire to prove themselves. With new bass player Dennis Ward joining the band as recently as Summer 2019, the band hit the studio and the results are some of the best and heaviest work they’ve done. ‘Where Are You Eden?’ is the perfect opening track, its galloping rhythm charges at the listener and to be honest, it sounds absolutely huge. Despite concerns about his voice suffering through the constant touring, Bob Catley is on great form in the studio, the power and nuance in his delivery undiminished. Rick Benton’s keys are also shining through the mix, his playing deft but never overly florid, whilst the new pairing of Ward with drummer Lee Morris, has brought a thunderous heft that provides the perfect bedrock for Clarkin to build on. The guitarist is on top form throughout and the solos on the scorching ‘You Can’t Run Faster Than Bullets’ and the multi coloured hues of ‘House Of Kings’ are blistering.

This latter song, along with the epic title track, shows all the facets that make the songwriter/guitarist/producer just so great as each add layer upon layer of sound that only someone like fellow Brummie Jeff Lynne would dare to do. This was never going to be just a run of the mill, straight down the line, rock record and although it packs a powerful punch, there’s still so much to capture both the ear and the imagination. ‘The Great Unknown’ dances on a sea of stars and ‘Man’ has a pugnacious and knowingly bold riff that drives a typically brave skyscraping chorus that reaches to the heavens and then breaks down into a brief section that is reminiscent of 10cc before the solo comes in. The album reaches its end with the thoughtful and thought provoking ‘Crimson On The White Sand’, one of many songs on the album that manages to tell a tale that weaves between the deepest imagination and the harsh glare of a spotlight on a vital and pressing global subject.

There are rockers and there are ballads, all done in the unique Magnum style and ‘The Serpent Rings’ can certainly stand shoulder to shoulder with such classics as ‘Chase the Dragon’ and ‘A Storytellers Night’. Masters of their own destiny, Magnum, steered by the seemingly tireless Clarkin, are still one of the very best bands in the UK and the hallmark for quality. In an ideal world they should be as huge as Queen and this album shows why. Long may they continue!

TRACKLISTING:

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

LINKS:

http://www.magnumonline.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/magnumbandpage/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MagnumOfficial/ https://open.spotify.com/artist/3Nu9hoMBT4SkDcaNvmK4G1

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

I Built The Sky – The Zenith Rise

I Built The Sky – The Zenith Rise
Self-Released
Release Date: 01/11/2019
Running Time: 43:29
Review by “Dark Juan”
10/10

Good afternoon, dear friends and acolytes of the slightly left field version of whatever bastardised sort of religion that’s entertaining me in my thoughts these days. I am Dark Juan and today is a momentous occasion for I am writing this in a) the early afternoon, b) sober and c) with Igor the Evil One “assisting” me by crawling under my left arm and refusing to move, rendering the blood supply to my left hand absolutely useless and causing numbness and discomfort. Like what I appear to do to nubile young ladies when I’m on the pull. Apparently telling them it is the will of God is not the way to go. Neither is Satanic chanting and brandishing your sacrificial dagger and telling them you are going to cut out their beautiful, still beating heart and drink the lifeblood from its last laboured pulsations as the life fades from their dark kohled eyes. Also, being a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and wearing your sacred colander when you go out does not a successful encounter make. Wearing an Ever-Metal.com t-shirt does in fact turn you into a pussy (or cock) magnet though, so I suggest you all render yourselves irresistible to the opposite sex and purchase one immediately, and you too could be drowning in clunge…

Where was I?

Politicians are all cun… no. I did that last review and I do like to try to keep things fresh and novel for you, my good people. Ah yes… I Built The Sky. A solo project of an obviously possessed Australian musician who appears to have about 47 fingers on his fretboard hand, judging by the speed and complexity of his soloing and general playing! I’m quite scared for him because the price he must have had to pay the devil for this level of talent means that he’s going to be suffering extraordinary levels of punishment in Hell for quite some time. I Built The Sky is an instrumental project, and my first task is to assess whether the music suffers from a lack of vocals. It doesn’t. Not having the distraction of a vocal allows the guitar to breathe and to allow other instrumentation to come through and not have to compete with some wailing cretin trying to be the centre of attention. I also enjoy the style of playing on this record – its progressive, not in the naming songs after Cirith Ungol and dwarves sense, but in the experimental and satisfyingly complex sense. There are unusual time signatures and dissonance and all manner of good things here. Remember Yngwie Malmsteen and the fact that his musical prowess appeared to be built entirely from how fast he could play arpeggios and scales and he only had a singer to bridge the gap between guitar solos? I Built The Sky are nothing like that. They are built more on the Joe Satriani and Steve Vai principle of exploring the outer reaches of what the guitar is capable of as an instrument. Also, he quite clearly has mutant hands with elongated, prehensile fingers because some of the solos he plays appear to be physically impossible to us non mutants with normal hands. Bet Ro Han wouldn’t have any problems playing “Arpeggios From Hell”.

There’s a pleasing sub-djent quality to some of the songs on here too – opening track “Up Into The Ether” reminding me greatly of Infinitee in particular and having an excellent djenty central riff. On the middle solo, there’s some fearsomely fast picking going on as well, but I like the outward looking, expansive feel of the music, where on the slower bits it’s allowed to grow and spread in front of you. Here’s a musician with that rare ability to know just when to shut the fuck up playing and allow the music to breathe and become a living thing. Second track “Journey To Aurora” is probably the nearest we get to actual djent on the album – it straddles the fine point between full on djent and the pinnacle of heavy metal guitar playing and switches seamlessly from one to the other and back again before going into Floydian explorations of inner space before coming back out spitting venom because it clearly didn’t like what it saw in there. And from the point of view of a (admittedly very poor) musician I am blown away by the complexity of the arrangements of the music as well as the high quality of the actual songwriting. There is not an extraneous piece of music on the whole record. It all fits perfectly together and is surprisingly legible and easy to listen to. I find myself preferring instrumental albums more and more these days.

My favourite tune on here is the staggeringly massive “Wormhole Traveller”. Holy fuck. Jesus Holy High Christ in a chariot driven sidecar from the stars. It goes from black metal warp speed to introspective slow grind industrial to glorious goth metal solo, out – Tool’s Tool for musical creativity and complexity and still remains groovy and listenable. It is very very good and has left this hellpriest a metalgasmed out dirty, sticky, drained and sated mess on the lounge floor. Which I’m sure you’ll agree is a fine outcome, if a slightly disturbing image that will be sticking with you for your evening meal. Thank me later. Mrs. Dark Juan won’t. It’s such a persistent stain. So, we have extreme talent, musical promiscuity, staggering technique and an ear for a good tune and no need for squealing attention seekers. Dark Juan is pleased. And spent. If you like dense, complicated music that will give you something new on every listen, then I Built The Sky come highly recommended – however if you wish to listen to something boneheaded and simple, this ain’t for you. Cerebral music for cerebral people. Or guitar enthusiasts who will spend their lives picking the record apart note by note. Good luck learning it, chaps and chapesses. You need fingers that can do the Kessel Run in less than nine parsecs to keep up with some of it.

Marvellous.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Mate – for Ro is Australian and has so far avoided my notably dodgy sense of humour about where people come from) has tossed another shrimp on the Barbie and cracked open a tinnie in the back of its ute (ah, that’s more like it) and awards I Built The Sky 10/10 for a whooping skyrocket of a record. Well done, sir, well done. Bonzer.

I Built The Sky are:

Rohan “Ro Han” Stephenson – Antipodean guitar wizard.

TRACKLISTING:

01. Up Into The Ether
02. Journey To Aurora
03. Wormhole Traveller
04. Stellar Evolution
05. Light Pillars
06. Stars And Darkness
07. The Zenith Rise
08. The Only Way Out Is Up
09. Diamond Dust
10. Moonbow

LINKS:

https://www.ibuiltthesky.com
https://www.patreon.com/ibuiltthesky
https://www.facebook.com/pg/ibuiltthesky
https://www.instagram.com/ibuiltthesky https://open.spotify.com/artist/4URPAJlk8ay7npvNVVLpKN
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJZ2ZyMR9pgwXeV7uT_akDg

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.