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Magnum - On The Thirteenth Day

posted 6 Sep 2012, 14:23 by Paul Woodward
(SPV/Steamhammer)

Review by Woody

Evergreen and ever popular West Midland's melodic rock giants Magnum return with their latest album On The 13th Day. They’re never ones to rest on their laurels and this hard working band comeback with an album hot on the heels of last year’s critical success The Visitation. The band seem as busy as ever and after been inducted into the Black Country wall of fame at Wolverhampton Civic Hall last year the band seem rejuvenated into proving just why they have such a loyal fan base with more new music and another European tour with more dates than most bands play in this day and age!

I’ve never hidden my love for Magnum and especially there amazing live shows, along with Thunder they are probably the band I have seen live most often and they never disappoint. That said I have found latter day albums a little bit patchy with many of the songs only really igniting into life when performed live. The evolution of the band has pleased some and disappointed others – chief songwriter and guitarist Tony Clarkin refuses to stand still and re-write the songs from the bands most successful albums, something that divides fans.

After the first play of On The 13th Day it was plain to hear they have created their most commercial album in above two decades! This is something that put a huge appreciative smile upon my face. More so than in recent times this album evokes memories of the bands earlier works, don’t read that wrong this isn’t a devolution of the band’s sound, it’s still very much marching forward but you never once forget whilst rocking along to this album this is the band that gave us On A Storytellers Night, Vigilante and Wings of Heaven. I think it will appease fans who want a return to former glories without Tony having to give up his continuingly developing writing. No one wants to write the same song over and over, regardless of how successful or popular it made them.

One thing that is very apparent from the off is they have gone for a much lighter sound the dark gritty edge that has been part of modern Magnum has been replaced with that old familiar pomp and bombastic nature we have come to love. The commercial aspect definitely comes from the happier ambience of the songs as well as the heavier emphasis on the choruses been harmony drenched fist pumpers. Don’t worry there is still plenty of heaviness and crunching riff’s from Clarkin, but the album feels fresher, bouncier and definitely feels like good old Magnum.

Clarkin seems more adventurous with his songs and guitar playing, he literally sounds like a musician reborn with a reinvigorated passion for his music. Things seem less reserved or held back with this album, Mark Stanway’s key’s seem more prominent and very, very, very fooking pompous! Keyboards have never been neglected in Magnum, but the lighter sound seems to have brought out the best in Stanway’s sound here.

Uncle Bob is flawless, to the point where I’d bite anyone’s nose off who dared utter words to the contrary. Vocalist’s like Bob are once in a lifetime, powerful, melodic, evocative, and emotive and it grates on me to the point of inducing a one man riot whenever I hear the word ‘Overrated’. Quite simply Bob is a singing legend and the fact he never lets you down live either is why his fans are so loyal! And hell no one throws shapes like Bob live; these guys aren’t allowed to retire till I’m six feet under!

What’s so great about Bob on this album is he seems liberated, unchained and some of his vocal performances are just out of this world. Again the word adventurous comes to mind and the lighter, pompous and bombastic style brings out the best in Bob!

The album opens with driving rocker ‘All The Dreamers’ which has an epic overblown feel to it and it opens proceedings with an almighty bang! There are huge keys and a great riff on the chorus from Clarkin. ‘Blood Red Laughter’ is a storming up-tempo rocker, with Catley evoking memories of his vocals on his debut solo album The Tower. The song also has a strong Storytellers edge to it and has a big catchy memorable chorus – a sure fire live hit! The quirky ‘Didn’t Like You Anyway’ see’s Clarkin writing very outside the box for recent Magnum. It has a cool chorus that’ll stick in your head, its very pomp rock.

The title track ‘On The 13th day’ is epic and grandiose, really makes you think of mid 80’s Magnum and a sound that evokes ‘Vigilante’ most noticeably in the rhythm section. It has a big booming bombastic chorus with stellar vocals from Bob and some great guitar licks from Tony. I’d be shocked if this one doesn’t make the band’s upcoming tour set list. ‘So Let It Rain’ is the most overtly commercial and radio friendly song the band have recorded in an age. It’s a mid-tempo ballad with a truly stunning performance from Bob. It has beautiful harmonies, delicious melodies and some great lyrics from Clarkin. ‘Dance Of The Black Tattoo’ is the most closest in style to recent output by the band mainly due to the darker edge to it. They’re Lots of crunching guitars to keep fans of the heavier stuff happy.

The melodic rock beauty ‘Shadow Town’ see’s Stanway shine and he injects some wonderful keys into this track. It has a light and bouncy chorus with an awesome vocal melody. Atmospheric ballad ‘Putting Things In Place’ will definitely appeal to fans of previous Magnum ballads like ‘Les Mort Dansant’. This piano lead song is another song reminiscent of the band’s 80’s sound. ‘Broken Promises’ is a powerful rocker with a punchy and driving chorus. This bombastic song is sure to be a live favourite methinks.

‘See How They Fall’ is an up-tempo driven rocker with a VERY powerful vocal performance from Bob especially on the huge chorus. The killer guitar work is sure to make sure this song has a massive impact live; I can already envisage the crowd getting all bouncy for this one! The album closes with ‘From Within’ a mid-tempo ballad with a beautiful harmony dripping chorus. This was one of the first songs to really resonate with me and there’s a very AOR-esque performance from Bob. Very commercial and catchy, I’ve yearned for songs like this to come from the band!

This is an album full of future live favourites, dance along ones, head banging ones and a shit load of sing along arms held aloft ones. Is this the best Magnum album in two decade’s? You decide! For me it is but I always feel with Magnum like the best is still yet to come.....I love Magnum......So Let It Rain....

Track Listing: All The Dreamers / Blood Red Laughter / Didn’t Like You Anyway / On the 13th Day / So Let It Rain / Dance Of The Black Tattoo / Shadow Town / Putting Things In Place / Broken Promises / See How They Fall / From Within

Album Rating: 9/10

Woody’s Essential Track: So Let It Rain

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