Album review: TEN- Illuminati

Release Date 9.11.18

Ten were standard bearers of the then underground melodic rock scene in the nineties and have recovered after a lean spell to resume a prolific recording schedule- this being their sixth album in this decade alone.

Singer and composer Gary Hughes is still very much calling the shots in his usual epic style, with an eight minute opener in ‘Be As You Are Forever’. Indeed it is three before the vocals kick in, but the chorus is a real grower. ‘Shield Wall’ is heavier and faster paced, yet still very melodic though the way the chorus is chanted is a bit gimmicky.

As ever Gary writes in an ornate writing style – few others in this genre would name a song ‘The Esoteric Ocean’ (which incidentally has a touch of ‘Carmina Burana’ (aka the Old Spice advert)- and explores themes of history, myth and legend, notably on the title track about one of the earliest secret societies.

As the album wears on, my impression is of a change of emphasis with the focus on vocals and lead guitar rather than the thick wall of sound that I remember from previous releases.  The guitars from Dann Rosingana and Steve Grocott combine a very technical, shredding style with some more conventionally melodic solos, but as so often with Ten, Gary’s  baritone voice will always divide opinion  and putting it so far forward in the mix exposes it.

On too many slower songs like ‘Jericho’ and ‘Rosetta Stone’, while technically  sound it feels a bit passionless, rendering them rather bland. While ‘Exile’ and ‘Mephistopheles’, the latter probably my favourite song along with the opener, rock reasonably hard, this is a relatively mellow affair.

The almost symphonic melodies of ‘Of Battles Lost and Won’ close the album in typically Hughesian fashion, though again that sonorous voice is very much a matter of taste.

This won’t go down as a vintage Ten album, but fans of Gary Hughes’ distinctive songwriting will still find much to enjoy.

*** ½

Review by Andy Nathan


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