SPV/Steamhammer [Release date 14.01.22]
50 years on, and studio album number 22, there’s no keeping Magnum down – not even a pandemic. Whilst the band will be frustrated by the tour cancellations following the release of ‘The Serpent Rings’ they can at least look forward to another European tour in April 2022 including the UK.
The early advance tracks were a little confusing. ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ followed the crooner trajectory that has seeped into recent offerings, presumably to accommodate Bob Catley’s mellowing tones. But ‘No Steppin Stones’ was a real curveball; Magnum with a brass section. At least it was more upbeat. Labels and bands usually put out an album’s strongest tracks early on so these two were somewhat unsettling as they were diverse.
Tony Clarkin’s songwriting for the band still reigns supreme but whether consciously or not the recurring motif of ‘Remember’ recalls (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. At least it’s not Saxon! Elsewhere, there are similarities with previous (recent) offerings; ‘Remember’ also recalls ‘The Archway Of Tears’ from ‘The Serpent Rings’.
The album pivots on that brass-inflected curveball. The following ‘That Freedom Word’ puts a bit more heft in the mix that has been sadly lacking and this continues with ‘Your Blood Is Violence’ and ‘The Day After The Night Before’. The album’s parting shot even has a rare, if rather too short, wah-wah wig-out from our mainman.
There’s no doubt that Magnum – even with the recent input of Dennis Ward (bass) and Rick Benton (keyboards) – have now succumbed, musically, to a sort of septuagenerian sepsis. This is evidenced in ‘All You Believe In’ and ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ whilst ‘The Present Not The Past’ continues the AOR vibe of prime-time John Farnham. ‘Walk The Silent Hours’ is the strongest of these offerings.
Whereas Benton’s keys were a raised-in-the-mix feature of the last two albums sadly they are somewhat submerged apart from a few flourishes here and there not least a rather unexpected coda to ‘Remember’.
The best that can be said about ‘The Monster Roars’ is that it simply tops up a very fine back catalogue but Classic Magnum it is not. Even Rodney Matthews’ iconic artwork is missing. This year should simply be a celebration of the great durability and consistent quality of one of our finest rock bands and not least of Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin. The extended package even recognises this with a remastering of the band’s debut single. ***1/2
Review by David Randall
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)
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Power Plays w/c 16 May 2022 (Mon-Fri)
FLOYA The Hymn (Arising Empire)
VEXES The Dream Disease (indie)
NEAR DUSK The Way It Goes (Iron Head Records)
IN SEARCH OF SUN Make Me Crazy (indie)
WALLNER VAIN Deceive Her (indie)
FIGHT THE FADE Where You Go I Go (FiXT)
MARATON Non-Euclidean Heart (Indie Recordings)
Featured Albums w/c 16 May (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 TERRA NOVA Ring That Bell (Lion Music)
12:00-13:00 FOZZY Boombox (Mascot)
14:00-16:00 MICHAEL McDERMOTT St.Paul’s Boulevard (Pauper Sky Records)
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