Search This Blog

Friday, March 4, 2011

Magnum - The Visitation album review

Magnum – The Visitation album review
Released on: SPV / Steamhammer. Release date: Available Now.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes, some people are surprised by individuals personal tastes and I think my love of Brummie – That’s English slang for someone who comes from Birmingham! – band Magnum, has that effect on some people.
You see some people would pigeon hole Magnum as kind of prog rock, other’s perhaps like me would include them in the melodic rock field.
That said, a good old mate of mine in the UK – Thanks Ian! – said to me, ‘Well Al, they’re not really, a real prog band are they? They kind of sit on the line somewhere between the two genres, don’t they?’ I suppose you’re right Ian. :)

These guys have been around for quite some time and I first saw them back in 1979, but they’ve changed a bit here and there, even with the two main guys singer Bob Catley and guitarist, writer, producer, musical genius, etc, Tony Clarkin breaking off to form Hard Rain in the 90’s, to record two albums before reforming Magnum once again in 2002.

Really they are a pretty unique band and yes, it captures elements of prog rock, classic rock and melodic rock and dare I say it, these days they even throw a little something else in there, that kind of borderline ‘avant-garde’ type effect. Yes, really.

To the album then when this first starts, I love the crunching riffs of ‘Black Skies,’ as it chugs along, but Bob Catley's vocals kind of go somewhere a little out there … It was hard to get used to at first, but it’s grown.
It's a little dark sounding track for sure.

‘Doors to Nowhere’ starts with some resonating Hammond organ and you wonder where it may take you and then it almost has a kind of feel of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger (Rocky) soundtrack era, punchy, hooky riffs, before easing into the laid back verse. Then the chorus kicks in with that catchy riff again to pick things up. Back into the verse again and it’s almost melancholy. It’s good texture within the song and this one again I’ve got to love it!
I do love the subject matter that Catley shares with us on the opening line, “Up every day, took my clothes off the chair. Poured out a drink, from the old Frigidaire. Some magazines, by the fire never touched. Shiny red step, always cleaned, always brushed ...‘ Great stuff! It really is a great song that yes, grows on you, but if you’re a Magnum fan, then by now you’re probably used to that.

Title track ‚‘The Visitation‘ is next and if you’re a fan of old classic Magnum I think you’re be quite pleased with this one. At times I’m reminded of 'All Englands Eyes,' here. Then the song take a very different turn and get’s all ... Proggie? Avant garde? You call it folks! It then get’s back into the punchy riffs and rocks toward the end.
It’s really not going to be an instant album, of that it’s clear, but there’s really a lot of familiar Magnum touches here.
By the way, no short, sharp cuts here, the days of quick fire three to four minute hook ridden tracks such as 'Just Like an Arrow,' seem to be long gone it seems.
The shortest track on here clocks in at four minutes forty eight seconds.

I will say that next track 'Wild Angels,' does have a pretty catchy chorus and riff throughout though, it clocks in at five minutes forty one seconds. Really like it though.

'Spin Like A Wheel' is also has a lot going for it in the hooks, an uptempo almost poppy rocker. By the way, Tony Clarkin is really sounding like he’s playing out of his skin here and there. This is a nice AOR style track, no question. Not a power ballad, but it does take thing up and down a lot and there’s some great interchanges here and there too. By the way, this one clocks in at over seven and a half minutes!

OK, I guess 'The Last Frontier' is possibly as close as we’re going to get to a power ballad from these guys here and towards the end there is huge orchestration going on here. Nice track guys.

'Freedom Day,' is one of those build up tracks, that starts all laid back and atmospheric and then builds up a little here and there, but it’s a multi layered affair, that you almost think may take off, but it really doesn’t quite make it there. Again lots of orchestration, brass too here, not to mention it’s percussive ups and downs here and there ... It doesn’t really grab me, I have to say, it's just a little different.

After Freedom Day, 'Mother Nature’s Final Dance' hits you like a breath of fresh air. It builds up at times and grows, then it really picks up and becomes an epic like track. Really love this one.

The intro to 'Midnight Kings' is simply great. It rocks straight away, then eases back and then grows again. Some nice, clever changes in the song and it’s funny how it’s even Yes like in places, yet again though Tony Clarkin is really rocking out, nice band song, where everyone here really seems to shine from Harry James drums, through nice base lines from Al Barrow, Mark Stanway’s piano and keyboards great and to be honest, Stanway really shines throughout the album too.

It’s funny how for the most part I’ve found that the album is true to what Magnum does, but it kind of hit a lull - For me - with 'Freedom Day,' but otherwise it's what Magnum do and closer 'Tonight’s the Night' finishes the album nicely, capturing the essence of Magnum at so many levels. Musical ability, great textures, something different - They even have a little acapella going on here! - and as I say, good quality rock music. 
Good job guys.

The tracks that I wasn’t enamored with at first, have grown on me, like any good Magnum album, maybe 'Freedom Day' will too in time!

Again, Magnum are a very talent band, with Bob Catley’s familiar, classy voice, strong guitar work from Tony Clarkin, abundant piano and keyboards throughout the album from Mark Stanway and a good, strong backbone of bassist Al Barrow and drummer Harry James, it’s good stuff from the band. It’s very sad that American audiences have never accepted Magnum. I wish they would, then maybe I’ll get to see them play live again! I live in hope ... and in this case, probably dreams!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Official band website:


No comments:

Post a Comment