Magnum – “The Serpent Rings” CD / 2 LP / Deluxe Boxset (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
Oh wow, Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin are simply on a roll – following the charting success of 2018’s “Lost On The Road To Eternity”, Magnum are back again with an absolute winner that it sure to appeal to the hearts of its lifelong fans – who seem to be as timeless as the band themselves!!! When most groups in their maturity might be contemplating something more marketably modern, Clarkin – ever the perfectionist and traditionalist – seems to have actually gone back to the early 70s and that’s pretty clear from the lashings of 70s prog and classic rock adorning the 11 tracks making up this top level release. That’s not saying that the he’s unwilling to try new things and indeed the sound of brass horns on ‘House Of Kings’ and orchestrals on title track ‘The Serpent Rings’ attest to a receptive view, but it all has to fit – perfectly – in the established system that is Magnum, and who in recent years seem to be enjoying a second period of success albeit on their own terms as musicians. With bassist Al Barrow departing, the induction of regarded musician Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic etc etc) has only added more talent to a line up already oozing veteran credentials. Indeed, the musicianship here is on a breathtakingly high level indeed, while even more honed into the classic Magnum sound that is unmistakable to fans. As the warm and uplift on ‘Madman Or Messiah’ rolls over you led by Catley’s singing and power highs backed by 70s prog harmonies, the massive chorus just grabs your heart and soul as Clarkin has composed so many times on 20 prior albums, and you are there once again my friend, into the magnificent, magical world of Magnum! For those craving something more deeper and stirring, then ‘Not Forgiven’ should suffice as the 80s vibe is shattered by the dramatic drums and an utterly passionate chorus spelling ‘epic’ in every sense, delivering the power pomp blow, made even more emotional by Catley’s tender tones backed by Rick Benton’s light touch piano. Making Jeff Lynne’s head turn on ‘Man’ with its ELO prog power harmonies truly made me smile although Catley’s poignant lyrics of ‘..man will take the treasure, innocence is lost..’ was definitely not unheard, but made all the more apparent thanks to Lee Morris’s perfectly timed creative percussion. As with all the great Magnum releases, a singalong number is never amiss and here ‘The Last One On Earth’ is sure to get everyone stirring and singing as the passion starts even in its quieter moments before bursting forth to blissfully envelope your soul thanks to Catley’s moving vocals backed splendidly once again by Benton’s keys and Morris’s percussion. Christmas might be over, but Magnum have brought back the joy once again.