Praying Mantis – “Gravity” (Frontiers Music)
Although not a founder of the NWOBHM, Praying Mantis rose fast to the forefront of the next wave, where their heady brand of mixing irresistible melodies with hard rock and metallic elements soon garnered them a following not just in the UK, but also Japan, where they have remained a cult act and arguably the reason for the band’s continuing existence. “Gravity” is the band’s 11th album, and see’s them moving even more towards the melodic aspect, with some of the material even erring towards AOR. Still, I don’t blame the band for this given its resurgence over the years, allowing them to capitalise on the commercial success that eluded them in their early career, despite their huge potential. Continuing with founders Chris and Tino Troy, who have built yet another talented line up around them, they have found an absolute gem in vocalist John Cuijpers, who’s honed his pipes in a number of Foreigner, Maiden and Lizzy tribute bands and clearly delivers the goods across a range of styles on the 11 tracks here. From ’39 Years’ where the hard rocking riffs conspire with flowing melodies backed by 80s synths to form the perfect platform for this stratospheric performance, there’s plenty of all too familiar Mantis passion charging out of the dramatic music with drummer Hans in’t Zandt clearly not content to sit quietly behind his kit! In returning tribute to the land of the rising sun comes the title track ‘Gravity’ with its eastern vibe and despite being softer in tone with more synths, Cuijpers magnificent red blooded vocals add the fire where its needed albeit in a more subtle way, once again showing the dexterity of this amazing band who impressed me right from the off as a young teenager way back when. So for the heavies like me, ‘Final Destination’ should suffice with its deep riffs, power drums and signature Tino Troy solo mesmerisingly contrasted by Cuijpers high and soaring vocals – honestly, I could listen to this man forever but sadly that’s all we have this time round, although proving in no small measure that Praying Mantis are still out there, still going and still having it like they did back in those glory days.