Review by Rick Ossian
Live Till You Die sucks us in with a violin and xylophone intro, but something tells me that’s not going to be the core of this worthy opener. It is another of the six-and-a-half minute sojourns into life that Magnum appears to be hell-bent on taking us along on. It is a heavier tune, replete with ripping barre chord riffs (Tony Clarkin) and galloping rhythm section (à la Iron Maiden), not to mention a SLAMMING drummer (Gary “Harry” James). Bass duties are ably held down (Al Barrow), and we have some incredibly good keyboard work as well (Mark Stanway).
Unwritten Sacrifice starts things off with some beautiful piano work, then some brief vocal accompaniment, followed by the rest of the band joining heartily together for the next adventure. This tune is not unlike a battle cry for the ages, at least in the opinion of anyone who gets to hear it. It is another fist-pumper, and just when you think they’re going to go soft on you, they kick out the jams again! If you like your rock/metal with a symphonic background and a supernatural lyrical bent, then this may be just your cuppa. It is a slamming jammer for at least the majority of the tune.
Falling For the Big Plan is another six-minute number, but do not let the length of these tunes fool you. You’re not going on some dry, boring prog journey. First you get the piano/vocal intro, as per usual, but that’s just the INTRO, you see. If you wait for a few seconds, your air guitar leanings and banging(s) of the head will have plenty of time to air their griefs. It is a mesmerizing number, though, and probably not for everyone. But if you like your tunes to be a bit mysterious-sounding, then you may like this particular one. It is a great hard rock number, and recalls to my mind, at least, the heyday of outfits like Twisted Sister, The Dictators or even Manowar at times. It is well worth six minutes if you have a few bits of time to spare! About four minutes in, did I mention there is a tasty guitar solo? Fear not, ye doubters, naysayers, haters – ALL of you! And just listen. Did Thin Lizzy or UFO come to your head, even for an instant? I love when a band does that, it just reminds me of the halcyon days of yore. Back when the only thing that seemed important was music. Wait a minute – music IS the most important thing, right? Well, next to your loved ones’ safety and protection, and of course I have a self-preservation instinct! Rightly so, I would hope.
Crying In the Rain is a more direct rocky approach from the start. It is about a woman (of course),which is par for the course. But it is about more -trust me, listen to the lyrics for a moment, and see if you catch what I’m on about. Heartbreak isn’t easy to render on tablet, let alone vocally or musically. This man is conveying passion, a medium which is sadly lacking in much of today’s metal or hard rock or prog. On first glance at the title, I thought to myself; “Oh, no, not a cover of that Whitesnake tune!” I was glad that it was Magnum‘s own, and not the aforementioned tune. Not that that particular Whitesnake number ISN’T a good tune – but this one is much better. The building crescendo at the close is a nice touch.
Too Many Clowns is another one of those songs that make us think. Do not worry about hurting your brain, however, my fine furry friends. And you won’t have to think for long, either. Trust me, just listen. A charging rocker awaits you in this corner. In the United States, we often refer to obvious oafs, nitwits, etc. as clowns. However, there is also the creepiness of clowns to consider (Stephen King‘s ‘IT‘ I believe had a creepy clown). But we shouldn’t focus on the lyrics necessarily for this tune. I found myself focusing on the tune itself, especially the no-holds-barred beat that was laid down. Is it possible for a heavy groove to be funky at the same time? If it is, then Magnum really pulled it off with. Huzzah, another great tune! I feel a five-star rating coming on…
Midnight Angel is probably one of the best tracks contained herein. It is a long one, over seven minutes, but it is by no means boring. Heavens forbid! Keys envelope us with vocals amidst them as if they were designed to blend together. I can’t help but wonder what is more important: the music or the message? For that, dear reader, I will leave to you to decide. I will just enjoy the jams! It is NOT a typical metal tune in that it has no obvious beat at first. It is more of a stop/start/stutter mechanism at work here, which may surprise a lot of folks. It features more piano balladry, but as I’ve had said before,these lads are nothing if not eclectic. Sometimes a little patience is required, my lovely little punters – but fear not – have I ever lead you astray before? Well, there was that one time when I…oh, never mind. You get the picture. It is, without a doubt, a kick-ass tune. Not a conventional or orthodox metal thing, mind you. It’s more like Journey meets UFO in a dark alley knife-fight. ‘More keyboards!’ shouts one. “No, more guitars!” They blend in such a way that both instruments end up doing heroic roles for the sake of the song.
The Art of Compromise is different all together. It is an absolute beast of a tune. It begins with the obligatory balladic piano/vocal combo. Don’t be deceived, dear reader. Things will kick in here in just a moment. This is pretty much AOR fodder for the most part, as is the lion’s share of these proceedings. There are, however, some tasty guitar licks!
I don’t know a lot about Magnum I do know that I like what I hear. Don’t Fall Asleep sounds a bit of a stretch,though, when you consider that it is one of few times where they actually DON’T rock. Then, out of the blue, as if a heavy metal lightning rod clashed with a proggy piano interlude, they rock once more. They run the gamut of human musical emotion in a matter of six minutes. Though it is not a word I relish choosing often, this is a prog-metal epic of sorts. It will uplift you if you are down in the doldrums. It may even restore your faith in mankind. It is a lush ballad and a triumphant call-to-arms by turns. It is an incredible song, to say the least.
Wisdom’s Had Its Day is much in the same vein, as it lulls you into unawareness (is that a word?), then symphonically smashes us up against our collective wall(s). The singer, Bob Catley, sounds as if he is on a mission. His aim, if you haven’t already jumped ahead of me a few steps, is to woo us in. This must be his speciality, as we will witness, aurally, if you will, that he does it regularly AND emphatically. Though not perhaps a world-class singer in terms of sheer numbers, I would be willing to bet that he could stand toe-to-toe with the best of the lot! From a powerhouse clean roar to a deathly whisper, Mr. Catley continues to astound.
Burning River, by contrast, is a hard-charging symphonic rocker. Magnum come slamming out of the gate on this number. It would be easy to imagine a stadium full of lighters lit whilst being played in my/your local venue(s). It sounds as if it has a bad-ass groove through to its very core, and it does. If this one doesn’t wallop you up side your head, then you must be sleeping or deaf ( no offense to the sleeping and/or the deaf meant)! There is another mellow breakdown mid-tune, but it doesn’t last long. Soon, you too will be lured in by the tasty guitar solo contained herein. Of the tracks I’ve heard up to this point, this one stands out in my mind the most.
The Valley of Tears is a six-and-a-half minute behemoth, beginning with an exquisite piano/vocal intro. Don’t be fooled, my friends. It is ballad-esque, but it also contains moments of pomp and circumstance, as it were. It builds as if it full of purpose. Once again, we are on a journey, a quest, a veritable mission to save mankind through musical encouragement. It may work for some, and if one damned soul is saved because he heard this tune, then by the gods its done its job! There is another brief piano/vocal interlude at about the 4:30 mark, but it is almost a welcome respite from the sheer pomposity of it all. It is by turns dramatic and romantic – and in the same song, no less! It is interesting to note the dichotomy of it all, for me, at least, because so many bands are content to represent one type of tune. Oh, and another tasty guitar tidbit right at the end.
This one is for Magnum fans, old and new alike. It is also a definite paean to the power/prog-rock days of yesterday. Snatch it up if its your thing, or ignore it at your own cost!