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Magnum - The Serpent Rings

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The Serpent Rings

Magnum

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When Magnum released 2018's Lost on the Road to Eternity, keyboardist Rick Benton replaced Mark Stanway, who'd quit (for the third time) in the middle of a tour. The album's razor-edged, riff-laden hard rock sound contrasted with the plodding bombast and balladry of 2016's Sacred Blood "Divine" Lies that, frankly, sounded tired. Longtime drummer Harry James left in 2017 and was replaced by Lee Morris. The resulting tour was wonderfully documented on 2018's surprising On the Road to Eternity live outing. Finally, in June of 2019, Al Barrow, the band's bassist since 2001, retired from music. American Dennis Ward claimed the spot just before Magnum entered the studio to record The Serpent Rings. Founding members guitarist Tony Clarkin and singer Bob Catley are the only remnants from the 20th century. As evidenced on their 21st studio album, the personnel changes stoked the fire in the bellies of these two mainstays. "Where Are You Eden" opens with urgent chamber strings and Morris' snares and tom-toms before Ward charges in with sweeping organ and synth chords and Clarkin delivers a crunchy, melodic riff. When Catley begins to sing, it's as if the decades slip away. This is a fist-pumping anthem. The proceeding "You Can’t Run Faster Than Bullets" highlights the promise of the opener, led by Benton's meaty keyboard groove. "Madman or Messiah" makes it three burners in a row. Commencing with a keyboard vamp behind Catley's strong, melodic singing, it's propelled with crunch and verve by Clarkin's layered power riffs. The hook in the harmonic chorus is worthy of a singalong in the bridge, and it's exquisitely crafted. There are no weak cuts here, though the album possesses a very consistent tempo and intensity level. The raucous "Not Forgiven" contains a riff worthy of early AC/DC, but the expansive keys and tight orchestration gird that open, ringing guitar vamp and cascading grand piano. They push Catley to the edge; the track is designed to get concert audiences on their feet. "House of Kings" contains a startling brass section and a ringing grand piano that contrasts sharply with Catley's growling, balls-to-the-wall vocal and Clarkin's overdriven guitars. It also features a jazzy bridge where the horns and Benton's inventive pianism are embossed by Morris' (literally) swinging drums. The final two tracks, "The Last One on Earth" and "Crimson on the White Sand," are power ballads that fill out the album's dynamic portrait. The latter is especially ferocious, with Clarkin's razor-wire guitar fills alongside layered chamber strings and majestic, earthshaking drums. The Serpent Rings is arguably the most vital-sounding, musically consistent album by Magnum since the '80s. Clarkin and Catley have been working together since 1972. Nearly 50 years later, they sound vital, hungry, and, alongside their new bandmates, prove that Magnum has plenty of gas left in the tank. ~ Thom Jurek

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The Serpent Rings

Magnum

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1
Where Are You Eden?
00:05:36

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

2
You Can't Run Faster Than Bullets
00:05:36

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

3
Madman or Messiah
00:05:20

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

4
The Archway of Tears
00:06:21

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

5
Not Forgiven
00:05:48

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

6
The Serpent Rings
00:06:54

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

7
House of Kings
00:04:46

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

8
The Great Unknown
00:05:26

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

9
Man
00:05:25

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

10
The Last One on Earth
00:03:31

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

11
Crimson on the White Sand
00:04:53

Magnum, MainArtist

(C) 2019 Steamhammer (P) 2019 Steamhammer

Album Description

When Magnum released 2018's Lost on the Road to Eternity, keyboardist Rick Benton replaced Mark Stanway, who'd quit (for the third time) in the middle of a tour. The album's razor-edged, riff-laden hard rock sound contrasted with the plodding bombast and balladry of 2016's Sacred Blood "Divine" Lies that, frankly, sounded tired. Longtime drummer Harry James left in 2017 and was replaced by Lee Morris. The resulting tour was wonderfully documented on 2018's surprising On the Road to Eternity live outing. Finally, in June of 2019, Al Barrow, the band's bassist since 2001, retired from music. American Dennis Ward claimed the spot just before Magnum entered the studio to record The Serpent Rings. Founding members guitarist Tony Clarkin and singer Bob Catley are the only remnants from the 20th century. As evidenced on their 21st studio album, the personnel changes stoked the fire in the bellies of these two mainstays. "Where Are You Eden" opens with urgent chamber strings and Morris' snares and tom-toms before Ward charges in with sweeping organ and synth chords and Clarkin delivers a crunchy, melodic riff. When Catley begins to sing, it's as if the decades slip away. This is a fist-pumping anthem. The proceeding "You Can’t Run Faster Than Bullets" highlights the promise of the opener, led by Benton's meaty keyboard groove. "Madman or Messiah" makes it three burners in a row. Commencing with a keyboard vamp behind Catley's strong, melodic singing, it's propelled with crunch and verve by Clarkin's layered power riffs. The hook in the harmonic chorus is worthy of a singalong in the bridge, and it's exquisitely crafted. There are no weak cuts here, though the album possesses a very consistent tempo and intensity level. The raucous "Not Forgiven" contains a riff worthy of early AC/DC, but the expansive keys and tight orchestration gird that open, ringing guitar vamp and cascading grand piano. They push Catley to the edge; the track is designed to get concert audiences on their feet. "House of Kings" contains a startling brass section and a ringing grand piano that contrasts sharply with Catley's growling, balls-to-the-wall vocal and Clarkin's overdriven guitars. It also features a jazzy bridge where the horns and Benton's inventive pianism are embossed by Morris' (literally) swinging drums. The final two tracks, "The Last One on Earth" and "Crimson on the White Sand," are power ballads that fill out the album's dynamic portrait. The latter is especially ferocious, with Clarkin's razor-wire guitar fills alongside layered chamber strings and majestic, earthshaking drums. The Serpent Rings is arguably the most vital-sounding, musically consistent album by Magnum since the '80s. Clarkin and Catley have been working together since 1972. Nearly 50 years later, they sound vital, hungry, and, alongside their new bandmates, prove that Magnum has plenty of gas left in the tank. ~ Thom Jurek

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