Monday, February 22, 2016

Album Review: Sacred Blood 'Divine' Lies

At this point, what more can be said about Magnum? They've been around for so long, and released so many albums, that you know exactly what you're going to get when you put the new one in for a spin. Tony Clarkin is going to write melodic hard rock songs, Bob Catley is going to sounds as great as ever, and the odds are that you're going to hear roughly ten tracks that are worthy additions to the Magnum catalog, but won't overtake whatever your favorite record is. That's the scenario most veteran bands face, unless they have undergone major shifts in their sound. Magnum are still Magnum, which could almost be a review unto itself.

I first got into the band through the album "Princess Alice And The Broken Mirror", which I still give semi-regular attention. The albums that have come since then, despite being of no lesser quality, have never captured my attention the same way. I can't explain why that is.

The oddly punctuated title track opens things off with a very classic rock styled guitar arpeggio, with Catley providing some of his most aggressive vocals over the sparse arrangement. He actually pulls back when the rest of the band joins, before pushing even harder, and out of his range, if we're being honest. The chorus is trademark Clarkin, matching a solid melody to a few pounding chords. It's Magnum at the heavier end of their spectrum, and it sounds fantastic.

That description holds true, as this feels like one of Magnum's heavier albums. "Crazy Old Mothers", despite the ridiculous title, has some massive guitar work, as does "Gypsy Queen". Clarkin sprinkles in the pianos and softer moments, but he's not afraid to crank his amps and give the songs more heft than I'm used to hearing from the band. Catley has proven before that he can sing heavier music (both in Avantasia and on his should-be-a-classic solo album "Immortal"), so this doesn't feel like a ploy. The band feels like they're hitting on all cylinders, which comes across through the energy in the music.

This set of songs sounds to me to have more spark than the last couple of albums. Songs like "Your Dreams Won't Die" are everything that Magnum is supposed to be; classy, and emphatically melodic. When Clarkin is able to generate those kinds of hooks, and Catley puts his magical voice to them, you can see why Magnum has been going strong for thirty years. That's not to say everything here is magical. "A Forgotten Conversation" is a song that will easily be forgotten, and most of the second half of the record is noticibly less engaging than the first half, until you get to the fantastic closer "Don't Cry Baby".

Wo what we end up with is an album that continues Magnum's legacy, and does what all Magnum albums have done for decades now; provide a batch of songs that are a good way to spend some time. Like I said at the beginning, Magnum is Magnum. If you like them, this album is a sure-fire winner.

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