Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Album Review: Ten - Gothica

I believe I first heard the name Gary Hughes in connection with the solo albums he wrote for Bob Catley. I then saw just how many albums he has had a hand in over his career, and while that amount of music was overwhelming, I knew without even digging deep one truism; if you make too much music, it will vary wildly in quality. There's a reason why few artists are massively productive while still being consistently excellent. It's hard to write good songs, and I believe most writers only have a certain number of great ones in them (I speak from my own experience there). Hughes, I fear, may have run out long ago.

I was actually a fan of "Stormwarning" a few years back, but Ten's subsequent attempts have done nothing at all for me. This album, with it's lyrical focus on Gothic storytelling, is appealing, but the songs have a lot to live up to.

What I feared happening is what Ten throws themselves headlong into here; namely, the mentality that darker topics and atmospheres mean there's no need to have the big, warm melodies Ten is known for. That's a crock, and it ruins this album. Ten is not a dark band, nor a heavy band. They don't need to be, because at their best Hughes is one of the great melodic writers and singers in rock/metal. But by focusing on making this album 'dark', he's toned down the best aspect of his writing. He's handcuffed himself here, and then goes so far to make it a point of pride that he's done so.

And that's without getting into a gripe of mine, as someone who is a writer by trade. "La Luna Dra-Cu-La" is a mediocre song as it is, but the entire hook of the song is dependent on a mispronunciation of the character's name. There are times when I'll cut a band a bit of slack, because English isn't their native tongue, but Hughes damn well knows better. If the rhyme isn't perfect, you either find a different one, or you live with is being a soft rhyme. That's the way songs have always been written. You don't get to twist the language to fit your bad poetry.

But that nitpick isn't the only thing wrong here. This is, easily, the most boring album I've ever heard from Hughes. It doesn't really rock, and it's not fun to sing along with. His hooks on this album are so weak that not a single one of them is memorable. If you had told me this was a collection of the songs cut from the last couple of albums I didn't enjoy that much, I would believe you. That's how weak this material is, compared to what I know Ten can deliver.

Maybe this was just an experiment that didn't work out, but "Gothica" is a hugely frustrating album. It offers none of Ten's best traits, and focuses on things they have never been good at. It's a huge miscalculation, and an album that almost made me angry.

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