Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Album Review: Magnum - Lost On The Road To Eternity

What is there to say about Magnum at this point? They have been around for decades, and have been cranking out Magnum albums that sound like classic Magnum albums with remarkable consistency. When you put one on, you know what you're going to get. They are one of the classiest rock bands out there, and the combination of Tony Clarkin's writing, and Bob Catley's voice, is sort of timeless. We'll all have our disagreements about which Magnum album is our favorite (mine is "Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow" - but that's just when I got into them), but I don't know if it can ever be said they have released anything bad. Even bad Magnum is still good.

So we now move on to the newest Magnum opus. Sorry for that pun. It was unintentional... at first.

For their twentieth(!) album, Magnum is still busy being Magnum. If you've heard any of their recent releases, you already know what to expect from this new album. While they don't hit the Motorhead or AC/DC level of repetition, a Magnum album is always going to sound familiar. That's actually a good thing, because their particular take on melodic hard rock is unique, and why they have endured for so long. When Catley sings one of Clarkin's songs, it sounds like nothing else. It would be disappointing if Magnum veered away from that.

The elephant in the room with this particular album is the length. Eleven tracks doesn't sound like too much, but with only one track failing to break five minutes (and that by only one second), this is a lengthy endeavor. The law of diminishing returns begins to apply by the time the record is done, and I can't help but feel like it would have been better off being a track or two shorter.

The other thing about this album is that it's actually less melodic than some of their other recent albums. The first few tracks don't have the epic melodies I've come to expect from Magnum. "Storm Baby" in particular puzzles me, as the main thrust of the chorus is actually a guitar riff, and not a melody at all. And with the track stretching over six minutes, that's a long time to go without a strong melodic focus.

There's something about this album that never seems to get out of first gear. Even when there's something percolating, it doesn't follow through. "Welcome To The Cosmic Cabaret" builds up to a rocking chorus, and the it immediately break down into nothing but a slow drum beat that Catley finds himself speak-singing over. The momentum is completely gone, and has to be restarted from scratch. That makes the song's job that much harder, and I'm not sure it's able to recover.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the best track here is the title cut, a collaboration with Tobias Sammet. It is cinematic, sweeping, and as good a Magnum track as Magnum has written in a long time. That song, along with first single "Without Love", are classic Magnum. The only problem with them is that there aren't enough of those songs to fill out the album's running time.

Sadly, that means I have to say "Lost On The Road To Eternity" is not one of Magnum's better albums, even among their later works. It has its charms, but it overstays its welcome. Magnum is never bad, but they're usually better than this. I would consider this to be a disappointing turn along that road. Magnum isn't quite lost, as the title suggests, but they could use directions back toward greatness.

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