Genre - Hard Rock / Melodic Rock
Label - Steamhammer / SPV
01 - Live 'Til You Die
02 - Unwritten Sacrifice
03 - Falling For The Big Plan
04 - Crying In The Rain
05 - Too Many Clowns
06 - Midnight Angel
07 - The Art Of Compromise
08 - Don't Fall Asleep
09 - Wisdom's Had Its Day
10 - Burning River
11 - The Valley Of Tears
Legendary UK band MAGNUM return with a the brand new record - their 19th studio album - "Escape From The Shadow Garden". It is fair to say that with Magnum you will probably never get a naff album, and much has already been said about the essence of this awaited "Escape From The Shadow Garden", and I have to agree that, once again, this is a superb offering from a band who have certainly changed their sound from the old days.Whereas the Magnum of old were a cross between melodic and prog rock, Magnum post 2000 are a more guitar driven beast, and never more so than on this album.
"Escape From The Shadow Garden" is an album full of great melodic tunes and some serious heavy riffage, plenty of terrific songs and arrangements.
It seems that mastermind Tony Clarkin has rediscovered the fact that he is in actual fact a lead guitarist, and as such he is at liberty to deliver big, fat riffs (check out "Too Many Clowns" for evidence of this) and to rock out as much as he wants. Singer Bob Catley has changed too, with age giving him a rock growl that wasn’t evident when he was telling us a bout storytellers and vigilantes.
"Escape From The Shadow Garden" rocks, and rock hard straight to the point with a dramatic string section opening up the album on "Live ‘Till You Die". This gives way to a real classic sounding guitar riff from Clarkin where the legendary vocals of Catley soar over the top of.
This is a great start to the album, with lots of things going on held together by a fantastic rhythm section. There’s plenty of atmospheric keyboards adding drama to the proceedings and varied, different moments of awesome music within this one song alone; a superbly good start to the CD.
More keyboards kick things off for "Unwritten Sacrifice", with an emotive lead vocal that really builds a great story. Another awesome chorus is backed by great musicianship to give this song a lot of feeling, building a lot of tension throughout.
"Falling For The Big Plan" changes things up a bit with a nice piano melody layered with vocals. This is another awesome song, full of twists and turns and some more great atmosphere. An awesome solo serves to punctuate the whole thing too, featuring some nice melodic playing.
"Crying In The Rain" is perhaps the more elaborated cut, opening up with some cool bass and guitars playing off of each other before a powerful drum section enters the fray, with more killer vocals on top. A pot of harmonies and powerful chords power this song along before hitting the grooving main riff with one of my personal favourite choruses on the record.
"Too Many Clowns" is a bit more of a straight up rocker, with an old school bluesy main riff and a very appropriate lead vocal that shows off how dynamic this band really is.
A highlight, "Midnight Angel" has that heartfelt sincerity that could only have flowed from the pen of Tony Clarkin, who's skills as a songwriter mature like a wine of the very finest vintage. An intro full of classic sounds and a really great performance gives way to some powerful riffs later on. This is a nice long song, with great lyrics and a hell of a lot of different sections held together by really strong arrangements.
Solemn, melancholy and austere, "The Art of Compromise" continues in the tradition of Clarkin's songs having a story to tell, his words brought to life as only Catley can. "Wisdom's Had Its Day" combines power, pomp and melody and it all seems so effortless and yet, as every fan knows, Clarkin pours his heart and soul into writing every note and word.
"Burning River" and the aforementioned "Too Many Clowns" are the type of rock solid Magnum barn burners that their audience loves so well, blending chugging riffs and an insistent chorus set to a mid-tempo gallop. Both are melodic hard rock gems, like few in the business can do with this class.
And having been responsible for some of the most stirring power ballads of the last thirty-odd years it is hardly surprising that Clarkin can still come up with songs as emotional and moving as "Don't Fall Asleep" and the closing "The Valley of Tears", both of which deliver the enduring Magnum message of struggle, faith and perseverance in the face of adversity.
You can’t keep a good band down, and like any other good band Magnum just won’t lie down and take it easy. Nope, Bob Catley, Tony Clarkin et al are determined to plough on until we get bored of them, something that, thankfully, doesn’t look like happening anytime soon as "Escape From The Shadow Garden" is among the works of their career.
This new record is for Magnum fans, old and new alike, as good as they’ve ever been really, with plenty of great musicianship and a really nice classic yet modern sound. The production is fantastic as you’d expect from a band of Magnum’s stature. The mix is nice & clear and definitely loud enough too to enhance the terrific layers of guitar.
This is one of the albums of the years my fellow readers. Snatch it up as soon as possible, or ignore it at your own cost!
This to me is Magnum,s best album since 1990's Good Night LA!
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Rating - 10/10