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Music Review: Magnum – Into The Valley Of The Moonking

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Magnum are a British rock institution, who've been on the go since 1972, albeit with a six year break in the nineties.  Guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarkin and vocalist Bob Catley have been there since the beginning, and continued to work together as Hard Rain, even during the nineties split. 

They achieved most of their chart success following Chase The Dragon in 1982, with Wings Of Heaven in 1988 and Goodnight L.A., both hitting the UK Top 10, along with a sprinkling of hit singles.  Since getting back together as Magnum in 2001, they've continued to have a large live following, as well as releasing new material, with this their fourth post-reformation studio album being their fifteenth in total.

First of, let me just say, that's a shocking title for an album.  It's like something a second division power metal band might come up with after too many steins of ale.  And I'd thought their last album title, Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow, was bad.  Someone needs to put away their art of the Brothers Hildebrandt books sharpish.

Secondly, I'd like to say, and this is much more important so pay attention, that this is a cracking album.  I was a wee bit unsure when the opening "Cry To Yourself" came to a close.  Luckily, it turned out to be the weakest song on the album, and once the classic, melodic Magnum anthem that is "All My Bridges" kicked in, all was well once again.  Their patented melodic rock/prog fusion was back on track, and that is always a good thing.

"Take Me To The Edge" rocks as hard as anything they've done since the band got back together, and the near title track "The Moonking" sees them take an interesting side step into a seventies Ritchie Blackmore styled rock blues.  Best of all, though, is the closing "Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns", which manages to mix up pomp rock, barroom boogie, and Autographs "Turn Up The Radio"! 

Elsewhere, I was particularly taken with the balladic "Time To Cross That River" and the dark, swirling "If I Ever Lose My Mind"'.  Negatives?  Well Bob Catley doesn't have the same vocal range as he used to, but he can't be far off his pension now, so it's not surprising. The production doesn't do the drums justice.  At times they come across as quite flat, but these are minor quibbles and I can think of no reason why Magnum fans won't take this to their hearts.

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About Stuart A Hamilton