Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TEN: ”Albion”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Rocktopia 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Gary Hughes and his merry men have teamed up with the new label Rocktopia, formed by Kieran Dargan and Bruce Mee of Firefest and Fireworks magazine. It’s kind of a ”back to the roots” thing for Ten, as their first album was one of the earliest releases of Now & Then records, of which Bruce Mee was a part of.

I don’t know if I should say that ”Albion” is musically a return to the roots too, as Ten have been quite faithful to their style over the years. I do know that it is a much stronger album than their previous one, the disappointing ”Heresy & Creed”. In fact, now that I’ve been listening to it a lot, it’s slowly climbing towards the top of the list of Ten albums. Surely it’s among the better half of their releases.

The production/sound problems that plagued some of the Ten releases as a few years ago are nothing but a distant memory now, ”Albion” sounds very good. Even though there are now three guitarists in the band, there’s room to breathe, the album’s not a full-blown shredfest.

The opening three songs are among the strongest on the album, all boasting great melodies and hooks. Both ”Alone In The Dark Tonight” and ”It’s Alive” are ”The Best Of TEN”-type of material, and ”Battlefield” isn’t far behind. The title-track(’ish) ”Albion Born” has a bit of a celtic vibe and it’s not too bad either. The first of the ballads ”Sometimes Love Takes The Long Way Home” is taking the long way to get me under its’ spell, so far I’m not convinced. Same goes for ”A Smuggler’s Tale”. ”Die For Me” has a bit of a Whitesnake-vibe mixed with the traditional TEN sound, and it works quite well. ”It Ends The Way” is a peculiar song: once you get past the monotonous, surprisingly modern-sounding verses, you’ll be rewarded with one of the finest choruses of the album! Quite peculiar is the second ballad of the album, ”Gioco D’Amore” too. This song will polarize listeners for sure. There will be those who’ll laugh it off as a strange mix of Andrea Bocelli and metal, and then there will be those who’ll be totally swept away by the song. I’m happy to say I’m in the latter group. It took a few plays but now I rate this song as one of my favorites from this album AND one of my favorite TEN ballads. Great vocal from Mr. Hughes, and don’t let those italian lyrics fool you - this isn’t some half-hearted attempt to expand the band’s fan base. With the right exposure, it could very well do that though.

Apparently Hughes and co. didn’t want to end the album in the traditional way with a big ballad. ”Wild Horses” is good, somewhat understated melodic rock track, and leaves you wanting more. A good thing that you’ll get more by just pushing the play button again!

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