REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
Showing no signs of slowing down, and looking like rocking out until Clarkin and Catley crumble into dust (nowt wrong with that), Bristish rock legends Magnum return fresh for the new year with their eleventy fifth (or something) studio album, the rejigged band now containing bass maestro Dennis Ward, who replaces the lovely Al Barrow.
The most important thing here is that what we have is a Magnum album through and through, and I'll happily allay and fears by saying that “The Serpent Rings” does not disappoint in this regard. Tony Clarkin still writes all the songs and he still has his eye right on the ball, not trying to disturb the winning formula that he nailed on “Lost On The Road To Eternity”, an album that seemed to feature a revitalized Magnum, possibly due to new keyboard tinkler Rick Benton.
“The Serpent Rings” doesn't break any moulds, with typical titles like “House Of Kings”, “The Archway Of Tears” and “Crimson On The White Sand” showing typical grandiosity. It all comes down to how the sound, however, and the whole album is rather like a comfortable slipper if you're already a fan. “Where Are You Eden” is a storming, crunchy opener that will make a great set starter on the upcoming tour, whilst “You Can't Run Faster Than Bullets” is a slower, heavy track that works well. There's plenty of melody about, with “Madman Or Messiah” so Magnum-y you can almost see Bob Catley waving his arms as he sings it. “Not Forgiven”, the track that has been used to promote the album, is a good example of the sort of thing that you're getting here, whilst “The Archway Of Tears” has a chorus that won't quit.
There's no short tracks here, but no epics either, with the title track touching on seven minutes but never becoming a drag. The eleven tracks give us nearly an hour of music, which is refreshing on any day, and there's genuinely not a duffer in sight. If you're a fan who has everything else this is a no brainer, but I have to say if you're a lapsed Magnumite this and the last album are perfect stepping stones to rekindling your relationship with Tony, Bob and the lads. A wonderful mix of all you've ever loved about the band, “The Serpent Rings” is Magnum for Magnum fans, and aren't we all a bit of a fan?