Here’s another old band that I have known of for ages. I know I read about them some time back in the 80’s – they happened to be mentioned here and there because of their Iron Maiden connection – but I don’t think I have ever heard a note from this lot before. Praying Mantis are one of those bands like Angel Witch and Samson that was part of the NWOBHM back in the early 80’s but never really broke through. The band actually started back in 1974 by the Troy brothers Tino (guitars) and Chris (bass) – both are still in the band – but didn’t release their debut album Time Tells No Lies until 1981. They have since then released ten more records including the new one. The members today includes vocalist John Cuijpers, guitarist Andy Burgess and drummer Hans in’t Zandt. And speaking of members, it was quite cool to check out some the previous members – and there are quite of a lot of them. Ex- Iron Maiden members Paul Di’Anno (vocals), Dennis Stratton (guitar) and Clive Burr (drums have all played in the band and also singer Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tank, MSG), Bernie Shaw (Uriah Heep) and Gary Barden (MSG) have all been part of this lot. So with their brand new album, it will be the first time I ever listen to Praying Mantis.
They open the album with the leading single “Keep It Alive”, an upbeat rocker that comes across as a mix of the Graham Bonnet fronted Rainbow and Iron Maiden in their more NWOBHM days and spices it up with some 80’s sounding Melodic Rock on top. It’s a really good track but it’s a lot less Metal than I thought it would be, this is actually quite poppy at times. “Mantis Anthem” starts out with a big, pompous synth intro reminiscent of how Aldo Nova’s Subject album sounds. The tune continues as a mid-paced AOR tune with a symphonic arrangement and a huge, catchy refrain. The lyrics however are bringing some major cheesiness to the table when all the raising hands, standing united and joining the band comes out. Still, the tune is about the band and it’s supposed to be an anthem so I guess I can live with that. Otherwise, it’s a good tune.
“39 Years” brings on some more Hard Rock where the riffs are really hooky but it still mostly an AOR track here and I can’t help to think of Andy Scott’s 80’s version of Sweet when I hear it. Cats In Space also comes to mind. It’s big and pompous, smooth and quite radio-friendly. That said, the tune still rocks and it’s clearly the best tune so far. The title track comes along as a very slick AOR song and holds a big Pop groove, big on synthesizers but it’s also a bit of a stomper with a refrain that sticks like glue. Very good. “Ghosts Of The Past” is a pompous AOR tune with a slight progressive twist. It’s punchy but with a groove and it’s very bombastic. It’s a decent tune but that’s all. “Destiny In Motion” comes with verses that are slower in pace an holds a big Pomp Rock vibe but it speeds up when the chorus comes in. It’s got a somewhat soft sound to it but it’s also very catchy. Again, 80’s Sweet and Cats In Space pops up in my brain and that’s never a bad thing. Very good tune!
“The Last Summer” is an acoustic guitar based Pop ballad that holds an uptempo beat. It’s quite slick and smooth and a bit laid-back. The feel of summer is present and it’s pretty much a feel-good track. I quite dig this one. “Foreign Affair” is a sweet, laid-back ballad that reminds me of early 80’s AOR. It’s very slick, holds a danceable beat and a Spanish guitar shows up as well. It’s a very memorable tune and I really like it. “Shadow Of Love” is an uptempo pop-rocker with lots of AOR melodies, pretty straight-forward and very slick but with a huge chorus that hits right where it should. Great stuff! Closing track “Final Destination” is a big pomp-rocker that brings on some early 80’s AOR vibes and a good groove. The tune starts in a mid-pace but speeds up pretty fast and its chorus is catchy and sticks after one listen. A good tune and it fits very well as an album-closer.
As I wrote, this is the first album I have ever heard by Praying Mantis so I really don’t have anything to compare it with – this could might as well have been their debut album for me. But I must say I’m a bit surprised by just how slick and smooth this album was because I have always linked them together with NWOBHM and NWOBHM this is not – not even close. No, what we have here is very much an AOR album albeit mixed up with Pomp, Melodic Rock and Hard Rock – the only time traces of Metal are audible is on the album’s opener. As a whole, there sure some really good songs on here but there are also fillers and forgettable tunes – even some of the stuff I like disappears from my mind when they’re done – which makes this record an uneven release. Also, on too many occasions I find the record too mainstream in both song-structure and production. What fans of Praying Mantis will think of this record, I’m clueless of but for me, this album is good but not really good enough.
1. Keep It Alive
2. Mantis Anthem
3. Time Can Heal
4. 39 Years
6. Ghosts Of The Past
7. Destiny In Motion
8. The Last Summer
9. Foreign Affair
10. Shadow Of Love
11. Final Destination