MAGNUM – Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies

Sacred Blood Divine LiesIt can never be said enough – I just love old reunited bands that refuses to just play the nostalgia act, bands that stays relevant and keep on releasing new music despite the fact that record sales aren’t that high anymore, bands that stays creative and thrives on moving forward and refuses to stay in the past. I look at bands such as Stryper, Europe, Winger, Whitesnake and Journey and I’m so happy that not only do they release new music on a pretty continuously basis, but the quality of their records are extremely high and in many cases even better than in their hey day. And then there’s Magnum. This is a band that have ben very productive in the last 10 years or so and they put out records in a pretty fast pace, something that – even though they tour frequently in between records – do not affect Tony Clarkin’s song writing in a negative way at all. Considering that they guys – well, at least original members guitarist Clarkin and singer Bob Catley – are in their late sixties, that’s quite impressing, if you ask me. Sure, it would be quite the task for them to top classic albums such as On A Storyteller’s Night (1985), Vigilante (1986) and Wings Of Heaven (1988) and of course, they haven’t, but I don’t think anybody had expected that either. But these newer recordings – Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow (2007), Into The Valley Of The Moonking (2009), The Visitation (2011), On The 13th Day (2012) and Escape From The Shadow Garden (2014) are all way better than the last few records Magnum released – Goodnight L.A. (1990), Sleepwalking (1992) and Rock Art (1994) – before they disbanded in 1995. They are also much better than the two first albums – Breath Of Life (2002) and Brand New Morning (2004) – they released after their reunion in 2001. The albums Clarkin and Catley made as Hard Rain in Magnum’s hiatus years, I have never even heard, I’m ashamed to admit. That said, I don’t think Magnum ever have recorded one bad album, even though Sleepwalking comes pretty close. That means that I put some high standards on every new Magnum release – and this one is no exception.

The first time I listened to the album, I was underwhelmed and actually disappointed. My first listen said 6/10 – everything under 7/10 is not acceptable when it comes to this lot. But even a band like this must have a down album sometime in their career. But, I never review an album after just one listen. I need to listen carefully through my headphones without any outer disturbance at least one time before the hammer falls. The second time showed a far better record than what the first listen told me. The opening title track is fabulous and sounds just like Magnum did back in the glory days with a memorable melody and a progressive arrangement. The following track, “Crazy Old Mothers”, is a big, pompous ballad, a bit in the same vein as they sounded on The Eleventh Hour (1983), only a bit heavier. There’s a string section on it as well and it makes the song sound even bigger.  “Gypsy Queen” is a really straight forward rocker for a Magnum song, but it still has all characteristic vibes that makes it sound like Magnum all the way. It’s really heavy on the guitars and it holds a great, addictive groove – a great tune. “Princess In Rags (The Cult)” is an ace song, classic pomp rock Magnum and a catchiness that could have fitted an album like Wings Of Heaven any day. “Your Dreams Won’t Die” is on the softer side and have a big pop feel. The chorus is amazingly catchy and back in the day, I guess this would have been released as single. Brilliant! “Afraid Of The Night” is very upfront, classic Magnum but orchestrated and arrangements that sounds as if they were taken right from a musical of some kind – awesome song! “A Forgotten Conversation” takes us back to the days before they made it real big in the mid 80’s. This one has more influences from albums like Kingdom Of Madness (1978), II (1979) and Chase The Dragon (1982) albeit with the more updated sound they have had on their last five records. It feels really good to hear Magnum take a stroll down that path again. “Quiet Rhapsody” is anything but quiet. With a riff that almost borders to heavy metal, this guitar driven and heavy rocker tries its best to blow our heads off, but at the same time, it has a very memorable melody and the arrangement is classic Magnum all the way. I hold this tune as one of the best songs on this record. With “Twelve Men Wise And Just” they bring that galloping pop-rock that they’re so good at, but the whole arrangement is a bit deeper and it gives the song a somewhat epic sound – great song! The album ends with “Baby Don’t Cry” and just as the title suggests, it’s a softer kind of pop-rocker (with such a title, it’s either that or a ballad) with an up-beat tempo and a good dose of acoustic guitars. Mark Stanway’s classical piano solo is fantastic and it makes me think of Don Airey. A great song and a good way to end the album.

I’m really glad that my first acquaintance with this album was false alarm because this album turned out to be a really great one. it’s clear that Magnum have found their way and that they know exactly where they want to be musically. It’s in the vein of the five records that they have released since 2007, so if you’re a fan of those, you’re home safe with this one. But I think that any Magnum fan, no matter which era you prefer – or any fan of melodic rock, for that matter – will find lots of music candy on this record. As a Magnum fan, the only thing I miss here is a big, epic track like “How Far Jerusalem”, “Les Morts Dansant” and “Don’t Wake The Lion” – or if I compare with newer songs recorded in later years – “Wild Angels” and “Midnite Angel”. But those are niceties. The fact that Tony Clarkin still can deliver so many high-class songs, album after album, is nothing but impressive – and even though Bob Catley’s voice isn’t as strong as it was back when, he still have a big voice and a broad range – and also a voice you’d recognize anywhere. 38 years after they released their debut, Magnum proves that on their 19th effort, they still can deliver the goods. Hats off and thumbs up!

8/10

Other Magnum reviews:
The Visitation
On The 13th Day
Escape From The Shadow Garden

Tracklist:

1. Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies
2. Crazy Old Mothers
3. Gypsy Queen
4. Princess In Rags (The Cult)
5. Your Dreams Won’t Die
6. Afraid Of The Night
7. A Forgotten Conversation
8. Quiet Rhapsody
9. Twelve Men Wise And Just
10. Don’t Cry Baby

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