Magnum - The Serpent Rings
Melodic Hard Rock
11 songs (59:36)
Release year: 2020
Magnum, Steamhammer
Reviewed by Goat

A rather unbelievable twenty-first album from these British AOR stalwarts, with artwork once again created by long-term collaborator Rodney Matthews, this is sure to please fans. Melodic hard rock with touches of prog here and there, Magnum's sound is at once very dated and yet strangely timeless if you enjoy it, emotive vocals over a keyboard-heavy 80s rock backdrop that doesn't neglect the riffs, at moments almost like slowed-down power metal. And much like 2018's tremendously well-written Uriah Heep showing, The Serpent Rings is a solid demonstration of songwriting powers from a band approaching their twilight (if less good than Mick Box and co's effort). Newcomers might expect fantasy swords n' sorcery escapism from the cover art, but lyrics are generally on much vaguer topics - "it's very hard to explain", as opening track Where Are You Eden? tells you! Yet the music is often upbeat and catchy, and despite possibly being a little overstuffed at nearly an hour long, the level of quality across the album remains high. The aforementioned Where Are You Eden? has a nicely-incorporated orchestral backing that doesn't drown out or detract from the riffs and synth melodies, Bob Catley's voice ageing like fine wine and leading the album well, and the band change things up quickly enough with a melancholic and proggy mid-section to avoid the song being repetitive.

It's a solid introduction to the album, which continues in a similar vein with the grandiose rocking of You Can't Run Faster Than Bullets, almost like 80s Judas Priest with Catley pushing his voice atop swaggering rock groove and allowing room for Tony Clarkin's guitar to shine. The piano-driven rock of Not Forgiven has a driving infectiousness, deserving serious classic rock radio airplay as the catchiest song on the album; not that other songs lack earhooks in their choruses, such as the soft-even-for-Magnum The Great Unknown. And towards the end of the album, cuts like the proggy Man with its sort-of-reggae backing are still interesting and different enough to keep your attention. Sure, there are problems, the general five-to-six minute song length generally far too long which leads to repetition (the six-minute plus The Archway of Tears would be a great four minute song, for instance) and some songs such as Madman or Messiah come a little too close to standard AOR territory but they do remain entertaining thanks to the powerful performances and some killer riffing here and there. Only the title track truly drags at nearly seven minutes long, especially when followed by the much more enjoyable grooving rocker House of Kings with its jazzy piano interlude and backing trumpets, showing a creative side that other songs on the album could really benefit from. Yet it's hard to criticise a group originally formed in 1972 as a nightclub house band too much for this, especially given what a strong showing The Serpent Rings is.

Killing Songs :
Where Are You Eden? You Can't Run Faster Than Bullets, Not Forgiven, House of Kings
Goat quoted 76 / 100
Other albums by Magnum that we have reviewed:
Magnum - The Eleventh Hour! reviewed by Ben and quoted 81 / 100
Magnum - Chase The Dragon reviewed by Ben and quoted 90 / 100
Magnum - On A Storyteller's Night reviewed by Chris and quoted CLASSIC
Magnum - Alice And The Broken Arrow reviewed by Chris and quoted 93 / 100
Magnum - Brand New Morning reviewed by Marty and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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