Ten - The Twilight Chronicles
Frontiers Records
Epic Melodic Hard Rock
10 songs (73:40)
Release year: 2006
Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Mike

British rockers Ten are back with their most adventurous album to date, The Twilight Chronicles. Ten frontman Gary Hughes set out to compose the most epic Ten album ever, complete with intricate orchestral sections. Without a doubt, The Twilight Chronicles delivers on that promise. Most of the songs on this album are in the six to seven minute time range, with two tracks clocking in at over ten minutes. The trademark ingredients of Ten's sound are still present though: hooks, melodies, passionate guitar work, and the warm, soulful vocals of Gary Hughes. Again, the production and sound quality on this album is flawless, as has become the standard for Ten over the years. I can't help but thinking that Gary Hughes has taken a page from fellow Brit rockers Magnum during the making of this album. Hughes has always been a big fan of Magnum, and I think that shows on this album. The longer song structures and orchestrations remind me very much of mid 80's era Magnum albums such as On A Storyteller's Night and Wings of Heaven.

So how does Ten come through on this new album? Well, I have very mixed opinions on this. The Twilight Chronicles is not an album that quickly jumps on you, nor is it album that you can causally take in. This album demands your full attention, more than one listen to absorb, and a degree of patience. As I mentioned above, this is a LONG album. The songs are each mostly in the six to seven minute range, occasionally venturing longer. The album as a whole comes in at a whopping 73 minutes. As you may have gathered from my "mixed opinions" comment above, I have to say that the album is a bit bloated. The opening track is a microcosm of the album as a whole. It begins with more than four minutes of an instrumental build up. However, the ensuing "meat" of the song is simply a very good, hard rocking Ten track, but nothing we haven't heard from this band before. After such a lengthy and dramatic buildup, I would have expected a bit more creative and new. I don't hear any diversity as far as songwriting or musicianship go here; not to the level required to create almost thirteen minutes worth of music for a single song. The same chorus lines and verse are repeated throughout the song, making it rather repetitive by the time you hit the 7 minute mark. Also, the same orchestration from the intro is used mid way through the track and again at the end. With a 12+ minute track, you really need to cover a lot of ground, not just revisit the same territory several times during the course of the song. Having said all that, I do like the building blocks of the song a lot. The orchestration, chorus lines, and riff upon which the song is built are all excellent. However, repeating good ideas several times does not make a better song. Instead, it's taking a very good song and making it longer than it need to be just for the sake of creating a long song. This happens multiple times on the album.

Despite what I have said above, I do enjoy The Twilight Chronicles. I have just given some expanded thoughts on the first track of the album as I find that it really does apply to the majority of the album. Like the opening track, I do find that each and every one of the songs is built upon some very tasty orchestration, melodies that pound their way into your memory instantly, atmosphere, and the unique vocals of Gary Hughes. The only drawback (which could prove a deal killer for some listeners) is that many of these great ideas are repeated more than necessary throughout the album. What could be a 4 or five minute song turns into 7, and nice 6 or 7 minute epic balloons to 10 or 12 minutes. For example, Oblivion is a catchy anthem with commercial appeal thanks to its big, pompous chorus line. However, that chorus line is repeated a few times too many. Take a minute and a half off, and you have a big hit. Elysian Fields and Twilight Masquerade are just two more examples of up tempo, classic hard rocking Ten tracks that have expressed all their ideas by about the 4 minute mark. However, the same ideas (albeit very good ones) are looped a handful of times more than they should have been to arrive at a 7 minute track. Even though the songs on The Twilight Chronicles are built upon very strong ideas, those strong ideas lose their impact and urgency when repeated more than they should be.

When I pick up this album in the mindset of listening to it as a single song album or a movie soundtrack, I find that I am much more receptive. One exception to the "bloated and too long" pattern of this album is This Heart Goes On, the ballad of the album. Those of you familiar with Ten know that Hughes is a master of big ballads that are certain to get the panties to drop when played for that special someone. This song is just as emotional and soulful as any number of the memorable Ten ballads from the past, and at "only" four minutes, it doesn't drag on longer than it should. Born to the Grave is a shorter track, and Chris Francis doesn't waste a second here with his dazzling shreds and solos that blend in wonderfully with the darker and heavier edge to this song. Just enough keyboards are added to provide a perfect atmosphere, and the chorus line is catchy, but not overused. This is a big, hard rocking track that wouldn't have been out of place on Return to Evermore or Babylon. The Closing Track, This Night Is Done is another darker, balladesque to mid tempo track, much like the material from Return to Evermore. This track never vaults off onto a tangent, but instead pulls the listener in to its dark, romantic aura. Again, some dazzling, but well placed solos shreds can be heard here which enhance the ambience of heartache emanating from this song.

While there are a lot of fantastic ideas on this album, but the execution does not take full advantage of them. Taking a great 4 minute track and looping some of the ingredients a few more times until you get a 7 minute track is not the way to go. You need to incorporate different ideas within a song if you're going to write an album full of long playing songs. Instead of taking some great ideas and just repeating them, you've got to come up with differing moods, tempos, and melodies along the way. Otherwise, you risk having your great ideas lose their impact due to repetitiveness. So, I'm not sold on Ten's epic songwriting skills with this album. And while I do think most of the songs are longer than they need to be, the fact that the raw ingredients themselves are excellent is this album's saving grace. If you're going to have orchestral pieces duplicated and chorus lines repeated a few too many times, it's easier to forgive this as long as those repeated bits are great ones. Clearly, this album would have been much better and more attention grabbing if about 10-15 minutes total running time were shaved off the album. Don't get me wrong there is plenty here to please fans of the band, but I would not recommended this album as a starting point for those not yet familiar with Ten.

Killing Songs :
The Chronicles, Hallowed Ground, Born to the Grave
Mike quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Ten that we have reviewed:
Ten - Return To Evermore reviewed by Mike and quoted 82 / 100
Ten - Babylon reviewed by Claus and quoted 95 / 100
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