Magnum – The Monster Roars

Magnum Album Cover Art

Magnum – The Monster Roars
Steamhammer / SPV
Release Date: 14/01/22
Running Time: 58:27
Review by Simon Black

I need to be honest with you here, I’ve loved this band since I was about sixteen, which is a very, very long time ago. Even back in the mid-Eighties, Magnum were a bit of an outlier. Not really part of the mainstream Rock scene but with a toe dipped subtly into the Metal world, and by making themselves that little bit more anthemic, they nonetheless had organically built themselves a considerable following in that decade. It took a while mind and remember that they’ve been going since flared trousers were first in fashion, but during that time, and despite the ropey early record labels, the painfully underinvested production values courtesy of skinflint Don Arden and an endlessly dodgy club slogging circuit that would have demolished the enthusiasm of many other acts, they still built themselves a very devoted and loving fan base of which I’m happy to count myself a part. 

By the time I found them they had clawed themselves up into Major Label Land in time for their breakout (and still standout) “On A Storyteller’s Night” and from then on they were unstoppable for a while, having elevated themselves to arena status for their absolute high spot ‘Wings of Heaven’ tour. Their momentum misfired in the early 90’s, but then so did everyone’s, and for a bit they threw in the towel and went on hiatus until a side-project called Hard Rain convinced main man Tony Clarkin and front man Bob Catley that the love was absolutely still there, and a reformation was in order. Having attended both their ‘farewell’ in 1996 and their return in 2002 at their hometown I couldn’t have been respectively sadder, then happier. Since that time Magnum have steadily cranked out (mostly) credible and decent albums to the loyal, who I suspect are going to really like this one, and completely continue to deliver the goods live with the annual touring schedule (well, they would but you know, Covid). 

There’s a subtly darker feel to the whole record, which starts with the much more stylistically dark cover – a clean break from the usual colourful fantasy Rodney Matthews fare, opting instead for a moody photo courtesy of former Hard Rain drummer Rob Barrow, of the still firmly fairytale and fantasy titular beast. This feels like Magnum rebooting themselves for a new decade and you can’t help but respect them for managing to pull the same trick off for five decades and counting…

What makes it work is that the central essence of the band is still there in Toby Clarkin and Bob Catley. Between them they have written and sung on every track in their considerable back catalogue and despite no longer having any of the other original members involved, have nonetheless in their current incarnation rolled in a stand out group of musos who really love and understand that core Magnum sound. In fact I’m really loving Rick Benton’s keyboard contributions on this record as although much as I loved original stalwart Mark Stanway’s sounds, Benton is a way more technically accomplished player and adds some lovely classical and progressive flourishes on top of the usual melody lines that Clarkin pitches for. The rhythm section feels really fluid this time out too, with some lovely interplay between Ward and Morris that makes this feel like a band with a bit of hunger once more, whilst still keeping those distinctive heart-nudging guitar licks and vocal melody lines and that are Clarkin and Catley’s unique selling point.

And then there’s Bob’s voice. 

This man is well into his seventies, yet seems to have grown into his voice which has matured like the finest of aged single malt whiskeys – dusky, smokey and full of richness. He may not be able to scale the octaves in quite the same way (although he can still surprise you live), but he’s lost none of his delivery, soul and emotion which now bring a lovely, deep maturity to proceedings. Musically Clarkin is not doing anything radically different and I would be annoyed if he did, but this is a mature and well-crafted album with plenty of tonal variety. It’s perhaps not as capable of blowing your socks off so consistently in the way that “On The 13th Day” did (because let’s face it that one went up to eleven), but it’s pretty damn close and this line up has definitely bedded down now. Hopefully they will get to prove this on the road, given that 2020’s “The Serpent Rings” never got the benefit of a live outing but this year’s piece definitely feels a much stronger and richer piece of work, so that’s probably all for the good. Solid, dependable, catchy as fuck and still capable of making my sad old heart beat just that little bit firster, this is a welcome return to form.

‘I Won’t Let you down’ (Official Lyric Video)

01. The Monster Roars
02. Remember
03. All You Believe In
04. I Won’t Let You Down
05. The Present Not the Past
06. No Steppin’ Stones
07. That Freedom Word
08. Your Blood Is Violence
09. Walk the Silent Hours
10. The Day After the Night Before
11. Come Holy Men
12. Can’t Buy Yourself Heaven

Tony Clarkin – Guitar
Bob Catley – Vocals
Rick Benton – Keyboards
Dennis Ward – Bass
Lee Morris – Drums


Magnum Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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