This is “The Prog Mind”, right? Most of what I review is smack dab in the middle of the progressive community, but sometimes I like to review bands that might be more tertiary to the prog movement. Magnum is one such band. They have been making music for over 30 years, but I feel like their most interesting music has been in the last few. Their new album “Lost on the Road to Eternity” released on January 19th, and, like its predecessor “Escape from the Shadow Garden”, the band seems to be exploring progressive ideas that really gel with their classic sound.
The band consists of Tony Clarkin on guitars, Bob Catley on vocals, Al Barrow on bass, Harry James on drums, and Rick Benton on keys. Bob and Tony and Al have been members for years, but Harry and Rick are newcomers. These guys play so well together, though. Impressive to me, however, is how each musician has a specific style, from metal to retro rock, but the styles meld together in awesome fashion.
Magnum is a classic band. Their musical style is pretty upfront: This is a band that plays what I would call hair metal from the 80s, but more recently they have been including progressive elements that have reinvigorated their sound to my ears. So, yes, you will hear the slight cheese that you might expect, such as on “Peaches and Cream”, but they also go much deeper with energetic instrumentals, beautiful strings, 70s keys, and deeply personal themes. While they do sound like the Scorpions or Dio of yesteryear, they go one step beyond that, in my opinion.
Maybe that combination of genres doesn’t sound great to you, but it does to me. I love 80s metal, and Magnum’s sound is a time machine to my high school years when I listened to that genre more often. Listening to this album, I’m filled to the brim with nostalgia and my cool guy pants come out. That probably sounded weird.
One strength of this album, and of their style is general, is the sing-ability of their choruses. Each and every song has a very catchy tune and chorus that will get stuck in your head. Some of them, like “Storm Baby”, will definitely remind you of some other songs, not only in the chorus but also in the basic guitar lick. So, yes, as my wife pointed out, some of the songs sound very familiar, like the Almighty Dio wrote it himself, but Magnum always adds something extra to flesh out the melodies further.
Maybe the prog community needs more albums like this one. This is an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also explores profound ideas. As such, my favorite songs are often just fun and rocking in nature, and other times I am seriously moved by them.
“Peaches and Cream” and “Show Me Your Hands” are fun songs that are just a joy to hear. This is exactly what I mean by pure rock songs that are refreshing to hear. Another favorite in that vein would be “Without Love”, a great single that feels very familiar.
On the more serious side of things, I absolutely love “Lost on the Road to Eternity” with the orchestral vibe and the deep lyrics. “Tell Me What You’ve Got to Say” is another great song with a keyboard-soaked chorus, and the magnificent “Glory to Ashes” is more soulful than the rest of the album, almost mournful in some ways.
Probably my favorite song on the album, though, is “Storm Baby”. It rides the line between fun and deep, and it is engrained in my mind for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure. The chorus is awesome, and the guitars have this golden nostalgic feeling that, while not wholly original, just rocks.
“Lost on the Road to Eternity” is a grand album that mixes some golden and nostalgic sounds of the past with newer ideas. The results are so fun to hear and feel fresh. The album itself might be a little long, but the feelings and choruses will be stuck in your head for weeks. Magnum are probably stronger than ever in the last few years, and I’d love to see them explore progressive ideas even more deeply in the future.