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TEN / SPELLBOUND
NOW & THEN / FRONTIERS: FR CD014
OVERALL: 94%
Produced by: Rafe McKenna
  1. March Of The Argonauts
  2. Fear The Force
  3. Inside The Pyramid Of Light
  4. Spellbound
  5. We Rule The Night
  6. Rememberance For The Brave
  7. Red
  8. The Alchemist
  9. Wonderland
  10. Eclipse
  11. The Phantom
  12. Till The End Of Time
I like Ten, but there has always been just something that prevented me from loving them.
The debut was a great slice of hard melodic AOR. The two album's that proceeded that one headed in a more traditional British heavy rock vein. I never really took to them as much.
But a few things had me swinging back in favour of the band.
First up, they released the Never Say Goodbye double live album. Get to the end of that album - over two hours of great melodic rock and you can't help but be impressed. Then there was Gary Hughes' new solo record Precious Ones. For the first time I could hear raw emotion in Gary's voice. I had previously found it a little one same-ish.
Then there was the awesome Bob Catley record. Gary's writing is improving all the time and the songs on this album are first rate.
And now it is on with the show - here is Ten's new studio album. It comes after the biggest gap to date between the bands' studio releases - about 18 months.
I was looking forward to it, but pretty much had in mind what to expect.
Far from it.
This record is simply sensational.
I can say this with all the enthusiasm in the world, as I wasn't a real true fan before. I am now.
This record should both surprise and amaze old fans and new.
It should also intimidate any other bands that thought they might have been closing in on the best rock band in Britain crown. The bar has been lifted and no-one is nearly within range of this great disc.
Without going on to much, there is not one area that has not been improved upon by a mile.
Gary's vocals have come to life in a way I have never heard from him. They are powerful, they are loud, they are raw and they are passionate - both with the ballads and the rockers.
They were recorded live and no filters or effects were added. This was a particular habit of Mike Stone. As Mark Ashton said to me - who ever would have thought the sound problem was connected with him?!
The production is monstrous. Hats off to Now & Then Productions for the sound and the mix. Crisp, in your face and big, big, big.
The drums are bigger than ever. Mark also told me they hired a huge kit for Greg and that inspired him to hit them even harder! It shows!
And let's not forget guitarist Vinny Burns who on this record simply shreds.
I haven't even heard this many solo's and riff's on any Yngwie Malmsteen record.
The guitars are everywhere on this record and they are both raw and multi-layered and the songs offer plenty of melodic hooks and solo's.
The album kicks off with the usual big build up and monster instrumental intro that Gary is becoming quite the master of.
This one offers the best intro of any album in the last few years with a mix of drums, guitars and strings. Epic indeed...and only 2 minutes long!
Fear The Force then cuts in a little mysteriously at first then with a collective implosion of keys, drums, guitars and of course Gary's vocals.
You know straight away that the band have lifted and this song is typical Ten, just bigger.
Hard guitar riffs and a pounding rhythm without going over the top like some of these metal albums. The most noticeable thing is the rawness of Gary's vocals. Just great.
The chorus is big and melodic. Then it's back to the riffing. Love the end where the vocals get to run solo.
Inside The Pyramid Of Light is the track that really floored me and convinced me these guys are world class. It rocks so hard from the first second as the guitar chops and changes furiously and the fast rapping vocals turn a really heavy track into a melodic masterpiece. Go straight to this track - it rocks big time. (When I say rapping, I don't quite mean Ice T either!)
Spellbound continues the onslaught. A slower but heavier track that again attacks the senses. Then Gary's voice cuts in a la Led Zeppelin's Black Dog and the track reveals it self as exactly that sort of influenced track. teh chorus is more typical Ten, but it is great to hear such diversity in just the first 4 tracks. We Rule The Night slows it down for the first time. It starts with those wonderful strings again and a great raw vocal. Almost a little Celtic...more of that to come.
The track is a typical Ten/Gary Hughes ballad, just bigger and better than I have heard before. A monster finish and a really big anthem.
Remembrance For The Brave brings those Celtic influences to the forefront. This is an instrumental piece that leads into Red. Again, wonderful diversity.
Red starts with Gary singing a fast vocal over mainly acoustic guitar with a less obvious Celtic feel. The vocals get faster and the drums kick in softly in the background and then it just goes off. Fast and heavy guitar and drums and that vocal just rocks. The chorus is in there but Gary hardly takes a breath between lines. Exhausting. Guitars everywhere. The Alchemist is another uptempo hard rocker. This is more straight ahead Ten. Another cool track.
Wonderland thankfully gives us a little break with a piano / vocal ballad that sounds a little like a Gary Hughes solo track. Another big chorus and multi layered backing vocals. Gets heavier, but is still ballad melodic.
Eclipse is straight back into that sonic onslaught. Another more traditional Ten track, with more huge guitars. Some keyboards clearly evident also.
The Phantom rocks harder and faster again and even a little darker. Some organ helping the songs get it's mood.
Till The End Of Time ends the album with a big huge 'hands in the air' ballad with Gary and a piano kicking this off. Great vocals and a very good song with lots of emotion.
I normally save this much excitement for a Rick Springfield record or maybe even a Night Ranger album, but believe me Ten have recorded an album that not only out does their entire back catalogue but the back catalogue of a good deal of other bands.
If you like British hard rock, or if you are already an old fan, or if you have been sitting on the fence like myself...then this is an album that should be checked out.
Like Stuart Smith's album, buying this album will make your CD collections complete.
Very impressive stuff indeed.
PRODUCTION: 95%SONGS: 93%VIBE: 94%ATTITUDE: 96%
ESSENTIAL FOR: All heavy melodic rock & British hard rock fans and Ten lovers everywhere



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