Magnum – On The 13th Day

Magnum’s previous album, “The Visitation” had a special significance for me last year- it was the first album of 2011 I listened to. Considering that was one of my greatest years of growth musically speaking, I think that’s something I’ll always remember Magnum for. On their own merit however, I can’t say Magnum’s music ever leapt out at me. Although their approach to melodic rock may be ambitious for the style, it is only moderately so, and their sixteenth album “On The 13th Day” follows suit. Particularly to contemporary standards, Magnum’s anthemic sound feels tame and dated, to the point where its crisp production and performance standards don’t quite compensate. Even so, it’s a remarkably consistent record, and there’s nothing wrong with a good bit of melodic rock now and again!

As I imagine also goes for many of Magnum’s other younger listeners, I was exposed to this band through vocalist Bob Catley’s guest performance on Ayreon’s “01011001″. His voice was the strongest part of “The Visitation”, and it remains the cornerstone of Magnum’s work on “On The 13th Day”. Guitarist Tony Clarkin’s songwriting offers plenty of room for Catley’s melodic lines, and considering that he’s now at an age where some meeker folk are considering retirement, it’s impressive that his voice retains such power to it. With age has come a bold sense of charisma and sincerity to his voice. With regard to compositions, Magnum’s sound is instantly accessible and even radio friendly. Although that may be enough to describe something like pop-era Journey, Magnum balance this tame formula with a heavy metal edge to the performance. Many songs on “On The 13th Day” should spark the fancy of lovers of the ‘classic’ metal sound. “Dance of the Black Tattoo” is a powerful mix of symphonic ambiance and crunchy rock rhythms. “Blood Red Laughter” and “See How They Fall” build their anthemic choruses around some pretty rocking riffs that could play alongside some of Black Sabbath’s Dio-era tunes.

Clarkin’s songwriting is always well-structured, but it’s really surprising. Melodic, or ‘AOR’ rock has long been built around the cult of the chorus, and the tunes here are no exception. The instrumentation is crisp and well done, with a particular kudos going to the lead guitar playing, which manages to make the mandatory four measures of solo-time engaging and rich, in spite of the constraints placed against it. Overall, Magnum deliver a consistent, tight performance to back up these songs. Although there is some interesting depth to the piano and ‘symphonic’ arrangements that back up the rock instruments, there’s never the feeling of ‘moving forward’ on “On The 13th Day”. It may be a sliver better than “The Visitation”, if only for the fact that the songwriting feels a little more consistent. Other than that, it’s new Magnum you’re getting- no more, and no less. It won’t make a believer out of anyone who already finds themselves disposed against the melodic, ‘anthem’ brand of rock, but there’s nothing offensive here. It’s well played, well produced, and well-enough enjoyable, but it’s safe to say the album hasn’t changed my impression of the band.


1. All The Dreamers (7:09)
2. Blood Red Laughter (4:40)
3. Didn’t Like You Anyway (4:33)
4. On The 13th Day (5:35)
5. So Let It Rain (4:50)
6. Dance Of The Black Tattoo (5:16)
7. Shadow Town (5:57)
8. Putting Things In Place (4:41)
9. Broken Promises (4:55)
10. See How They Fall (4:56)
11. From Within (4:42)


* Bob Catley  - vocals
* Tony Clarkin  - guitar, vocals
* Mark Stanway – keyboards
* Al Barrow – bass guitar
* Harry James – drums, percussion

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