Magnum + Vega
@ Islington Assembly Hall, London
13th May 2016
Review by Oliver M.
Photography by Graham Hilling
Two years after the critically acclaimed “Escape from the Shadow Garden”, British Melodic hard rock veterans Magnum are back with a new album called “Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies” in 2016. Despite their old age, the Englishmen are in good shape and still have the inspiration to write good songs nowadays.
Last year, they released an interesting live album through SPV Steamhammer that confirmed their long experience and musicianship. The band is currently on tour throughout Europe to promote their 19th opus “Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies” released by that same label in February.
At the time I’m writing this review, they’re still touring in the UK and have planned to do 15 shows in their homeland. That’s a lot but it’s entirely logical since Great Britain has always been their first market in terms of record sales and popularity. I was very happy when I heard they would play at the Islington Assembly Hall on Friday 13th of May.
Indeed, this is my favourite venue in London by far. The building looks nice, clean and its balcony is very comfortable as usual. This venue also provides an excellent sound for bands and I really love its civilized, aristocratic atmosphere.
The concert was nearly sold out and I had the impression of being the only young Magnum fan there. I have to say I’ve never seen so many old couples attending a hard rock gig. It’s great to know that their early fans from the 70s haven’t forgotten them at all, wearing their vintage tour t-shirts. Melodic hard rockers Vega have been chosen to support Magnum for the UK dates only. Very good choice in my opinion.
Formed in 2009, this British AOR band opened the ceremony with a very good performance.
They’ve done four albums so far, worked with Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) and recently succeeded in signing with the excellent Italian label Frontiers Records (specialised in AOR and Melodic hard rock).
If you’re a fan of this musical style, then I strongly recommend you have a look at their works. These guys clearly know how to compose some nice, catchy songs thanks to their innate sense of melody. Their compositions remind automatically some famous AOR acts such as Journey for example.
Vocalist Nick Workman definitely represents the band’s strongest point. His high-pitched voice is brilliant and he would have the required level to sing for any good power metal hordes.
Moreover, he represents very well this type of 80s rock singer who attracts many female fans thanks to his charisma. Apart from that, the guitar solos were well performed and they seem to have a solid experience on stage.
However, I would have preferred to hear more the keyboards as they were not highlighted enough compared to the other instruments in my opinion. Anyway, it’s very pleasant to see some young musicians who are able to bring back the atmosphere of classic rock successfully.
Frontiers Records weren’t mistaken at all: these lads are very promising. Let’s hope they will bring them to a higher step.
It was a pleasure to see vocalist Bob Catley back in London, two months after his guest appearance during the amazing Avantasia show at the O2 Forum Kentish Town. I remember he was very happy to sing along with Tobias Sammet (Edguy), Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween), Jørn Lande (ex-Ark, Masterplan) and Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids).
Despite being 68, he has still some charisma on stage and is fully respected within the classic rock and heavy metal scenes. That’s mainly the reason why SPV Steamhammer (one of the biggest metal labels) have released their last eight albums since 2002.
As expected, Magnum offered an excellent show to their old loyal fans but I still have the feeling they could have done better. Apart from bassist Al Barrow, all members are quite old for playing in a hard rock band and this can be felt in Bob Catley’s vocals especially.
Of course, he’s trying to do his best but he can’t provide anymore that same energy he used to show on stage during their glory years in the 80s. They performed 17 tracks in total, including some recent songs and a few ones from their new album “Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies”.
As always, they delivered brilliantly several classics from their cult masterpiece “On a Storyteller’s Night” (“How Far Jerusalem”, “Les Morts Dansant”, “All England’s Eyes”, “On a Storyteller’s Night”) and a few others from their first albums (“Kingdom of Madness”, “Chase the Dragon”).
It’s obvious that Magnum aren’t as great as they used to be in the past but the medieval-fantasy charm of their music is still there. Being a huge fan of Rodney Matthews’ art, I’m very glad they’re still working with him regarding the cover artwork.
Since 1982, this famous fantasy illustrator did some stunning cover artworks for most of their albums, which contributed to the band’s fame. They received warm acclaim from the audience at the end of their set and I really hope they will still be active in the near future.
I’ve only got one advice for them (taken from their most well-known song): “Keep your night light burning!”
1. Soldier of the Line
2. On a Storyteller’s Night
3. Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies
4. Freedom Day
5. Dance of the Black Tattoo
6. Crazy Old Mothers
7. Blood Red Laughter
8. Your Dreams Won’t Die
9. How Far Jerusalem
10. Unwritten Sacrifice
11. Twelve Men Wise and Just
12. Les Morts Dansant
13. All England’s Eyes
14. Princess in Rags (The Cult)
16. The Spirit
17. Kingdom of Madness