Released: 2009, Frontiers Records
A lot of miles, false starts, and lineup changes have represented the U.K.’s Praying Mantis over the years. Starting life during the NWOBHM, the band has seen some highs and (mostly) lows throughout its career, Despite a respected catalogue of albums, the band hasn’t been able to sustain their momentum enough to truly break through to the upper echelons. Through it all, the Troy brothers (guitarist Tino and bassist Chris) have steered the band, bringing in a veritable who’s who of U.K. rockers, from ex-Maidens Clive Burr, Dennis Stratton, and Paul Di’Anno, through super vocalists Gary Barden, Bernie Shaw, and Doogie White, the band has been a hotbed of talent. In spite of this, the band has never truly achieved the stardom you would expect of such pedigree.
Back again after a six year recording absence, SANCTUARY represents Praying Mantis’ latest kick at the can. And what a kick it is! Musically, the band is now firmly entrenched in melodic hard rock, more akin to countryman Bob Catley and his solo albums than former running mates Iron Maiden. Swirling guitars and heavenly vocals greet the listener during opener “In Time”, and from then on it’s a feast of melodic rock. Like many veteran rock bands, Praying Mantis are craftsman – they know they aren’t reinventing the wheel with their music, but it’s obvious that it is written and played with the utmost talent and passion. From the bluesy “Tears in the Rain” to the scorching “Threshold of a Dream” the Brits continually attack with memorable riffs and hooks, easily drawing you into the album.
New vocalist Mike Freeland has a great hard rock voice. Powerful and clear, he effortlessly hits the highs and leads the band. As per usual, the band is rock solid – no one truly stands out but everyone plays to the song. Although the whole album is good, it really kicks into gear with the last five songs. From “Touch the Rainbow” through to the album-closing title track, the album just slays.
Knowing how highly I rate Bob Catley’s albums, the fact that I even compare Praying Mantis to him suggests how much I enjoy this album. Simply put, SANCTUARY is a great album – if you like melodic hard rock, do yourself a favour and check it out.