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Magnum – Dance Of The Black Tattoo Award winner

Dance Of The Black Tattoo
by Rachel Montgomery at 16 February 2021, 9:44 PM

Compilation records: of the albums we receive to review, this is one of the rarer kinds. Compilation tracks from one band that aren’t greatest hits are rarer still. MAGNUM’s recent compilation album is a collection of songs that set out to prove the Birmingham UK band is hard and heavy. Their first compilation album showcased the band’s softer, more intricate side. Now, they’re showing off their heavier track to prove they can rock hard.

The album opens with a six-minute live track, “Black Skies”. After the requisite cheers from the crowd, the track launches into a heavy, slow dirge with an anthemic beat and heavy synths. It’s a good song. However, after listening to the studio track, I have to wonder why they included the live version instead. Since it’s not hampered by outside noise and each section is recorded individually, production has more room to boost or nerf the track to make a heavier version. I also have to add the studio version of this song if beautiful: the vocals hit some great notes and the entire thing conjures an image of a gothic stained window that’s heavenly. On that note (pun not intended), I highly recommend their album The Visitation. It’s a progressive, synth-fueled steampunk wonderland.

The second live track, “Freedom Day”, is one I can get behind, especially with that smooth, wailing guitar opening the song. The pianos coming in to harmonize are a wonderful touch, reminding me of a palace great hall only lit by a candelabra. The piano parts are tantalizing on this track, super crisp, and a treat to listen to. “All My Bridges” also has a lovely, waterfall piano opening leading into a very 80s inspired riff. However, like the opening track of “Black Skies”, I thought the studio version was more impressive.

Their first studio offering is called “On Christmas Day”. Granted, they’re not the first metal act to produce a Christmas song nor will they be the last. There’s nothing terribly Christmas-like about it. No sleigh bells (OK, there are a few in the back, but they’re not distinct), no wintery chimes, just a straight up metal song with Christmas lyrics. It also makes me wonder, if they were going for an edgier compilation album, why include a Christmas song? Anyway, their next studio offering, “Born To Be King”, is more engaging. It’s a more typical, anthemic epic song with heavy synth in the chorus and an 80s inspired harmony. The galloping refrain with the frenzied vocals, leading into a faster outro, really make the song attention-grabbing.

Their closing track, a radio edit of “Madman or Messiah” is interesting in part because it sounds like they sampled the riff from SUPERTRAMP’s “The Logical Song” with the background synth, really bringing the song to its 70s and 80s inspiration. The slow, steady chorus uplifts the song and creates more mystical effects without straying into prog or getting too experimental.

Overall, the band is decent and has some wonderful melodies and talent. However, I wish they picked one: live compilation or a studio “greatest heavy hits” to showcase their harder side. It’s a decent introduction to the band, but if you want to get to know them better, I suggest just listening to one of their albums. If you like traditional metal with a ton of sword and sorcery thrown in 10/10 would recommend.

Songwriting: 9
Production: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Black Skies" (live)
2. Freedom Day" (live)
3.  All My Bridges" (live)
4. On A Storyteller's Night" (live)
5. Dance Of The Black Tattoo" (live)
6. On Christmas Day" (radio edit
7. Born To Be King"
8. Phantom Of Paradise Circus"
9. No God Or Saviour"
10. Your Dreams Won't Die" (live)
11. Twelve Men Wise And Just" (live)
12. Show Me Your Hands" (radio edit)
13. Not Forgiven" (radio edit)
14. Madman Or Messiah" (radio edit)
Tony Clarkin – Guitar
Bob Catley – Vocals
Rick Benton – Keyboards
Dennis Ward – Bass
Lee Morris – Drums
Record Label: Steamhammer Records


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