Review Summary: Magnum's finest sacred hour.
The slow, inevitable decline of Magnum after this particular high point in their long career finds them, to this day, still churning out their cheesy brand of limp commercial rock to a faithful set of die-hards. But back in 1982 the energy was high, their eyes were still bright and lynchpin Tony 'The Hat' Clarkin was fairly brimming over with ideas. After two promising but inconsistent independent releases marred by piss-poor production and embarrassingly inept adventures in boogie rock, Jet Records picked up the Birmingham based quintet and sent them into the studio to record 'Chase The Dragon'. The album was a cult hit which sent them hurtling into the Top 20 album chart in the UK and when you listen to this triumphant slice of melodic pomp rock you can hear why.
From the dramatic hard rock riffs and swirling keys of the opener 'Soldier Of The Line' it is immediately apparent that the band came of age on this record. This is pomp-rock at its finest. Unbridled zeal and enthusiasm soaks through the whole record and there is not a hint of self-conciousness in sight, which is quite a feat considering the corniness of the material on offer. The unabashed church hall majesty of 'Sacred Hour' is a case in point. Deeply reverberated grand pianos create a regal backdrop for Bob Catley's ardent vocals while the song builds to a compulsive medley of pompous hard rock riffing and florid synthesizer. There is nothing particularly experimental or ground-breaking going on here but Tony Clarkin's inventiveness is in full show. Crowd favourite 'The Spirit' drips sentiment and bombast with its grandiose harpsichord passages and impassioned vocals but Clarkin's ever inventive aggressive riffing lends it a healthy dose of muscle to offset the treacle. In fact, the main reason for this album's ascendancy in Magnum's lengthy discography is that the band's natural propensity for saccharin melody rides on a much harder edge than was usual for them.
Pomposity is not often considered to be a desirable trait in a person. Being 'irritatingly grand' within an artistic expression is seldom admired either. Whether the music of Magnum will irritate you or not is, of course, down to your own tastes but it will depend to a large extent on how you react to your in built aversion to cheese. Yes, this record is a churning sickly mass of fermented curd. It's overblown, grandiose, overtly sentimental and incredibly uncool. But if you can handle that then get out the water biscuits, crack out a bottle of red and tuck in. Because this thing is brimming over with sing-a-long choruses, soaring melodies and more killer hooks than a Hellraiser