Review Summary: Facing time with (relative) grace.
Sometimes we get the desire to talk about something that we feel it's just not talked about enough, waiting for the first available occasion to tell everybody about it. So let's talk about Magnum. Hailing from Birmingham, the band has been going strong since 1972 releasing album after album with close to none pauses, save for a brief split in the middle of the 90s. Magnum's debuted with Kingdom of Madness
in 1978 and now, 40 years later, we get to hear Lost on the Road to Eternity
, the band's 20th studio album. The presentation is on point: a very rich and "proggy" artwork connects to the previous album by sharing the same kid as a protagonist, painting an inviting background for an album that offers about 70 minutes of material. Which means, it's their longest studio album to date.
The heart of the band is, as always, made of its two founding members who appeared on every studio album thus far. Namely Tony Clarkin on guitar and main writing duties and Bob Catley on vocals. I'd like to point out that they are respectively 71 and 70. Maybe it's not important, but especially Catley's consistently charismatic vocals deserve to be mentioned. Anyhow, the music admittedly isn't chockful of surprises. It sounds like... modern Magnum, pretty much. Which means that LotRtE
offers a solid AOR sound characterized by a rigid rhythm section, anthemic choruses, polished (but still organic) production, and some entertaining progressive rock excursions to break the monotony. In a sense, the main problem may not even be a problem for many fans at this point. Still, predictably, what we are given here is mostly more of the same.
Looking no further than at the first song, "Peaches and Cream" is reminiscent of Sacred Blood "Divine" Lies
' opening title track and suffers a weak chorus carried by barren melodies. Not to mention that as a whole the album offers some arguable filler, songs like "Forbidden Masquerade" that come off as wasted space (remember the running time?) because devoid of a particular proggy spice and mainly sustained by a pompous chorus. However there are bright moments too. Not to mention that the worst parts of the album aren't awful by any means, and the line-up changes didn't do harm. The drumming for example, as rigid as the modern Magnum sound can be, offers some welcomed subtle playfulness.
A song that surely deserves a mention is "Show Me Your Hands"; the constant piano flourishes and acoustic guitar strumming give colour to an up-beat rocker that offers a very pleasantly relaxed section in which Clarkin lays down a sharp and charismatic electric guitar solo. Another interesting piece is the lengthy "Welcome to the Cosmic Cabaret". Catley's catchy vocals rest upon relatively heavy guitar riffing, but the best part is when the instruments get suddenly playful and then flow into a tranquil, spacey section. From the remaining highlights, a mandatory mention is for the title track: a soaring symphony-filled duet with Avantasia's Tobias Sammet, recorded as a thank you for Catley's inclusion in the last Avantasia album.
The bottom line is that, while it's far from essential, Lost on the Road to Eternity
is a respectable release from a band that for about 45 years almost never stopped giving. The title can be interpreted in a pretty obvious way and I wouldn't mind to hear of Magnum again. Newcomers should head for the band's more progressive past of Kingdom of Madness
, but I can't imagine any seasoned Magnum fan to get angry at this new work. Possessing both visible pros and visible cons, LotRtE
is a perfectly decent offering at this point of Magnum's career.