The Serpent Rings



by Robert Davis USER (306 Reviews)
February 3rd, 2020 | 12 replies

Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Magnum haven't exactly been the most popular British rock band to devote their whole conceptual inspiration to fantasy, but they've certainly been one of the most consistent. Existing for four decades, rising to prominence at just the right time (i.e., the mid-80s) and steamrollering their musical career with fresh material every couple of years have all proven to be positive boons for a band who some would categorise as “past their peak”. On the contrary, Magnum seem to be full of life every time a new album arrives, and this year's effort, The Serpent Rings is no different.

With a barnstorming opener in “Where are You Eden?”, the band seem fully invigorated and plough heavy riffs into the usual bombastic pomp of wispy keyboards and Catley's slightly rough albeit still admirable vocal performance. The energy is maintained throughout, reminding the listener that Magnum really haven't lost their touch since forming in the late 70s. Unfortunately this turns out to be the album's strongest song, though only by a margin. You see, Magnum have always appreciated a bit of versatility in their songwriting, and that has also run the risk of most of the band's discography having almost as many corny tunes as they do powerful, almost game-changing epics.

Lacklustre moments are few and far between here but it's pretty obvious that certain songs suffer as a result. Whereas “Where are You Eden?” and the dramatic title track are arguably some of the best Magnum songs to have been written in the last two decades, “You Can't Run Faster than Bullets” proves it shouldn't have made the final cut on the album and “Not Forgiven” is too sickly sweet for its own good. The former initially disguises itself as a continuation of the opener's powerful punch, but instead relies on very unnecessary electronics and a length which means the song overstays its welcome, especially when the outro drones on for half a minute for no reason at all. The latter goes down the route and in spite of an obvious attempts at staying true to their chosen style, Magnum collectively let “Not Forgiven” slow down as opposed to taking on more pace and finishing on a high.

Elsewhere on the album however, Magnum take several chances of redemption and save The Serpent Rings from being entirely forgotten about in the future. “Madman or Messiah” is focused on momentum and could well be the fastest Magnum song of recent times, indulging in bombastic keyboard performances and lifting the tone into melodious soundscapes, which by the end are dazzling and not overdone. Similarly, “Man” also indulges in its melodramatic edge, but features more focus on the rhythm section and thankfully the driving riffs lock down heavier tones, resulting in a sound which isn't exactly light years away from the successful AOR era Magnum were linked with in the 80s. Finally, some experimentation is never too far from a release by this band, and “House of Kings” certainly serves its purpose as an outstanding album highlight. Initially melodic and harmonic as you'd come to expect at this point in The Serpent Rings, the mid-section suddenly takes a downward spiral into dark-tinged progressive rock, keyboards remaining deep and dull until a jazzy, almost electric loop takes centre stage, proving the band are still open to different approaches.

The Serpent Rings may only be another album to appreciate from the usual Magnum fanbase, but it's pretty clear that the band are content with their comfort zone, and when the musicianship is delivered with as much freshness and integrity as on this latest full-length, it's easy to get over certain aforementioned mis-steps and concentrate on Magnum's general consistency. They may not be biggest or indeed greatest band in their field, but The Serpent Rings renders Magnum as one of British fantasy-oriented rock's most reliable groups.

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user ratings (20)

Comments:Add a Comment 
February 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 3.5

c/c welcome as always.

First review for a couple of months, so writing is a bit rocky.

February 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Not a huge fan of the band, but I respect what they're doing and enjoy jamming their stuff every once in a while.

Good write up, as always.

February 3rd 2020


Wow, this pretty much the first time I heard about these guys and it turns out they've been jamming since the 70's. Might check upon them.

Staff Reviewer
February 3rd 2020


I remember Chase the Dragon had its moments, but apart from a couple of other tracks, I don't know much more about these guys

Staff Reviewer
February 3rd 2020


I basically grew up with The Eleventh Hour, so it's crazy these guys are still in good shape. Only heard the single, and it was alright.

February 4th 2020


Album Rating: 3.0

" and this year's effort, The Serpent Rings is now different." I think you mean 'no different'.

@ChaoticVortex In this genre it's pretty hard not to have heard Bob Catley even if you've never heard Magnum. He's on multiple Ayreon and Avantasia records among others, so you might've heard him even though you didn't know it.

February 4th 2020


Nice review. Interesting band. I need to check this new work.

February 6th 2020


Album Rating: 3.5

Interesting, I'll check older albums to see if I enjoy more.

February 6th 2020


Oh sweet, great pick for a review! This band is a guarantee, will check for sure. Unsung heroes for sure, saw them live a couple years ago. Aren't Catley and Clarkin like 72 each? Absolute rockers.

February 7th 2020


Album Rating: 2.5

Wow, Magnum keeps dropping new albums one after the other... however they are not on any festivals and live appearances. Guess it's just a hobby band recording the albums from home...

That said they have a very nice discography, my favourite of theirs is Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow (reformed phase) and On a Storytellers Night (classic phase).

Every album has at least a few bangers, definitely a bang worth listening to

February 9th 2020


Agreed. My favorites would be Magnum I and II for the early era and then maybe Sacred Blood or Road to Eternity for the current one.

Haven't heard this one yet.

Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2022


And a new one, damn!

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