It’s hard to believe that British Melodic Hard Rock act TEN have been treading the boards for 22 years now.
Having gone through various line up changes through the years they are about to release their 13th studio album ‘Gothica’ on 7th July, and the third with current line up Gary Hughes (vocals, BGV, Guitar, bass and programming ), Dann Rosingana (Guitar), Steve Grocott (Guitar), John Halliwell (Guitar), Steve McKenna (Bass), Darrel Treece-Birch (Keyboards and a helluva name) and Max Yates (Drums) with additional vocals coming from Karen Fell.
Dennis Ward joins Hughes on the mixing and mastering duties with Hughes promising, as it’s their 13th album, something a bit more sinister than on their previous output whilst still holding true to the traditional traits of a TEN album.
He promises to embrace history, romance and erotic horror and in part has done this by using an original piece of artwork for the cover by Stan W. Decker which shows a beautiful enchantress reading incantations from a book whilst summoning shadowy characters from its pages mirroring what Hughes is trying to do with the characters on the albums’ songs. All very “Arty” but will listeners take this on board?
We don’t have to wait long as track one ‘The Grail’ is an eight minute opener based on King Arthur’s Crusaders quest to find the Holy Grail. With sweeping heavier guitar riffs , big hooks, monk like chanting on the choruses and Hughes story telling vocal delivery you are instantly transported back to that time. The stunning guitar work on this opener is a trait which runs throughout the album (hard not to think of Monty Python though if you’re a certain age though).
‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is a darker themed song but with quite a heavy riff throughout, a bit more up tempo and catchy sound to it with some nice guitar pieces it ends with a simple piano outro which is in stark contrast to the overall feel of the song. The guitar work is slightly reminiscent of Zakk Wylde’s playing during his time with Ozzy Osbourne..
Third song ‘Travellers’ starts with the chiming of a grandfather clock followed by a beautiful underlying keyboard intro which continues nicely in the background throughout the song and again has a great hard rock soaring guitar sound. Hughes’ vocal delivery is very poetic and the guitar solos majestic and melodic. Beautifully written piece of AOR.
‘A Man For All seasons’ is another piece of historical lyric writing. Starting with a medieval composition the guitars suddenly kick into action, with some great runs and fills throughout accompanied by equally accomplished keyboards and rhythmic rhythm section with the soloing again coming to the fore. This is a clever piece of writing about the Tudor ascension to the throne, the reformation of the Church and Henry VIII’s eventual mental deterioration. A piece of history all told in seven minutes!
Track five ‘In My Dreams’ is a more commercial, radio friendly song but with quite a heavy opening riff. A song about a shy, geeky young man’s fantasies of finding that perfect girl, his real life imperfections meaning they only meet in his dreams. A song a lot of angst ridden teenagers will relate to (and some older ones too). The solo is sublime to say the least.
‘The Wild King of Winter’ has a slow mournful start featuring keyboards and guitar before a fast paced heavy riff, that goes on through the whole song, turns it into a really modern rock song with some nice Prog rock keyboards. Tortured lyrics about love are the theme and again the solos are fantastic, being heavy and melodic at the same time.
‘Paragon’ was the first release from the album and is a bit of a grower to be honest. A simple piano and keyboard opening and a nice guitar riff basically makes it a ballad with the subject matter about fantasies and eroticism as Hughes had promised. It’s not quite up to what came before it but the melodic guitar solos adds something to it which lifts it and stops it from becoming a bit of an album filler.
‘Welcome To The Freak Show’ continues the erotica theme and is dark, sexy and mature. Starting with a fairground music intro the guitar work soon lifts the song into a nice mid to up tempo number which includes Hughes’ description of a girl who sounds well worth meeting!
Penultimate track ‘La Luna Dra-Cu-La’ has a cracking opening riff with a strong Celtic feel to it. The drumming is excellent employing a bit of bodhram drum in parts. The lyrics are as dark as the title would suggest. It has a great rhythm to it with the Celtic feel taking full effect about three mins in sounding like Gary Moore in his prime. There is a great guitar battle solo and Hughes’ delivery is again spot on. This will more than likely become an album favourite.
Final song ‘Into Darkness’ starts with an old school cinema reel rolling before a nice keyboard and bass line kicks in. This is a slow melodic song to end the album with and there is yet another nice guitar solo in a song berating the movie industry (of old maybe) and how young starlets got swallowed up by an unforgiving industry. A great heavy riff is thrown in at the death for good measure.
Overall this is a wonderfully written, performed nad produced album. Poetic, intelligent and informational. A must have for all TEN fans.