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Serpentine: Living And Dying In High Definition

Serpentine first arrived on the scene last year with their excellent AOR inspired debut album A Touch Of Heaven being most notable for being fronted by onetime Shy and Siam man and current TNT vocalist Tony Mills. Mills may well have featured on more albums than there are days in the week around that time, however for those desperate to hear him return to his Shy roots, Serpentine were indeed a touch of heaven. Since then things have got a little confusing for the Welsh four piece that Tony was fronting, with the announcement he had split from the band. Enter Matt Black, who toured with the Serpentine before this album was released, singing two tracks that feature here ("Philadelphia" and "Cry"), however it is actually Mills who once again features here due to the fact that this album was completed before he moved on to projects new.

So putting that slight confusion to one side, Living And Dying In High Definition basically picks up from where the debut Serp's offering left off, with keyboard led, but guitar infused AOR being the order of the day. In fact it could be argued that with Mills having once again and seemingly for the final time split with his first band Shy, LADIHD may well be as close to that classic Shy sound as we'll get now. Gareth David Noon really does shine behind the keyboards, but it is the manner in which he combines with the fluid guitar work of Chris Gould that truly impresses here. The duo create huge swathes of melodic oomph, which Mills adds extra punch to with his peerless vocal power, while bassist Gareth Vanstone and drummer Roy Millward keep things grounded with a solid thunk. The likes of the aforementioned "Philadelphia" and "Cry" are glorious slices of melodic power, whilst the slightly quirkier and lyrically darker "Nuremberg" illustrates that Serpentine are capable of broadening their horizons as well. The urgency and huge choruses of "Where Do We Go From Here" and "Deep Down (There's A Price For Love)" leave you in little doubt of where this band's strengths lie, with Noon firing out little motifs on the keys, while Gould's guitar brings added bite and stopping things from ever becoming too sickly sweet. That said though, things do clog down a little with "Dreamer" and "Love Is Blue", with the former being just too generic and the latter's slower pace being not quite convincing enough. I also have to mention the huge swathes of backing vocals on these tracks (and in fact all the songs presented here), which whilst highlighting the amazing power and range of Mills voice, do become a bit of a distraction, sounding rather synthetic and in truth it is a recurring theme on nearly all of the albums that Tony Mills fronts these days. Personally I'd love to hear him return to the pure vocal days of Siam. I'm nit picking here though, as there can be no doubt that few if any can match the vocals that Mills delivers on this album and that in truth with his departure may be the long term issue for Serpentine.

Living And Dying In High Definition is a mighty slab of melodic rock from yesteryear, brought right up to date thanks to an excellent production courtesy of Sheena Sear (Magnum). However the true test for Serpentine will come in the shape of album number three when Matt Black takes over from Tony Mills. In the mean time Living And Dying In High Definition will undoubtedly have the AOR legions going all pink and frothy at the mouth!

Track Listing
1. Deep Down (There's A Price For Love)
2. Philadelphia
3. Dreamer
4. Love Is Blue
5. Where Do We Go From Here?
6. Cry
7. Best Days Of Our Lives
8. Heartbreak Town
9. Nuremberg
10. Forgotten Heroes

Added: August 20th 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Serpentine MySpace
Hits: 3037
Language: english

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