There's a reason why Ten has emerged as one of Britain's most prolific and classiest rock bands, releasing six albums since 1996: There ain't much competition across the pond these days when it comes to being prolific and classy. But that's not to say that Ten are the least weak band of an even weaker British roster. Quite the contrary, actually. Ten's success is well-deserved, despite the group's tendency to create sweeping musical landscapes that can either be interpreted as self-indulgence or sheer genius.
On Far Beyond the World, the sextet abandon the bloated concepts that bogged down Ten's last two records (Spellbound and Babylon) in favor of the tight, smooth and slightly progressive rock that characterized the band's earlier work. Singer and band mastermind Gary Hughes possesses a smoky voice that recalls John Wetton, lending an early-Asia vibe to much of Ten's material - including memorable tracks like "Glimmer of Evil," "Strange Land" and "Scarlet and the Grey." Many songs benefit from Hughes' quirky turns of melodic phrase - a talent he also demonstrated on Magnum singer Bob Catley's last solo album, Middle Earth, which Hughes wrote and produced. Ten also rock hard and fast on songs like "High Tide" and "Last of the Lovers," but Hughes' distinct voice somehow keeps the proceedings from getting too heavy.
Far Beyond the World is significant not only because of its high-caliber musicianship and songwriting (despite some cheesy lyrics), but also because it's the crispest sounding album Ten has recorded - thanks to an aggressive mix by Tommy Newton (Helloween, Crystal Ball, The Ark). On a down note, longtime guitarist Vinny Burns left Ten shortly after the release of this record, but his departure won't likely slow down the band. By now, Ten has become a well-oiled machine -- powered by a variety of players over the years -- that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, if Far Beyond the World is any indication, these guys have only just begun.