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Magnum: Into The Valley Of The Moonking

The partnership between Magnum guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarkin and vocalist Bob Catley is now well into its fourth decade and yet like a fine vintage wine it grows ever more appealing with age. More than thirty years since their debut Kingdom of Madness was given a rave review by Sounds Geoff Barton who compared them at the time to Starcastle, Yes, Kansas and Queen, Magnum remain a band to be cherished. Whilst those comparisons were justified in the beginning, across albums such as The Eleventh Hour, On A Storytellers Night and Wings of Heaven Magnum developed a style that was uniquely their own as they became one of the UK's most enduring bands with stirring anthems, melodic rockers and power ballads in abundance. After a hiatus during the latter half of the 90's that saw Clarkin and Catley diversify with Hard Rain (or Magnum-lite as it could have been described) the pair brought Magnum out of hibernation with the uncertain Breath of Life in 2002 that was followed by the much improved Brand New Morning two years later. But even this paled when compared with the majestic return that was 2007's Princess Alice and The Broken Arrow and this rich vein of form is carried through into this relatively brisk follow-up, the wonderfully titled Into The Valley Of The Moonking. Ever since the Jeff Glixman - produced Chase The Dragon in 1982 Magnum's artwork has been an important element of the overall package and Moonking is no exception, once again provided by the exquisite touch of fantasy artist Rodney Matthews who has been so effective over the years in bringing Clarkin's initial ideas to life. With Matthews involvement it simply feels like a Magnum album before you have even taken the CD out of the box.

The opening 'Intro' is precisely that; Mark Stanway's keyboards conjuring up a windswept landscape that sets the scene for what is to come and segues into the mid tempo 'Cry To Yourself' and whilst it lacks the immediate impact of some of the later tracks it proves to be a solid enough opener. Tony Clarkin's songwriting is nothing short of amazing as he once again delivers lyrics that are truly inspirational, the careworn ballad 'A Face In The Crowd' being a perfect example. Clarkin's lyrics have often dealt with self-belief and perseverance in the face of struggle and adversity ('The Spirit', 'When The World Comes Down', 'Desperate Times') and 'A Face In The Crowd' is another worthy addition to the list. Another theme often revisited has been the futility of conflict and the dramatic 'No-one Knows His Name' joins a canon that includes 'Les Morts Dansent', 'Don't Wake The Lion' and 'The Flood' in remembering those who have been lost on the battlefield. Catley's voice aches with emotion on the stirring 'If I Ever Lose My Mind' although this is hardly a surprise as he never sounds anything less than immaculate.

Away from the anthems, 'Take Me To The Edge' and the urgent 'Feels Like Treason' find the band cranking it up a gear and varying the pace with two quality hard rockers. The (near) title track is where Clarkin brings out his blues guitar and combines it with Magnum's grandiose style to blow away the cobwebs whilst the fantasy imagery of the lyric perfectly complements the cover art. Magnum's albums have often closed with sweeping epics and this proves no exception with 'Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns' starting like a gritty, up-tempo rocker (with some delicate piano embellishments from Stanway) before taking an altogether different direction around the four minute mark with an instrumental passage that becomes a showcase for an evocative Clarkin solo before Stanway plays the song out. The songwriting and musicianship are exceptional throughout and I don't expect to hear a better album this year so a five star rating is more than justified.

Out of the valley of the Moonking Magnum have emerged triumphant. Long may they continue.

Track Listing
1 Intro
2 Cry To Yourself
3 All My Bridges
4 Take Me To The Edge
5 The Moon King
6 Noone Knows His Name
7 In My Mind`s Eye
8 Time To Cross That River
9 If I Ever Lose My Mind
10 A Face In The Crowd
11 Feels Like Treason
12 Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns

Added: September 2nd 2009
Reviewer: Dean Pedley
Related Link: Magnum Website
Hits: 6843
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Magnum: Into The Valley Of The Moonking
Posted by Ryan Sparks, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-02-09 21:37:26
My Score:

Any band whose roots stretch back to the early 70's and is still kicking it in 2009 has got to be doing something right. Since they first appeared on the Birmingham club scene as a four piece in 1972 British melodic rockers Magnum have been churning out their own brand of commercially tinged hard rock. Save for a six year period which began in the mid 90's when the band spilt completely; Magnum continues to be driven by original members Tony Clarkin (guitars) and Bob Catley (vocals).

Even though a large chunk of the material on their latest, and fifteenth studio album overall, Into The Valley Of The Moonking can be considered a tad on the light side, the catchy, melodic hooks and strong arrangements are certainly hard to ignore. Clarkin's blues driven riffs propel songs like "Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns" and "The Moonking", while Catley steals the show in his own way with some of the most convincing and heartfelt vocal performances of his career on "If I Ever Lose My Mind" and the show stopping ballad "A Face In The Crowd". This track in particular is one of those rock anthems that is guaranteed to have audiences reaching for their lighters with its strong Journey inspired sing along chorus.

If you lean towards hook driven hard rock that resembles the likes of Kansas and Styx then you'll find plenty here to get excited about. To be honest I wasn't really sold on this album initially, however after repeated spins I found that Into The Valley Of The Moonking really began to grow on me. Rock solid from end to end.

(originally reviewed for

Magnum: Into The Valley Of The Moonking
Posted by Denis Brunelle, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-09-02 18:11:34
My Score:

When I got this promo, a certain fright invaded my worried soul. Not too sure if this would sound cheesy, pompous with some sort of a high pitch / falsetto festival. Thanks devil it's not that horrifying, even if this music is more MTV/radio friendly than my normal metal diet.

Into the Valley of the Moonking is a nice piece of melodic & traditional heavy metal. You won't find anything of an extreme nature in their music. Look somewhere else for: harsh vocals, over the top technical or intricate song structure, cryptic tonalities, deep mystical references and no tracks venture into the long lasting/epic pleasure field. No, this is pretty much middle of the road metal with catchy choruses and melodic hooks. The voice of Bob Catley is similar to Guns and Roses, but there is no Slash on the team. The guitar work is good, without deserving the "outstanding" mention. One can feel the influences from the 70's pop hard rock scene in their songwriting. "All the Bridges" sounds like a Styx cover with the vocal harmonies and all. The heavy lead & crushing riffs of "Take Me to the Edge" is very Deep Purple-ish to my ears, besides being one of my favorite compositions on this disc. Then comes another cool number named "The Moon King". This is where the guitar playing of Tony Clarkin is venturing into the greasy /bluesy territory, to my greatest pleasure.

Into the Valley of the Moonking is actually a nice heavy metal release; made for a wider and general music audience.

Magnum: Into The Valley Of The Moonking
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-06-11 10:28:59
My Score:

Wow, the hooks just kept on coming. That is what you will be thinking when you give the new Magnum CD entitled Into The Valley Of The Moonking a spin. If you are a fan of the band I can say with confidence that you will not be disappointed with the latest offering. Progressive rock aficionados may question whether this is progressive but I say it does not matter. I will take this slice of excellent rock (and yes, there are some proggy moments) any day of the week. The CD boasts plenty of variety, with epic ballads, heavy rock, and all things in between, with many songs laced with lovely symphonic arrangements, synths and lilting piano melodies. All songs were written by guitarist Tony Clarkin and he is definitely an integral part of the band. He adds just the right amount of class with his gritty playing and excellent sense of melody. Those of you familiar with the voice of Catley will love his performance here. As usual he puts everything into his raspy, yet pleasing voice, offering irresistible choruses and emotional outbursts of pure joy.

The slower material is mixed nicely amongst the harder edged stuff such as the poignant balladry of "A Face In The Crowd". Or you may prefer those songs with a harder edge like the edgy scorcher "Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns" featuring some stellar slide playing by Clarkin. My favourite track is the blues inspired "The Moon King". The guitar parts are particularly interesting as at times they are mixed further back only to resurface in the foreground crystal clear and very clean.

The cover art, courtesy of Rodney Matthews is a real eye catcher. As I have a promo copy no booklet was included, but if it is anything like the cover, we should be in for a real treat.

I love this album and I suggest you will to. I heartily recommend you take a trip Into The Valley of The Moon King. An essential purchase indeed!

Magnum: Into The Valley Of The Moonking
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-05-18 12:16:46
My Score:

Ok, I'll come clean right up front - I'm a big fan of Magnum. For me, they have all the elements that go towards making a perfect rock band and they use them well. They have power but use it with oodles of melodic sensibility. They have great guitar riffs and lead lines but they don't forget to bring in a little musical colour with the keyboards. Their singer, Bob Catley, is superb.Their songs are clever compositionally but without ever forgetting that they are rock songs. Result: excellent albums, time after time. They work their socks off too: they started out as long ago as 1972 working as the house band at Birmingham Uk's "Rum Runner" club, before finally issuing their first album Kingdom of Madness in 1978. What places Magnum apart from their then contemporaries is that, not only are they still touring, but they are also putting out albums of new material on a regular basis. And it's not any old dross to bring in a bit of cash - this is good music - see the reviews of Breath of Life (2002), Brand New Morning (2004) and Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow (2007) on this site.

Into the Valley of the Moonking meets expectation. Whilst the album is perhaps not as instantly accessible as the Princess Alice album, it does prove on repeated listening to be as good, if not better, than its predecessor.

The difference is due to the fact that "Into the Valley of the Moonking" is a more varied album than its predecessor: it's more varied compositionally and the instrumentational arrangements are richer. Listen, and it won't be long before you're hooked!

Some of the highlights come early on in the album, with a trio of songs that is pretty hard to beat. The fireworks kick-off with "All My Bridges" and "Take Me to the Edge". The pace is faster than Magnum's norm and Tony Clarkin's guitar really comes alive in these tracks but, even here, the composition is clever, not allowing the songs to become boring. "All My Bridges" opens with a "Pinball Wizzard" style piano run before the high-tempo rock kicks in, then the verses are sung to a quieter synth-driven backing, before the guitar comes in with a vengeance again for the choruses and the outro. It's ace! Similarly, "Take Me to the Bridge" has some real steel about it - definitely a contender for "track of the album" - superb riff kicking off, lightening up for the verse, back with a vengeance for the chorus. Wow!

The song which is the title track, "The Moonking", is very clever and very good indeed, it's a real "grower". Songwriter (and guitarist) Tony Clarkin has added an extra layer to the normal verse-chorus-verse structure. Here, before the verse, we have an additional section, played and sung in a slow-tempo blues format. The verse and chorus return to more "normal" Magnum styles. So, blues-verse-chorus, repeat, then the bridge section becomes the blues-verse done instrumentally before the chorus comes in. There are some neat musical transitions between these sections.

The standard of songwriting continues to be very high, but this run of three takes some beating! Other highlights worth picking out are the stonking rock vocal from Bob on the outro of "In My Minds Eye"; the lush power ballad "A Face in the Crowd", stadium-ready rock if ever there was such a thing; and the closing number, "Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns". This leaves me with goose-bumps every time I hear it. It opens with a super rock-riff, features some fine work on the keys going into the chorus, has a great bridge section, great guitar soloing - excellent head-banging material here - and then, it just leaves me in pieces on the outro: not quite mirroring the album's prelude "Intro", but very cleverly done, the lush melodic string-synths come in and the piano....the!

Rock on!

Magnum: Into The Valley Of The Moonking
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-05-17 08:43:56
My Score:

You just know when Rodney Matthews does the cover art for a Magnum release, that the end results are going to be something special. The famous artist has done the artwork for such classic Magnum albums as On a Storyteller's Night, The Eleventh Hour, and Chase the Dragon, and he once again returns to work with Magnum for their latest Into the Valley of the Moonking.

The band is proving to be pretty active the last few years, with a recent live album as well as the excellent studio releases Alice and the Broken Arrow and Brand New Morning. This latest sees all the tried and true Magnum characteristics working in overdrive-the catchy melodies, anthemic chorusus, rocking guitar riffs, and symphonic arrangements, all part of the classy Magnum sound. Opener "Cry to Yourself" is sure to be a classic, Bob Catley's powerful vocals delivering the fist pumping energy that this song envelopes, while "All My Bridges" is a fun symphonic rocker, Mark Stanway's keyboards really standing out alongside Tony Clarkin's driving riffs. Heavy rockers like "Take Me To the Edge", "If I Ever Lose My Mind", and "Feels Like Treason" complement the more moody & atmospheric numbers like "The Moon King", the proggy "No One Knows My Name", and the more ballady pieces such as "In My Minds Eye" and "Time to Cross That River". The band saves the most stirring number for last in the form of "Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns", a real classy 70's styled hard rocker, complete with honky tonk piano, crunchy guitar riffs, and some ballsy vocals from Catley.

It's easy to say that you can't go wrong with any Magnum release, but it just seems that after 30 years, it's always been the case. Kudos to these veteran rockers for once again delivering the goods here with Into the Valley of the Moonking.

» Reader Comments:

Magnum: Into The Valley Of The Moonking
Posted by Luke on 2009-06-01 03:19:41
My Score:

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