Some bands derive their songwriting inspiration from one mind. Others, such as Magnum, hinge on an alchemical meeting of two. The holy union of Bob Catley’s astonishing voice and Tony Clarkin’s six-string sorcery is among life’s great pleasures – and it’s one that we thankfully get to experience again in their latest, pandemic-defying collection of new songs.
As ever, even with a rather metal-sounding album title like The Monster Roars, Magnum have zero interest in rocking harder than anyone else. While they may never write anything punchier than the extraordinarily great title track of 1987’s Vigilante album, the years since have seen them move away from such bombast and double down on feeling. In doing so, the Brummie boys have capitalised on Catley’s inherently emotive vocal tones, Clarkin’s uncanny ear for a golden melody line, and the all-too-rare post-millennial phenomenon of keyboards on rock tracks.
Magnum have been notably consistent with their output over the past two decades, releasing one album every two years since 2012, and this one feels like their strongest in a while. The first half delivers one tuneful stormer after another, with the opening title track, Remember (which includes one of the biggest earworms, come the chorus), All You Believe In and lead single I Won’t Let You Down all perfect examples of elder statesmen showing off their craft.
These tracks are far from alone in their excellence, as the likes of second single No Steppin’ Stones (curiously recorded as if being played live in front of an audience), up-tempo rocker The Day After The Night Before and the seven-minute epic Your Blood Is Violence demonstrate ably.
While it almost feels like faint praise to brand a rock record as ‘lovely’, that’s precisely what this one is. If a few of these songs, such as That Freedom Word or Walk The Silent Hours, initially feel like slow-burners rather than instant bangers, that’s only because it takes time for the human brain to process so much powerful sentiment.
Catley and Clarkin’s Monster is by no means without claws, but the real rewards lie in its silky-smooth underbelly.