A varied and adventurous outing
Despite more than thirty years together, Birmingham (U.K.) based melodic/progressive rock band Magnum continue to create music, with ‘Into the Valley of the Moonking’ the fifteenth studio effort from the long running band. Riding high on the success and critical acclaim of their 2007 release ‘Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow’ (Not to mention 2008’s double live effort ‘Wings of Heaven Live’), the five piece act (Comprising of vocalist Bob Catley, guitarist/song writer/co-producer Tony Clarkin, bassist Al Barrow, keyboardist Mark Stanway and drummer Jimmy Copley) have obviously hit upon a renewed creative streak, with their latest effort another classic within their vast catalogue.
Stanway’s keyboards open up the album with the minute and a half slow building ‘Intro’, which is solid, if a little directionless with the eventual arrival of the first track ‘Cry to Yourself’. Although good, the song lacks the impact you would expect from an opener, which gives the album a bit of a shaky start.
But thankfully, the band quickly gets back to form with the faster paced ‘All My Bridges’, which features the undeniably classic Magnum sound with its catchy chorus, powerful keyboard presence and Clarkin’s rock/progressive guitar sound and fretwork.
From here, Magnum maintain the high standard laid down by the former track, with the guitar driven ‘Take Me to the Edge’, ‘If I Ever Lose My Mind’ and ‘Feels Like Treason’ by far the heaviest sounding efforts from the band since their reformation, while the anti-war theme of ‘No-One Knows His Name’ and ‘A Face in the Crowd’ are ready made anthems fit for the stage.
Both the unofficial title track ‘The Moon King’ and ‘Blood on Your Barbed Wire Thorns’ are interesting ventures into more blues-influenced territory, with the former standing out for Clarkin’s impressive slide work to get the song off in a classy manner, while the latter turns into a barroom blues boogie effort, but with a distinct Magnum feel.
Catley stands out with some great melody lines on the mid-paced rocker ‘In My Mind’s Eye’, while his performance on the acoustic/rock ballad ‘Time to Cross That River’ is another high moment on the album.
Despite getting off to a rocky start, ‘Into the Valley of the Moonking’ is overall far more varied and adventurous sounding than their ‘Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow’, and ultimately comes across as one of the more definitive classic Magnum releases since their return to the scene.