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Magnum - Chase The Dragon CD (album) cover




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3.57 | 67 ratings

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Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
4 stars There is some real spirit here

Chase the Dragon is MAGNUM's third release and finds the band in form and possibly at their heaviest for some time to follow. Rodney Matthews' excellent cover is a bit misleading as to the musical pathways the listener would expect - possibly a fantasy-based, epic rock album with prog at the core of the sound. While all of these elements appear, the focus is mostly on pomp heavy rock/metal with several classic rock references.

My understanding of this release can be summarised in a few words: inconsistent and at the same time interesting and unexpected. Reason: the numerous musical influences from a vast range of bands, leading to the building of an album that sounds more like a compilation record than a proper studio release. It would be interesting to see all these different effects on the album as the tracks unfold.

After a relatively uninteresting long intro (~1 min), Soldier of the Line kicks in with epic vocals and lyrics from Bob Catley, accompanied with a rhythm section and keyboards in the same vein. The track slowly builds up to a medium tempo heavy-pomp rock piece that reaches its zenith at the refrain where Styx-like secondary vocals take it to another dimension. The following guitar-keyboard soloing and subsequent faster rhythms reveal the band's distant relation to NWOBHM... Another 45 sec. intro initiates On the Edge of the World which progresses to AOR-based forms with more keyboards and a lighter pop feeling, reminding of some of the most catchy moments of Asia, Blue Oyster Cult and Thin Lizzy (mainly on the guitars); a short diversion from the opening track's epic-pomp atmosphere that returns with the next song...

The Spirit embarks with a melodic epic acoustic guitar passage in the vein of Wishbone Ash and Uriah Heep but soon a powerful heavy rock riff breaks in in time for the refrain which shows some of the best catchy vocals on this album. The melodic passages and heavy riffs interchange throughout the whole song assisted by well-balanced guitar solos. The result is a dynamic hard rock track with little resemblance to prog forms. The choice of Sacred Hour for mp3 streaming in the PA page is ideal: this track is by far the most progressive song in the album, starting off with a grandiose piano-keyboard section in the vein of Kansas and Styx that builds beautifully into the first vocal lines. The AOR elements are dominant as the track evolves with pianos backing up the mid-tempo pomp rock character unfolding the prog references via the dual guitar-keyboard solos; undoubtedly the optimal way to conclude the first half of the record.

Walking the Straight Line is based on the triptych of ZZ Top, UFO and the Eagles, as strange as this sounds; the main riff of this almost "classic rock" track is influenced from the first two, while the refrain borrows some the melodic tunes of the latter embodied again with AOR harmonies. The first ballad the listener meets is called We All Play the Game and again shows a change of mood to more prog-keyboard led melodies with an attitude that leans towards Kansas and Queen primarily.

If The Teacher was a Deep Purple cover, nobody would argue with that. The main guitar theme is almost copied from the great rock band and the track evolves as an up-tempo heavy rock tune that sticks to your mind. Although not the most innovative track in the album, it includes the best musical idea (in my opinion); a 30 second section of an amazing guitar-keyboard passage that resembles to modern prog metal albums, while the guitar work is outstanding. The album concludes with another ballad, The Lights Burned Out, which progresses in a melodic manner, closer to typical AOR than to prog-related forms. If I had to pick the least appealing song, this is one would be among the contesters along with On the Edge of the World.

The extended version of the CD includes several alternative, live, A and B side versions; the most entertaining of them being the Styx-like Long Days, Black Nights and the catchy Back to Earth. The overall package can not be regarded as less than a treat. Obviously, the first half of the album is the most interesting but there are no real weak moments in this diverse release. This is my favourite album from my (ever-growing) Magnum collection and it is so because of the fine balance between classic heavy rock references and moderate pomp AOR doses. Prog fans who are keen on this combination will surely find lots of spirit here.

aapatsos | 4/5 |


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