Magnum - Sacred Blood, Divine Lies

Magnum Sacred Blood, Divine Lies cover
Sacred Blood, Divine Lies
Like an old friend Magnum returns once more for their 19th (?) album. Having been at it, since even before most of us were born, these Brits are synonymous with quality hard rock with an extra dose of theatricality and pomp, but without being as extravagant as for instance Queen would be on occasion… but still a band of similar caliber.
Clocking at near seven minutes “Sacred Blood, Divine Lies” is a typical example of Magnum doing what they do best, a pompous rocking mutha of a track with a superb solo, only slightly held back by Bob Catley sounding a little “rough”. I suppose he’s not getting any younger, but he still attempts his own vocals and doesn’t sound “tuned” to the point where you can but hear a bit of the original vocal as a lot of “singers” these days that are very approximate and many times unable to perform anywhere near the level of their studio recordings.
The “Cat” sounds better on the next one “Crazy Old Mothers” a slower and more sublime track, still typical of the bands style with Mark Stanway laying out a very nice intro, Bob waltzes all over, only for Clarkin to repeat the same thing later etc… despite its bizarre grove and unlikely chorus, it’s a song that grows on you almost instantly and a very catchy one at that.
The intro alone to “Gypsy Queen” is a little story/song by itself but as soon as the band kicks in, very rhythmically, it’s irresistible, probably one of the best on the album, without it vying for the spotlight. (It’s called songwriting boys and girls, actually sitting down and preparing “matching” musical ideas and lyrics that work well over them…)
“Princess in the Rags” has this Hammond-led rocker vibe that shout’s “Purple” during the intro, but it goes straight back to the pomp of circumstance that Magnum are so well known and loved for… driven by a nice meaty riff and the excellent rhythm section.
“Your Dreams Won’t Die” is a bizarre ballad obviously sort of melancholic, but with an underlying key melody that’s quite contrasting, almost too bright and happy. It’s not the best thing Bob’s done, but by all means it’s a quite brilliant song.
“Afraid of the Night” is a lot more ambitious, with lots of arrangements and quite a few time changes, making it quite fascinating and theatrical, with Catley, giving one of the better performances of the album.
“A Forgotten Conversation” is a very nice song, starting with a very soft intro, and then getting progressively louder and bolder, before a soft interlude and then a very persistent verse that poetically questions the wicked way of the (modern) world in the reminiscence of a past convo. Excellent solo as well. A multifaceted track that however doesn’t need multiple listens to grab you, as it does so from the start.
“Quiet Rhapsody” is a lot more experimental with some bizarre xylophone thing going on in the background, sequenced and a pretty funky grove, until Catley starts singing, which slowly makes it more conformist, before the chorus sort of unfurls over the steady rhythm causing quite a mindfunk. Interesting (a bit like how Queen would experiment around the Jazz era) still identifiable, but adventurous enough to be worthy of an inclusion.
“Twelve Men Wise and Just” is another long winded mini-epic, a blockbuster in a little more than six minutes, with a few beautiful themes and moods changes, a really bizarre prog middle section that catches you by surprise another nice chorus and a beautiful harmonic close. I mean, quite a few people might try something similar to these, but few pull it off as well as these chaps do.
“Don’t Cry Baby” is basically a ballad (typical in that respect) but it seems to allow the piano to drive it, with the guitar only coming in here and there prominently, thus creating some quite interesting moods, within the songs duration. It even goes as far as to have a piano solo, where you‘d expect a guitar to be… interesting indeed.
A DVD in the special edition ads, music videos for “Sacred Blood, Divine Lies” and “Crazy Old Mothers” as well as 3 “Bonus Audio Tracks” namely “Phantom of Paradise Circus”, “Don’t Grow Up” and “No God or Saviour” very much in the vein of the album, as they were all the product of the same sessions which wielded some fifteen or so tracks in total.
The eighth album since the band’s “reunion” easily feels like one of the better ones, full of great songwriting and songs that will easily find their way into the live shows of the band, even with the ever increasing catalog of songs to choose from.