Magnum guitarist Tony Clarkin is a man who seems to never stop working. He is responsible for writing all the material released by the band, and on top of that he produces their albums from the very first demo to the final mix. “As soon as an album is finished, I start to collect new ideas,” he explains. “That’s how I’ve worked since the early seventies, for me that’s the ideal method.” On their latest album The Serpent Rings (available on Steamhammer/SPV from 17 January 2020 on CD, double vinyl LP, limited box set and for digital download), Clarkin and Magnum’s other original member, vocalist Bob Catley, prove all over again just how perfectly this established system works.
Magnum have recorded eleven new songs which feature all the traditional strengths of the British act and also live up to the band’s ambition to explore a more rock-oriented direction. “Thanks to our current record company, we enjoy full artistic freedom,” Clarkin enthuses. “SPV understand how important this is to us. We’ve not always been in such a fortunate position. During the eighties, the label we were with at the time wanted us to sound as pop-oriented as possible because they hoped for better album sales. I used to hate that, despite the success we had.”
The new album, The Serpent Rings, presents Magnum the way the musicians themselves like it: rocking and at the same time melodic, straightforward but also a little playful, powerful as well as sensitive with enchanted lyrics but also with a socio-critical approach. ‘Madman Or Messiah’, for example, is about the phenomenon of self-proclaimed saviours. Clarkin: “You have to approach these kinds of gurus with a lot of caution, because in reality they’re taking their followers for a ride and in a worst-case scenario even seducing them into performing dubious acts, as the case of Charles Manson in the late 1960s shows.” ‘Man’ is another sceptical number about the underbelly of human behaviour. “A lot of what mankind does to Planet Earth is based on greed and insatiability. We destroy nature just to make an even bigger profit, and we are seeing the negative results of that attitude more clearly now than ever before.” But of course The Serpent Rings also presents Magnum from their dreamy, magical side, the title song being a perfect example – and a direct reflection of the amazing cover artwork courtesy of Rodney Matthews. Clarkin: “‘The Serpent Rings’ started out as a science fiction story but continued to evolve over time and even features a slightly bizarre side today. I’d describe the song as an eerie and somewhat creepy fairy tale.”
The new album was recorded by the Magnum line-up consisting of Clarkin, Catley, keyboardist Rick Benton and drummer Lee Morris, plus their latest addition, bassist Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Place Vendome, Unisonic, among others), who joined the fold to replace Al Barrow. “Unfortunately Al had to leave the band because he lives in the US, which had always caused organisational problems,” Clarkin explains the background of the line-up change. “Tobias Sammet of Avantasia recommended Dennis, who is a great musician and vocalist, exactly what we were looking for. His contribution to The Serpent Rings surpassed our wildest expectations. We’re really looking forward to touring with him.”
Talking of which: Magnum’s major European tour has been scheduled to start in March 2020, initially with a number of headlining shows, to be continued by a first-rate package together with Gotthard from Switzerland. This extremely successful collaboration first passed the litmus test a few years ago, and Clarkin, Catley & Co. are very enthusiastic: “Along with some classic numbers, we will also present four or five songs from The Serpent Rings,” the band promises, providing even more reasons for their fans to mark the dates in their calendars.
Where Are You Eden? * You Can't Run Faster Than Bullets * Madman Or Messiah * The Archway Of Tears * Not Forgiven * The Serpent Rings * House Of Kings * The Great Unknown * Man * The Last One On Earth * Crimson On The White Sand
Tony Clarkin – Guitar
Bob Catley – Vocals
Rick Benton – Keyboards
Dennis Ward – Bass
Lee Morris – Drums