PRAYING MANTIS – review
Album Review: Sanctuary (2009)
For fans of: Hard Rock… and a fine addition to long-term discography
Praying Mantis were former in the late 70’s by brothers Tino and Chris Troy. They supported the first tour Iron Maiden did in the UK and recorded a debut album, Time Tells No Lies, with Dave Potts on drums and Steve Carroll on guitars and vocals.
After working their way through several members, appearances at various festivals, changing their name a couple of times, more line-up changes and several more albums and festival appearances, the band – now consisting of Mike Freeland (vocals), Andy Burgess (guitars), Benjy Reid (drums), Tino Troy (guitars and vocals) and Chris Troy (bass and vocals) – are back with album no. 9.
I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing any of their earlier work, but it’s often compared to NWOBHM bands such as Iron Maiden, Saxon and so on. Have to say the music on Sanctuary is considerably lighter and more melodious than typical NWOBHM fare. But, not to panic, that doesn’t mean it ain’t as good. Far from it. Sanctuary has a hell of a lot going for it.
The opening track ‘In Time’ is speedy in places, sort of Dragonforce-lite if you like. There’s no real heaviness to the track but it still rocks. The underlying BPM is right on the money for that epic vitality. ‘Restless Heart’ goes all Westcoast USA, maybe with a softening hint of Middle England. It’s a friendly inoffensive track with a vintage persona. There are definite hints of Michael Kiske’s work with Place Vendome in the mix. It’s a real grower.
‘Tears In The Rain’ is a pleasant ballad with a heavyweight edge and a beautiful main theme. It’s full of expression and sweet-sounding melodies, and the guitar work is incredibly poignant but full of subliminal power. Mike Freeland’s voice isn’t technically brilliant but he has a certain something going on that gives him bags of plus-point character. ‘Lonely Way Home’ is arguably an even better track. Another ballad, it isn’t as ‘metal’ as the previous effort and consequently has a greater emotional appeal. M.F. puts his heart into the track and it shows… in spades.
‘Touch The Rainbow’ is a straight ahead rocker with a tinge of Eastern mysticism. As a whole the song doesn’t really get the pulse racing, but there are moments which catch your attention. ‘Threshold Of A Dream’ sounds like a song that would be amazing live. The main riff is as heavy as a heavy thing, but on the album it’s a tad subdued. The result is a song with obvious potential not realised.
‘Highway’ is a spunky upbeat track, again with strong hints of Westcoast AOR. It’s a definite driving song, even without taking the title into account. The final track, also the title track, goes considerably heavier – although again it’s a smothered heaviness. It’s like listening to a metal band through tinny speakers. Maybe the sound has deliberately been held back to appeal to a wider audience… it’s a shame because this could be a stunning track if it had more in the way of balls.
Sanctuary is a fine album with a couple of truly excellent moments. However, as mentioned, the production job either inadvertently or purposefully robs the release of some much needed horsepower. The end result is good, and the quality of the writing and performances really shine through, but as a package it leaves a taste of ‘what if?’ in your mouth.
Check out… The vocals. Mike Freeland should get his voice on albums more often