Release Date: 21st August 2015
Often associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Praying Mantis have always been at the melodic end. And this, their tenth album (I’m going to be pedantic and include ‘Metalmorphosis’ but not ‘Stratus’), is the first with new vocalist Jaycee Cuijpers and drummer Hans in’t Zandt, and it’s pure joy from the opening track. It also features artwork from the legendary Rodney Matthews.
Praying Mantis were formed in the mid 70s by brothers Chris and Tino Troy, bass and guitar respectively, and like Iron Maiden released and EP called ‘The Soundhouse Tapes’. They were picked up by Arista and released their debut LP ‘Time Tells No Lies’ in 1980, illustrated by Rodney Matthews.
Much more melodic (almost AOR) than their contemporaries, they found some success and toured with Iron Maiden and Ronnie Montrose’s Gamma. Line-up changes, amongst other factors, meant the label dropped them, although a few singles followed on Jet, including a cover of ‘I Surrender’.
The band soon split and the Troy brothers recorded an album as Stratus, featuring Clive Burr and Bernie Shaw.
Popularity in Japan led to the band reforming and touring there, which resulted in live recordings (the ‘Live At Last’ album featuring Iron Maiden’s former singer and guitarist Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton) and a new album ‘Predator In Disguise’ in 1991. The solid melodic work continued with ‘A Cry For The New World’ in 1993, the title track still a live favourite. ‘To The Power Of Ten’ and ‘Forever In Time’ completed the decade.
Continuing to tour, ‘Nowhere To Hide’ (2000) and ‘The Journey Goes On’ (2003) followed, and by 2009s ‘Sanctuary’ the band were touring more, around the world, and getting universal acclaim. By then the line-up was cemented with rhythm guitarist Andy Burgess and singer Mike Freeland, the latter replacing the renowned John Sloman with Gary Barden having previously held the mic.
An EP, ‘Metalmorphosis’, followed in 2011, which was expanded to a full album in Japan.
The current line-up of Chris and Tino Troy, Andy Burgess, Jaycee Cuijpers and Hans in’t Zandt have been playing since 2013 and this album is released on Frontiers. Having followed the band for some years I was definitely excited by the prospect of this, even more so with the illustration by Rodney Matthews, another friend whose work I collect.
‘Fight For Your Honour’ kicks off with a big sound and production, a new freshness to the power. Much as I love the work with Freeland (the band definitely gelled, at least in the studio), the brightness here sounds rejuvenated. The rhythms are solid, and the bass line rocks, and the vocals have a good range. Then there’s a stand out solid guitar solo.
‘Believable’ opens with some piano before some crunchy guitars come in and the vocal harmonies make the song memorable. ‘Tokyo’ is slightly more melodic and has a big production. The searing guitar sound and smoking vocals a bonus.
In comparison, ‘Better Man’ is a slower and moodier number, dark by PM’s usual uplifting standards, and the guitar work is excellent too.
‘All I See’ is another good number, but slightly run of the mill compared to the stand-outs while ‘Eyes Of A Child’ has an excellent feel; the riffs and melody are really enjoyable and I really hope they play this one live. A few minor chords add a dimension to the sound. ‘Here To Stay’ is softer, more balladic, while ‘The Runner’ is more upbeat, more of a rocker.
‘Second Time Around’ closes the twelve tracks and is a fairly high tempo classic PM number. It’s the kind of melodic rock that bands like Rhapsody and Freedom Call would have built their power Metal on.
From beginning to end a really enjoyable and rocking melodic Metal album, and the bulk of the tracks are as good as Praying Mantis get.
The band are on the crest of a wave – enjoy.