Digital Steel – Netherlands ‘Sanctuary’ review

Digital Steel – Netherlands

Praying Mantis

01.  In Time
02. Restless Heart
03. Tears In The Rain
04. So High
05. Turn The Tide
06. Touch The Rainbow
07. Threshold Of A Dream
08. Playing God
09. Highway
10. Sanctuary

After years of playing their classics live on stage, British hard rockers Praying Mantis are finally back with a new album. It is with this album that they show their variety of styles and their grown craftsmanship. Their over-all style is powerful melodic rock with close harmony vocals and brilliant guitar solos. This style was built during the 1990’s already, but it may come as a bit of a surprise to those who only know their debut album from 1981 which is still a classic in the NWOBHM-history.

The opener of the album is a great example of this, as it takes you on board straight away and displays both the flashing rhythm guitar and debutant Mike Freeland’s power vocals. This sound may bring to mind a band like Masterplan, but like I said before, this album is really varied.

The second song “Restless Heart” for instance is a ballad that leaves more space for the choir vocals and subtle guitar work which Praying Mantis are well-known for.

More in your face is the solo that launches the following “Tears In The Rain”, an atmospheric ballad with great emotion in both the vocals and the guitar solos that battle in the end like a Scorpions song.

Futuristic synthesizers then introduce “So High” that soon explodes with a strong hook line and the power vocals from the first song. The sheer power of this track is truly impressive and keeps you in its grip.

An acoustic intro sets the right tone for the radio friendly ballad “Turn The Tide”, which was the logical choice for a single, accompanied by a video that is included on this album.

The bombastic “Touch The Rainbow” is supported by a smooth melody with Mike Freeland displaying a vocal range and long tones that does not accidentally resemble Joe Lynn Turner-period Rainbow.

Another acoustic intro may fool you, but “Threshold Of A Dream” takes off soon after into an epic song with a powerful drive that builds up to the chorus. This is another one of the highlights on this album.

The next one up, “Playing God”, is another bombastic rocker that features a tight rhythm, high vocals, interesting guitar work and many time changes. This song is stretched with another verse and chorus, without challenging the listener’s patience a single moment.

Towards the end, the album slows down with the both commercial and emotional ballad “Highway”. The keyboards and vocals in the first minute sound a lot like Journey. Although the tempo then picks up in the chorus, this is by far the most light-weight song on the album and invites to sing along.

The album is concluded with the title track that summarizes the album throughout. Stretched vocals, strong, commercial melodies, tempo changes and great guitar work. The songs and with it, the album, end in a fade-out.

In general, this new album impresses with a maturity, a strong diversity and Mike Freeland’s voice but on the other hand it has a very slick production that makes it rather commercial and keeps the band’s originality just below the surface. The band made clear how much they can do in terms of tempos and vocals, but of the styles displayed on the album, up-tempo melodic rock with epic themes suits them best.

Rating: 87 /100