John Tucker: ‘Metalmorphosis’ review

PRAYING MANTIS – ‘Metalmorphosis – 30th Anniversary EP’ (Independent release)

John Tucker Official

praying_mantis_metalmorphosis_coverFor a short time at least it looked as though Praying Mantis would be following fellow Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse favourites Iron Maiden to NWOBHM fame and fortune. Their ‘Soundhouse Tapes Vol.2’ single was well received, and after a brief false start with one self-titled single on Gem Records they signed to Arista for two more really good 7” outings and 1981’s rather wonderful ‘Time Tells No Lies’ LP. More melodic than many of their contemporaries, the band produced memorable and catchy songs choc full of soaring vocal harmonies, and as such their material was quite easily recognisable amongst the numerous NWOBHM releases of the time. Highs and lows followed but the band, the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Tino Troy and his bass-playing brother and fellow vocalist Chris, have seemingly kept going in one guise or another and have recorded and released albums of consistent quality over the years.

‘Metalmorphosis – 30th Anniversary EP’ does exactly what it says on the tin. Thirty years after the release of their debut album, the band have gone back into the studio to re-record three of its tracks, together with their signature song and ‘Captured City’, the lead cut from that original ‘Soundhouse Tapes Vol.2’ single (and possibly the track for which they’ll always be best known). What the band hoped to achieve can best be described by Chris Troy himself. “There is no doubt that songs do change their characteristics over time, particularly 30 years on, and as it was the anniversary it seemed apt to re-record these with the current line-up [which features vocalist Mike Freeland, guitarist Andy Burgess and drummer Benjy Reid alongside the brothers] and see if the songs would stand the test of time with a bit of revamping.” And there’s widespread belief in the Mantis camp that they have achieved their objective. “The feedback from fans and the press have been way beyond our expectations. A bit of a relief really,” he laughs.

As for the choice of songs, “‘Children Of The Earth’ and ‘Lovers To The Grave’ are always requested at our shows and people have said that it’s difficult to find the ‘Time Tells No Lies’ album, so at least this way they have versions of those songs, albeit slightly modernised. ‘Praying Mantis’ is also one of the earliest numbers though I always thought the original version lacked something and hence needed a refresh. ‘Panic In The Streets’ is a Lizzy-esque song which always goes down great live and this gave us the opportunity to put this version down. And finally, ‘Captured City’ is the song that started it all off for Mantis so it seemed very fitting to have that one to cap off the EP.”

The songs speak for themselves, the performances are terrific and the production spot-on. ‘Metalmorphosis’ is a great piece of work and if there’s one criticism it’s that at five songs the release is just too short. No ‘Flirting With Suicide’; no ‘Beads Of Ebony’… As Oliver Twist said, “Can I have some more, please?”

(c) John Tucker April 2011