Fans of keyboard-laden AOR / Melodic Rock will fall in love with this album.
An interesting album this, Cardiff based Serpentine's second to feature 49 year old Solihull born Tony Mills, the current TNT vocalist and ex Shy, The Sweet and solo artist to name but a few of his more well known previous adventures. He originally replaced ex Kamera singer Greg Flores who only got as far as demoing material with the band, transatlantic style, over a lengthy period of time, after which guitarist Chris Gould came into contact with Shy's drummer Bob Richards at a studio in Blackwood. The rest, as they say, is history...
The two undoubted stars of this album are Tony Mills himself and keyboard player Gareth David Noon. Their indelible stamp is all over every single song. Mills has one of the most recognisable voices in Melodic Rock today in a 30+ year career yet he manages to bestow a unique identity onto the songs that doesn't conjure up comparisons to any of his previous bands or projects. Moreover, any comparisons to TNT would be just laughable as TNT's Ronnie Le Tekro and Serpentine's Chris Gould are worlds apart in sonic style and delivery, and the songwriting and playing structure of the two bands are equally diverse.
Gareth David Noon has grown up on a diet of AOR and Melodic Rock with influences that read like a who's who from Journey to Starship and Toto through to Foreigner, and it shows as he goes into overdrive on every single song including the Jonathan Cain style wizardry on 'Where Do We Go From Here?' and sugar-coated dominance on 'Dreamer'. Mills is a strong songwriter and it is evident that he's brought a lot of maturity to the structure of the compositions that he's written with the band, particularly Noon and Gould. The melodies overflow like Niagara Falls in summertime and the harmonious choruses are more evident than birdsong during mating season. The sheer glorious magnitude of these songs is an AOR fans wet dream!
It's very hard to find fault with this album but if I have to be super critical, I'd say that Gareth Vanstone's bass appears to have been totally swamped by Noon's keyboards in the mix. Gould, as a self-confessed Metal fan, appears to be content with subtle rhythmic chord progressions but plays some lovely harmonics on opener 'Price For Love', and on the aforementioned 'Dreamer' he indulges in some fluid runs with good use of harmonics again, then proceeds to play a perfectly weighted solo on 'Where Do We Go From Here?'. In fact you'll find much evidence of him underplaying any guitar histrionics which may be Mills' influence so as not to detract from the song as a whole. A particular case in point is the end solo on closer 'Forgotten Heroes' which features some particularly pleasing trademark elongated vocal phrasing from Mr Mills.
Roy Millward's drums are solid and steady but low in the mix as the sheer majesty of the keys and Mills' vocals dominate proceedings. Again, with Magnum's dream-team of Mark Stuart and Sheena Sear at the production helm it shouldn't be that big a surprise. Mills has stated that he won't be involved in singing live with the band or on any future albums because of his TNT commitments and as the band have a longer career ahead of them than he has, they need to recruit a younger replacement. So enter the fray 24 year old ex Oskura (which featured ex Nazerath and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band guitarist Alistair 'Zal' Cleminson) vocalist Matt Black. If he's anywhere near as good as Tony Mills on record then Serpentine have a great future ahead of them. Catch them live at FIREFEST in October, but if you're a fan of either Tony Mills or keyboard laden AOR/Melodic Rock then you'll absolutely fall in love with this album!