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Serpentine - 'Living And Dying In High Definition' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/de/f5/33/1508_serpentinelivinganddyinginhighdefinition_1313952620.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 21, 2011    
 
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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!

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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!

Carl Buxton

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Review by Woody
The second album from the Serp’s features Tony Mills (Shy/TNT) on vocals for the last time and this album comes out at a transitional point for the band. A new singer has already been found in Matt Black who is of a similar age to the rest of this very young band and I predict a very bright future for this band. The Serp’s once again have recorded the album at Mad Hat studio’s in Wolverhampton.

I still love the debut album from these guys, but I found when talking about it opinions were polar opposites people either loved it like I did or hated it viciously one person even telling me “It’s not a nice album really is it!”, the music seemed to have no grey area with people. Whilst I stand by my assessment of the debut album and still regularly crank it up and sing along to “In My Blood” I have listened to people’s criticisms of it and see where people are coming from but it doesn’t change my mind. I think perhaps the album was a little too safe for some people and Mills was accused of “Sleep Walking” during the writing process of the album.

I don’t think the same criticism’s can be aimed at “Living & Dying In High Definition”! Tony really pulls out all the stops in his contribution to the song writing on this new album and he has crafted some wonderfully beautiful vocal melodies. Tony’s swan song with the Serp’s definitely sees him bowing out with a bang and he adds to that by delivering a more measured vocal performance. The safe element has definitely been booted out the door as musically the band has really carved out their own sound and their influences are less obvious as previously.

Gaz Noon has probably put in the stand out performance on this album, with his keyboard work been less “Asia” influenced and his playing sees him grow far more in his own style and his playing seems more confident. He has laid down some extremely memorable keyboard riffs and licks which gives a lot of power to many of these songs which just wouldn’t have shone half as much without them. That’s not meant as any disrespect to the remaining members Chris Gould (Guitars), Gareth Vanstone (Bass) & Roy Millward (Drums) who have probably done the most to carve the bands own sound out creating a thumping and crunching backbone to all the songs. This album sees the band take a heavier stance and it really suits them and that heavier stance is provided by the backbone of this band.

Spot on choice for album opener “Deep Down (There’s A Price For Love)” is a driving rocker with a wicked keyboard riff from Noon. Tony’s multi layered soaring vocals are outstanding on this! There is some excellent keyboard moments combined with a thumping backbeat creating a really infectious song. “Philadelphia” is a full force rocker with a fantastic back beat and a crunching guitar riff from Gould. It has a stunning melodic chorus which sticks with you making this an instant hit! “Dreamer” shows off the bands new heavier stance really well complete with galloping bass line. The lush vocal harmonies on this track are immense. Heavy yet highly melodic!

The Serp’s first original ballad “Love is Blue” is a bit of a corker which features some great guitar playing from Gould. Noon’s keyboards really give this song some real emotive power and Mill’s vocals are suitably melancholic on the huge chorus. “Where Do We Go From Here” features more killer key’s from Noon! It’s an instant sing along song which I’m sure will become a staple of their live set! “Cry” is an anthemic melodic beauty with an addictive and lush chorus. A song chock full of delicious melodies and I absolutely love this song which also sees Tony’s vocals shine!

“Best Days Of Our Lives” has a powerful emotive keyboard riff which drives the opening of this song and it’s another one that delivers instant gratification. It’s another sing along with lots of hook filled harmony vocals and upfront keyboard licks. “Heartbreak Town” is a driving rocker with some crunching hook filled guitar riffs. The urgent chorus packs a punch and will get your head nodding. “Nuremberg” is another song with an urgent and punchy chorus. The energy of this song really makes it stand out and Noon’s keyboards are beautifully littered throughout this song – there’s even a great keyboard solo in the mid section! “Forgotten Heroes” closes the album and although the lyrics are quite jovial it doesn’t stop this song been an unforgettable tune. With Its anthemic sing along chorus, stellar vocal melodies and fantastic keyboard licks we get another Serp’s classic!

I absolutely love this album and it is even better than the debut, it may be heavier but it still delivers to us more Anthemic AOR songs full of lush melodies and sing along choruses, everything that we have come to expect from the Serp’s. An essential purchase for Melodic Rock fans! Now with the fun loving and charismatic Matt Black taking up the mic, I predict a very long and exciting future for the Serp’s.

Track Listing: Deep Down (There’s A Price For Love) / Philadelphia / Dreamer / Love Is Blue / Where Do We Go From Here / Cry / Best Days Of Our Lives / Heartbreak Town / Nuremberg / Forgotten Heroes

Album Rating: 9/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Cry

Overall rating 
 
4.0
Production Quality 
 
4.0
Music Quality 
 
4.0
Artwork  
 
4.0
Value for Money 
 
4.0
Reviewed by Woody December 09, 2011
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (31)

Serpentine - Living & Dying In High Definition

Review by Woody
The second album from the Serp’s features Tony Mills (Shy/TNT) on vocals for the last time and this album comes out at a transitional point for the band. A new singer has already been found in Matt Black who is of a similar age to the rest of this very young band and I predict a very bright future for this band. The Serp’s once again have recorded the album at Mad Hat studio’s in Wolverhampton.

I still love the debut album from these guys, but I found when talking about it opinions were polar opposites people either loved it like I did or hated it viciously one person even telling me “It’s not a nice album really is it!”, the music seemed to have no grey area with people. Whilst I stand by my assessment of the debut album and still regularly crank it up and sing along to “In My Blood” I have listened to people’s criticisms of it and see where people are coming from but it doesn’t change my mind. I think perhaps the album was a little too safe for some people and Mills was accused of “Sleep Walking” during the writing process of the album.

I don’t think the same criticism’s can be aimed at “Living & Dying In High Definition”! Tony really pulls out all the stops in his contribution to the song writing on this new album and he has crafted some wonderfully beautiful vocal melodies. Tony’s swan song with the Serp’s definitely sees him bowing out with a bang and he adds to that by delivering a more measured vocal performance. The safe element has definitely been booted out the door as musically the band has really carved out their own sound and their influences are less obvious as previously.

Gaz Noon has probably put in the stand out performance on this album, with his keyboard work been less “Asia” influenced and his playing sees him grow far more in his own style and his playing seems more confident. He has laid down some extremely memorable keyboard riffs and licks which gives a lot of power to many of these songs which just wouldn’t have shone half as much without them. That’s not meant as any disrespect to the remaining members Chris Gould (Guitars), Gareth Vanstone (Bass) & Roy Millward (Drums) who have probably done the most to carve the bands own sound out creating a thumping and crunching backbone to all the songs. This album sees the band take a heavier stance and it really suits them and that heavier stance is provided by the backbone of this band.

Spot on choice for album opener “Deep Down (There’s A Price For Love)” is a driving rocker with a wicked keyboard riff from Noon. Tony’s multi layered soaring vocals are outstanding on this! There is some excellent keyboard moments combined with a thumping backbeat creating a really infectious song. “Philadelphia” is a full force rocker with a fantastic back beat and a crunching guitar riff from Gould. It has a stunning melodic chorus which sticks with you making this an instant hit! “Dreamer” shows off the bands new heavier stance really well complete with galloping bass line. The lush vocal harmonies on this track are immense. Heavy yet highly melodic!

The Serp’s first original ballad “Love is Blue” is a bit of a corker which features some great guitar playing from Gould. Noon’s keyboards really give this song some real emotive power and Mill’s vocals are suitably melancholic on the huge chorus. “Where Do We Go From Here” features more killer key’s from Noon! It’s an instant sing along song which I’m sure will become a staple of their live set! “Cry” is an anthemic melodic beauty with an addictive and lush chorus. A song chock full of delicious melodies and I absolutely love this song which also sees Tony’s vocals shine!

“Best Days Of Our Lives” has a powerful emotive keyboard riff which drives the opening of this song and it’s another one that delivers instant gratification. It’s another sing along with lots of hook filled harmony vocals and upfront keyboard licks. “Heartbreak Town” is a driving rocker with some crunching hook filled guitar riffs. The urgent chorus packs a punch and will get your head nodding. “Nuremberg” is another song with an urgent and punchy chorus. The energy of this song really makes it stand out and Noon’s keyboards are beautifully littered throughout this song – there’s even a great keyboard solo in the mid section! “Forgotten Heroes” closes the album and although the lyrics are quite jovial it doesn’t stop this song been an unforgettable tune. With Its anthemic sing along chorus, stellar vocal melodies and fantastic keyboard licks we get another Serp’s classic!

I absolutely love this album and it is even better than the debut, it may be heavier but it still delivers to us more Anthemic AOR songs full of lush melodies and sing along choruses, everything that we have come to expect from the Serp’s. An essential purchase for Melodic Rock fans! Now with the fun loving and charismatic Matt Black taking up the mic, I predict a very long and exciting future for the Serp’s.

Track Listing: Deep Down (There’s A Price For Love) / Philadelphia / Dreamer / Love Is Blue / Where Do We Go From Here / Cry / Best Days Of Our Lives / Heartbreak Town / Nuremberg / Forgotten Heroes

Album Rating: 9/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Cry

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