TEN - 'Illuminati'

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TEN - 'Illuminati'

Magnificent musicianship + scintillating songs = highly recommended!

Here we are again discussing yet another Ten album that majestically descends upon a hugely divisive Melodic Rock audience. Yes, this band may not tour nearly half as much as we (or indeed themselves) would like; however, since 1996, their studio output has been unsurpassed, and we must be hugely appreciative for that alone.

'Illuminati', the band's fourteenth studio opus, swiftly follows in the footsteps of 2017's 'Gothica'. Surprisingly (to myself), there were detractors who felt the group were beginning to digress from the template successfully fashioned during the first decade of their existence. Those individuals should rest assured as 'Illuminati' is dominated by intoxicating melodies driven along by Dan Rosingana's and Steve Grocott's adroit, intertwining lead guitar deliveries. These are supported, as always, by the pulsating bass of Steve McKenna and John Halliwell's consummate rhythm guitar. I feel the overall style and execution of this album seems to espouse a hybrid vibe not dissimilar to 2006's 'The Twilight Chronicles' and 2010's 'Stormwarning'.

Personally, I label Ten's music as "Academic Rock" as the poetical wonderment of song-writer/vocalist Gary Hughes not only enthrals, but also educates. 'Illuminati' is no exception; it encompasses themes from both ancient and modern history, and if you make time to delve deeper into each song, its narrative and significance, you may just comprehend why this band are so unique.

Following an archetypal Ten intro, courtesy of Darrel Treece-Birch's ceremonial keyboard splendour, 'Be As You Are Forever' ignites with a momentary bombardment of Max Yates's drums, swiftly pursued by that twin guitar assault that is now a staple within the group's DNA. So typical of Hughes's song-writing, it isn't long before the track unveils its magnetisms and the melodies usurp with boundless aplomb. 'Shield Wall' adopts a "call to arms" mindset and raises the bar even higher; hopefully, this will become a huge favourite in the live arena.

First "single" 'Jericho', the 'Stormwarning'-esque title track, 'Exile' and the mesmerising 'Mephistopheles' are four more up-tempo compositions that confirm Hughes is still at the very pinnacle of his craft. To counterbalance these rockers are the catchy 'Heaven And The Holier-Than-Thou' and my personal favourite, the astonishing 'The Esoteric Ocean'. That just leaves the breathtaking ballad 'Rosetta Stone' and demure closer 'Of Battles Lost And Won'; both epitomize the expertise of one of the best composers in Melodic Rock history.

Magnificent musicianship + scintillating songs = highly recommended!

Dave Crompton

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