TEN - 'Albion'

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TEN - 'Albion'

Very highly recommended.

In an example of history repeating itself, Ten once again are the first release on a brand new record label. As their mighty debut was the first release on the Now And Then and live album 'Never Say Goodbye' was the original Frontiers release, then 'Albion' sees the inauguration of Rocktopia Records. Not only is this a proud moment due to the label's links with Fireworks and its sister website, but the euphoria is multiplied by the fact that main-man Gary Hughes has presented a selection of his finest compositions to date.

Since previous release 'Heresy And Creed', guitarist Dan Mitchell has left and subsequently been replaced with not one but two lead guitarists in Dann Rosingana and Steve Grocott, seeing Ten expanded to a seven piece line-up with the guitars at the forefront of the construction. While the majority of previous Ten albums have opened with an aesthetically dynamic introduction, 'Alone In The Dark Tonight' crashes in on the back of a scything riff to begin 'Albion' in truly Hard Rocking fashion. Despite this, all the classic Ten trademarks are still very much in evidence throughout; like Hughes' cleverly constructed vocal arrangements and dramatic, multi-layered musical passages, let alone his intriguing lyrics and uncanny sense of melody.

Though 'Albion' continues in the slightly more contemporary vein that was instigated with '...Creed', there is a wealth of elements that hark back to Ten's glorious past. One such highlight is the amazing 'Albion Born' that begins as a serene campfire chant reminiscent of 'We Rule The Night' before gradually escalating to a Celtic-tinged rabble-rousing anthem in the vein of the classic 'Red'. Elsewhere 'Battlefield' and 'It's Alive' are compelling riff-driven Rockers, 'Wild Horses' a melodious slow-burner built around a cascading piano melody, 'A Smuggler's Tale' abounds with dramatic story-telling, 'Die For Me' is a lengthy mid-tempo number with an intoxicating guitar melody somewhat akin to late eighties Whitesnake, an influence that also occasionally manifests itself in the ballad 'Sometimes Love Takes The Long Way Home'. The most unusual inclusion is the ballad 'Gioco D'Amore'; though the beautiful piano melody and sweeping string textures are reminiscent of 'Valentine', the lyrics are sung in a mixture of English and Italian, with Hughes' delivery on the latter seemingly effortless as if the language was his native tongue; he could pursue a parallel career as a Ten-or...

In a move that mirrors the time-span release of the debut and 'Name Of The Rose' albums, 'Albion' will be followed by an additional album via Rocktopia in six months time. It will have to be amazing to better 'Albion' as once again Gary Hughes has raised his own standards to an extraordinarily high level; very highly recommended.

Ant Heeks

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