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Magnum | On the 13th Day

by Justin Gaines
– News Editor —

MagnumLong running British melodic rockers Magnum are back with a new studio album, their 16th overall, titled On the 13th Day. The band has been active since the mid ‘70s, has released a steady run of albums since reuniting a decade ago, and was one of the first bands to really define the “pomp rock” sound in the early ‘80s. The core of that classic Magnum lineup – vocalist Bob Catley, keyboardist Mark Stanway and of course guitarist/songwriter Tony Clarkin – are still on board, as are bassist Al Barrow and drummer Harry James, who have been with the band since their 2002 reunion. On the 13th Day also marks the return of cover artist Rodney Matthews, whose artwork graced the covers of some of Magnum’s most iconic releases in the 1980s.

To get right to the point, On the 13th Day is the finest album Magnum has released since they reunited a decade ago, and is arguably their best album since 1988’s Wings of Heaven. That’s not a knock against any of Magnum’s recent albums (or even the band’s mostly overlooked ‘90s releases), all of which were quite good. On the 13th Day is just a level above the rest, and the first Magnum album in a while that feels like classic Magnum. Think of all the elements that defined Magnum’s sound – the captivating and majestic melodies, the subtle but vital keyboards, the ethereal and unique vocals and the overall feeling of magic and mystery. All of those elements shine throughout On the 13th Day. Tony Clarkin has always written songs that captured both the mundane and the mysterious, and that’s true here. “All the Dreamers,” “See How They Fall,” even a more straightforward (and totally gorgeous) love song like “So Let It Rain” sounds like it was written with one foot on Earth and the other in another world.

Clarkin’s melodies, when matched with Stanway’s stirring and atmospheric keyboard work, ensure each song on the album sinks right into your head, but it’s Bob Catley’s unforgettable vocals that puts the songs in your heart. He’s as brilliant on the heavier, more epic songs like “Blood Red Laughter” and “On the 13th Day” as he is the lighter songs like the closer “From Within.” Now, all of this is what we’ve come to expect from Magnum over the years, but it just seems like everything on this album – from the songwriting to the individual performances to the production – are more in sync for On the 13th Day. Everything shines, and they all shine in perfect harmony, and the result is an album you’ll keep coming back to time and time again, and songs that will stay with you long after the album stops spinning.

If you’re a serious Magnum fan, you probably don’t need much encouragement to pick up a copy of this album. If you’ve been less than enthusiastic about the band’s output in recent years, however, On the 13th Day may be the album that makes you a believer again. For those melodic rock fans out there that haven’t yet discovered Magnum, you’re in for something special. You owe it to yourself to experience one of the most creative and unforgettable bands in the genre, and On the 13th Day is a great place to start.

Edition Notes: There is a deluxe edition of On the 13th Day available (as a physical release only) that is housed in a digipack (within a slipcase) and features a second disc with six bonus tracks, including live, acoustic and demo recordings of recent Magnum songs. The real gem of the second disc is the demo “Those Were the Days,” which dates back to 1988-89. The album itself is fantastic enough; this version is the icing on the cake.

Genre: Melodic Rock, AOR, Pomp Rock

Bob Catley (v)
Tony Clarkin (g) (v)
Mark Stanway (k)
Al Barrow (b)
Harry James (d)

Track Listing:
1. All the Dreamers
2. Blood Red Laughter
3. Didn’t Like You Anyway
4. On the 13th Day
5. So Let It Rain
6. Dance of the Black Tattoo
7. Shadow Town
8. Putting Things In Place
9. Broken Promises
10. See How They Fall
11. From Within

Disc 2
1. Those Were the Days (demo)
2. Eyes Like Fire (full version)
3. Blood Red Laughter (acoustic)
4. We All Need to Be Loved (live)
5. Shadow Town (acoustic)
6. Moonking (live)

Label: SPV


Hardrock Haven rating: 9.25/10