Review by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES
Released – Jan 20th 2023
British hard rockers TEN have an outstanding history of releases in their lengthy back-catalogue. Starting out as a solo project built around singer and songwriter Gary Hughes, TEN found their audience playing a hard rock sound influenced by such classic / prog rock giants as UFO, Thin Lizzy, Magnum, Giant, and Whitesnake, in a time when playing this particular sound was considered commercial suicide.
The band’s early records such as The Name Of The Rose, The Robe, Spellbound, and Babylon established the band as mainstays in the melodic hard rock genre, which has continued throughout their now 26 year career.
I remember seeing Gary Hughes as a solo artist at the Gods of AOR festival in Milton Keynes in 1993, alongside Paul Laine, Mark Free and Jeff Paris, and then as TEN in 1996/97 at the Astoria, and thought the band was going to be immense. For whatever reason, the band never really attained these heights, and while they are still a going concern in the UK, with a core loyal following, they are very much an acquired taste across the rock audience.
Hughes has been the sole common thread across the 16 studio albums, writing the majority and producing as well, and he has surrounded himself with a bunch of talented musicians from Vinny Burns (Dare), Don Airey (Rainbow), Greg Morgan (Dare), Ged Rylands (Kage), John Halliwell (Kage), until the bulk of the current line-up settled in 2014, with Dann Rosingana and Steve Grocott taking the lead guitar duties, joining long-time bassist Steve MacKenna and Keyboard maestro Darrel Treece-Birch. There is no permanent drummer currently, with the stool being occupied by Markus Kullman (Sinner / Glenn Hughes / Hartmann) for this album.
The new album has many of the same characteristics of previous TEN records, with plenty of spoken word intros, exotic lyricism, huge guitar / keyboard melodies, powerful drum and bass lines, and multi-layered vocals that contribute to the overall atmospheric sound. Look For The Rose is a belter of a melodic rocker, that is TEN to the core. The main riff of Brave New Lie has a darker edge to many TEN tracks, and pairs well with the lower register of Hughes voice, and is again very much in the standard TEN vein. The twin guitars share the solos here to great effect.
The single / video release The Tidal Wave has a piano intro that breaks into an urgent staccato verse, before a wonderfully melodic pre-chorus and chorus proper, with layers of harmonies, repeated for the second stanza, before the searing guitar break, and a stripped back chorus over the piano, and then the band kicks back in for the closing refrains. Parabellum opens up with some historic radio news from World War 2, the Falklands, and right up to date with the invasion of Ukraine, before a gritty riff, overlaid with soaring guitars and keyboards kicks in. This has a much more prog-rock feel to the song, with lots of programming in the background, and ends with a dying air-raid siren.
The title track, Something Wicked This Way Comes, is a 7 minute opus, and opens up with a keyboard intro, with Gary giving a really delicate and clean vocal delivery of the opening verse, with the band jumping in for the pre-chorus and a wonderfully melodic chorus. The track motors along and there is a guitar-driven mid-section that sees the guitars follow the main melody with some frenetic fretwork behind this, before it develops into a solo in its own right. This is really excellent track from almost all angles, although I am never convinced about whistling in any rock song, so the closing section lets it down slightly for me!
TEN returns to a more straight-ahead melodic rock sound with The Fire and The Rain, which has echoes of Bad English and Europe in the radio-friendly AOR. I find the soft ballad of New Found Hope to be somewhat lacking, and never quite reaches the power-ballad potential, and is something of an album-filler. The extended keyboard intro of The Only Way Out morphs into a stop-start verse with vocals and riff both featuring sharp gaps, punctuated by crisp drumming, before a more harmonious pre-chorus and chorus. The guitar solo is a tasty exhibition of interweaving play from the guys.
Another piano and keys intro opens up before the band piles into the driving riff of When Darkness Comes, again with Hughes showing use of the lower vocal register in the verses, and doubling the voice with keyboards in the chorus to great effect. After the second set, there is another superb twin-guitar solo, and this one really highlights the skill and dexterity of the players. A return to the voice and key section precedes the final choruses, including a guitar melody over the riff into the close.
The album closes with a signature TEN track, full of pomp and grandiose elements, The Greatest Show On Earth has all the hallmarks of the Gary Hughes model mini-epic track. There is a lot crammed into the 5.33m of this one, including a couple of extended guitar solo segments, both of which are superb. The track is book-ended by a delicate piano section, with the opening verse very sparse, before the full band commits to the track. The melody through the verses is classic TEN, and the chorus has a catchy hook line to it.
You cannot fault the commitment from Gary Hughes in pursuing his sound over the past 30 years – and one hopes he and the band are making enough of a living from their work. While the band returned to Frontiers a few years ago, they remain very much their own band, and stand apart from the sometimes indistinguishable euro-melodic rock from the label, but this is not the record that is likely to see TEN expand their audience much more.
Website : http://www.tenofficial.com
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/TenOfficial
Gary Hughes: Vocals/Backing Vocals/Rhythm Guitars/Programming
Dann Rosingana: Lead guitar
Steve Grocott: Lead Guitar
Steve MacKenna: Bass Guitar
Darrel Treece-Birch: Keyboards
Markus Kullman – Drums
Twitter : https://twitter.com/TENOfficial_UK