Something Wicked This Way Comes is the second of a brace of albums written and recorded by Ten during the Covid-19 pandemic. The first of this brace was Here Be Monsters which was released at the start of 2022. Wisely, in my view, the band decided not to release both albums at the same time but allowed a year between them. This is a decision which will undoubtedly reward them critically by enabling listeners to appreciate both recordings as discrete 10-track offerings. And what a terrific ten tracks Ten have served up here.
The new album is the band’s sixteenth in a run that began with X back in 1995. With their mix of hard and melodic rock – wedded to historical, literary and high fantasy lyrics – one might have expected Ten to struggle to gain traction at a time when similar already established bands like Magnum had at that point called it a day. But Gary Hughes’ ability to write bombastic anthems, melodic ballads and tightly arranged solos ensured they established a place in the hearts and headphones of rock fans across the gamut of prog, AOR and metal.
I must admit to finding Ten’s mid-period efforts less consistent than earlier albums like The Name of the Rose, the classic by which I judge all their other releases. But in 2014, the band seemed completely rejuvenated with the addition of two new lead guitarists to add to their new keyboard player and the release of their eleventh album, Albion. This line-up is the one still in place today and the albums from Albion onwards are, in my view, the band’s most consistent, filled with catchy tunes which draw the listener back time and again. Each release has been better than the last, too, with 2018’s Illuminati featuring in my top five albums of that year.
Opener Look For the Rose is a classic example of the kind of bombastic anthem I mentioned earlier. Like a distant cousin of The Name of the Rose, estranged by the passage of over twenty-five years, it entices with its grandeur. The verse thunders along, breaking into a softer bridge, and then driving into the first of ten memorably melodic choruses that grace this fine album. Brave New Lie kicks off with a slick, but brooding, guitar riff which, after more catchy vocal lines, allows the lead guitarists space for some real flourishes in the solo. It’s clear before we even get to track three that Ten aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here but sticking to what they do well.
The Tidal Wave was the album’s lead single and has a verse whose meter is very reminiscent of Mr Brightside by The Killers. The chorus is very strong with a singalong feel to it and the keyboard and guitar interplay is very good. I can see why it was picked as lead single, but in my personal view it’s a little less remarkable than some of the offerings on here, not least the following two tracks. Parabellum will please the fans looking for something a bit heavier, chugging guitars married to urgent synths which reflect the menacing brinksmanship of current global politics. The title track, Something Wicked This Way Comes, has a jaunty, broken rhythm and some of the album’s finest melodies and harmonic modulations. Hughes seems to have a real knack for layering these melodies upon one another and echoing the lead lines in the keyboards. This a brilliant track, probably the best on the album.
The Fire and the Rain sounds a bit like Wings of Heaven-era Magnum in the verse with a latter-day FM chorus and solo heralding a move towards the more ‘AOR’ end of melodic rock for the second half of the album. The guitar solo is followed by a stripped back keyboard/vocal chorus before the final run of choruses. Alongside the wealth of suspended chords on offer, this structure seems to be a staple throughout the album. New Found Hope’s balladry feels like classic Toto or Journey whilst The Only Way Out and When Darkness Comes have such infectiously catchy choruses I’ve gone to bed with one in my head only to wake up in the morning with the thing still bouncing around in there. The latter track is the probably the better of the two.
The Greatest Show on Earth has the pomp and grandeur of Hughes’ early albums with Bob Catley or perhaps Endless Symphony from Stormwarning. After the title track, this is my next favourite from the album. It’s a great closer which showcases both guitarists and the keyboard player and gives everyone space to shine. Ten may be Hughes’ baby in writing terms, but there is a clear band ethos and the current line-up seems to be integral to their critical success.
Along with the similarly excellent Here Be Monsters, fans can rest assured that the latest album will not disappoint. This may not be an album of too many surprises, but when an artist does what they do this well, then I would say there is a case for sticking to the formula. Ten are absolutely at the forefront of melodic rock right now. Even some of the greatest bands in this genre, on some of their greatest albums, haven’t been as consistently excellent as Ten are here.
01. Look For The Rose (Part 2) (6:28)
02. Brave New Lie (4:35)
03. The Tidal Wave (4:21)
04. Parabellum (6:38)
05. Something Wicked This Way Comes (7:02)
06. The Fire And The Rain (5:27)
07. New Found Hope (5:41)
08. The Only Way Out (5:11)
09. When Darkness Comes (5:51)
10. The Greatest Show On Earth (5:31)
Total Time – 56:45
Gary Hughes – Vocals, Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitars, Programming
Dann Rosingana – Lead Guitars
Steve Grocott – Lead Guitars
Steve McKenna – Bass Guitars
Darrel Treece-Birch – Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar (track 7)
Markus Kullman – Drums
Karen Fell – Additional Backing Vocals
Scott Hughes – Additional Backing Vocals
Record Label: Frontiers
Formats: CD, Digital
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 20th January 2023
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