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Catley, Bob - Immortal 4/5

Reviewed: 12-19-08


1. Dreamers unite
2. We are immortal
3. End of the world
4. Open your eyes
5. The searcher
6. One more night
7. Light up my way
8. You are my star
9. War in heaven
10. Win the throne
11. Haunted
12. Heat of passion

After the amazing about-turn from symphonic hard rock into bona fide heavy metal with 2003's 'When empires burn' its has always been exciting to see exactly what the veteran Magnum frontman Bob Catley would do next with his solo career. The prospect of latest collaboration though with his 3rd songwriter in as many CDs - is one that had me positively salivating.

In retrospect, with Catley being on Frontiers Records, the project-based label that has been responsible for both Allen/Lande CDs, a pairing with Swedish guitarist and songwriter Magnus Karlsson probably shouldn't have come as a great surprise, as the 2 seem made to work together. 'Immortal' follows on the style of the previous 2 solo CDs, but more than ever feels reminiscent of Catley's more well-known work in his first band, and the crossover of the 2 styles creates a sort of chrome-plated AOR that brings out the absolute best in one of rock's most enduring vocalists.

The production by Pink Cream 69's Dennis Ward (who also plays most of the guitar parts as well as filling his more customary role as bassist) is exemplary, a perfect fit for the style, with every instrument and, of course, Catley's smooth tones sparkling with rich colour. As much as Magnum are a band with a well-deserved reputation that have produced many classic songs and put on a superb live show to this day, their more overtly AOR releases tended to suffer from that paper-thin 80s production style that detracts a little from the theatrical tone of Tony Clarkin's music.

This era of the band is the one that Karlsson is clearly trying to emulate, or at least pay tribute to in his songs, and he has managed to take the vintage, romantic Magnum style and bring it a little up to date without spoiling anything. The lyrics he has written for Catley are in exactly the right wistful vein, all about falling towers, doomed love and hanging on in there, and the frontman's ageless performance more than does them justice

Though only playing keyboards on the project, the less hands-on approach Karlsson has taken compared to the Allen/Lande project shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of enthusiasm, as he has mined great depths of his creativity to provide a CD of tremendous quality that ought to satisfy just about any Catley or Magnum fan. The melodies he has crafted are sumptuous, and every song crackles with vibrancy and energy. In true melodic rock/metal fashion, the choruses just leap out at the listener, and no mater how good the song had been until that point it seems to improve tenfold when it reaches its centre point.

Not to be outdone, the guitar solos provided by Ward and Uwe Reitenauer are scintillating, fitting the music like a glove and indeed taking many up a level. Ward's performance on the 2nd track, "We are immortal" in particular even threatens to steal the show from Catley, and I this sort of form that is saying something.

In brutal honesty, Magnum's output has always been, at least from a metal fan's point of view, a little spotty, with the real classics like "How far Jerusalem" and "Vigilante" eclipsing more softly-softly pop-based efforts that are barely worth remembering. I would even be bold enough to say that this is the most consistent CD Bob Catley has ever performed on, and that he offers one of the best performances of his long career is no mean feat. Recommended to any fan of melodic metal and AOR fans feeling just a tad adventurous.




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