Ever since the first release X in 1996, we have been following the band Ten. I say we, because in this case even my better half is quite fond of the band! And despite numerous changes of personnel over the years, the band has always been about the songs, storytelling and dark voice of Gary Hughes. And of course Gothica is no exception. Anyone familiar with the band will recognise the identity in an instant.
And no, in this case that is not a bad thing! Because the sound may have a certain ring to it, it is the voice of Hughes that takes care of the familiarity. And his knack for writing pompous songs with enough twists and turns to surprise even the most avid fan, but always with a great chorus and enough hooks to catch your attention.
Being a prog lover myself, I love the fact that Ten boldly play 8 minute songs if need be. And manage to do it with panache and energy. The storytelling of Hughes has always been great and this time we get to hear about Jekyll and Hyde, La Luna Dra-Cu-La, The Grail, time Travellers, and so on. The 7 man band all shine. They can rock, they can play fiery solos, and they can bring it all down and get you on the tip of your toes with a piece of piano and vocal.
Even when not all albums of the past are of the same calibre throughout, Ten rarely disappoint, and this one is very consistent and just amongst the best of them.
Ah Ten, the band around that other singing Hughes, Gary to be precise. Loved the early albums, and liked the mid period. And now, with a new and revised line up featuring no less than 3 guitar players (with only a couple of familiar names), Ten are back with their eleventh opus.
And back they truly are. The album starts with Alone In The Dark Tonight, and this feels like coming home. Epic in nature, flashy guitar solos, and Gary Hughes delivering his brown voiced melodies like only he can. And that feeling of familiarity flows throughout the album. And by this I do not mean that it is a copy of their early work. It is just that somehow they have managed to recreate the magic that surrounded the early albums. And this has a better production, more clear and sharp, up to modern standards. Courtesy of Dennis Ward, so that should explain that.
But the forte of Hughes, delivering epic hard rock songs with stunning guitar work, light and dark and intriguing story telling, that all is present here. So I guess we can welcome Ten back. And in this form I do not mind if they deliver a new album every year. This stuff is addictive!
Good news for all people that kind of gave up on Ten! Because of sound issues, because of Gary Hughes losing his songwriters touch, because of the coming and going of musicians, whatever.
Okay, so how come? Well, mister Hughes has found the right ingredients again and wrote the songs we love to hear from Ten. Also with Dennis Ward handling the mixing, producing and mastering, we get added value. Gary still recorded everything at his studio presumably.
And the band, consisting of some familiar faces (John Halliwell on guitar and Paul Hodson on keys) recruited some more dudes (Neil Fraser on guitars and Mark Sumner on bass) and got Mark Zonder (Fates Warning) hitting the skins! Not his usual technical self, but giving the songs what they need.
To not waste many words on this, for me easily the best Ten album is recent years and hopefully a permanent return to form. I know I want this! And if you are into melodic hard rock with catchy melodies, extended songs, soloing, atmosphere and feel, sure something to check out!