35. Dance Of The Black Tattoo – Storyteller vs. Virus
In January 2020 the first news spread about a then unknown new coronavirus, which caused a severe lung illness called Covid 19. There was an outbreak in Wuhan, China with a high infection rate, spreading there like wildfire. The first infections in Europe were reported in February while the band was rehearsing for the next tour. However, at that time hardly anyone in Europe considered the virus to be a danger let alone something that it could affect daily life or the music business. But that was about to change…
Slowly, but steadily, the virus then spread all over Europe. The first live shows were cancelled and rescheduled, theatres closed, football matches had to go ahead without spectators.
On March 10th the band issued a defiant statement which reassured the fans that the tour was to go ahead regardless of the circumstances. But that proved to be impossible. There was even criticism of the statement claiming that the band didn’t take the danger seriously enough.
By mid-March the first European states reacted by declaring a lockdown, bringing public life to a halt. Schools, bars restaurants and most shops were closed and any kind of sports and entertainment events were stopped. Even borders were closed to stop the virus from spreading further, infecting and killing more people on a daily basis. So the tour had to be cancelled and rescheduled for December 2020 to February 2021.
When the infection numbers increased drastically in Britain, the government decided on a lockdown too. People beyond the age of 60 had to self-isolate for weeks. The band activities were stopped completely as not even Bob and Tony could meet. The situation was a complete disaster for the music business. Roadies, light and sound engineers were without occupation, venues had to be closed, some for good, retailers had to close their jobs, studios couldn’t work. In short: the music world stood still.
After the summer holidays infection figures were lower, so everybody hoped that – with some restrictions – life would be back to normal soon. But again the virus didn’t play along. A second wave of infections caught the world in October, followed by a second lockdown. Thus the Serpent Rings-Tour had to be rescheduled from between September and November 2021. However, all dates had to be postponed for the third time to spring 2022 due to the next wave of infections.
So, in the meantime, why not release some archive material? For several years MAGNUM had put out many bonus tracks on DVD or created radio edits of songs (studio and live recordings) that had not been issued on a regular album. There was also the non-album single “On Christmas Day” which had been published on 10” vinyl, but never on CD. So Tony contacted Rodney Matthews to commission a cover and compiled all those tracks from former releases, added unreleased radio edits and remastered all of them.
The tracklist read: “Black Skies (live)”, “Freedom Day (live)”, “All My Bridges (live)”, “On A Storyteller’s Night (live)”, “Dance Of The Black Tattoo (live)”, “On Christmas Day (radio edit)”, “Born To Be King”, “Phantom Of Paradise Circus”, “No God Or Saviour”, “Your Dreams Won’t Die (live)”, “Twelve Men Wise And Just (live)”, “Show Me Your Hands (radio edit)”, “Not Forgiven (radio edit)” and “Madman Or Messiah (radio edit)” The album was available as download, on vinyl and CD. SPV also offered a T-shirt bundle.
Tony commented on this album: “There have always been two aspects to Magnum: a slightly more tender and lyrical facet, but first and foremost of course our powerful, rocking side. And that’s the element that Dance Of The Black Tattoo documents impressively. “Black Skies (live)” and “Freedom Day (live)” are the perfect launch of this compilation because they present Magnum musically and lyrically from our familiar raw side. The subsequent ‘All My Bridges’ is a little different in that the music is still heavy, but the lyrics are more poetic.” “ To be honest, when I started going through those old masters, I didn’t even have ‘Phantom Of Paradise Circus’ on my radar. I usually start working on new material about four weeks after the release of an album, so occasionally a song may sink into oblivion although it has a lot of substance and class. Such as “Phantom Of Paradise Circus”. I really love that number and am happy that it is getting the attention it deserves at last.” ”Sometimes it’s not easy to shorten a carefully balanced composition for the radio, but in these three cases it worked really well,” reckons Clarkin, and, regarding the artwork: “This time it was easy really: I called Rodney, told him the album title and he sent me this absolutely fascinating artwork. I bet our fans will love his little masterpiece.”
And, indeed, a masterpiece it was: The main colours are greyish-blue and we see a person that can be identified as Gandalf or the well-known Storyteller in the foreground fighting a huge monster with bolts of lightning on a mountain. The monster seems to descend from a deep canyon. The Storyteller/Gandalf sports his usual stick and hat and is standing next to a stone torch. In the background right and left we can see a grey city which seems to be deserted. It’s obvious to recognize an allegory of the hideous virus in the monster. The album was well-received by fans and reviewers, especially the mix of the tracks. In Germany, DOTBT reached Nr. 42 of the album charts, shortly peaked the Amazon and the British Heavy Metal charts and reached Nr 9 in the Swedish physical charts and nr.18 in the Swiss charts, which was very respectable for a compilation.