34. Ringing The Serpent
In October 2019 the title of the new album was announced: “The Serpent Rings” and in December 2019 another album featuring Bob and Tony appeared. Rodney Matthews had fulfilled his long-standing dream of recording and producing a musical album on its own, called “Trinity”. Tony played bass on some of the tracks and Bob featured as doing the “hand-clapping” on the title track and he also sang the vocal part on the bonus track in the fan box “I Saw Three Ships”.
On 17th January 2020 “The Serpent Rings” was finally in the shops. The newly-revealed cover showed the Storyteller in knight’s armour wearing a purple robe in a temple-like building. Behind him you could see a giant golden snake with four rings round its neck and a blue and a red eye and tongue, obviously standing for good and evil. Whether the snake threatened or protected him remained unclear. The temple was guarded by three dangerous-looking goblins. Light fell in through two gothic windows; there were runes of the four elements on the four pillars and a lot of skulls and bones in the background. As usual, there were a lot of cross-references to older album covers. So the Storyteller was holding the famous Sword of Chaos, his hood sported the Wings Of Heaven-logo and next to him you could find the Storyteller’s stick and bag. Two little mice from the Princess Alice-cover were sitting on the floor and in the background a little spaceship from the Moonking-cover was sailing away. In the foreground a red rocket-like insect was flying to the left, which showed the number 21 in white, indicating the 21st studio album of the band.
The album contained 11 songs: “Where Are You Eden”, “You Can’t Run Faster Than Bullets”, “Madman Or Messiah”, The Archway Of Tears”, Not Forgiven”, “The Serpent Rings”, “House Of Kings”, “The Great Unknown”, “Man”, “The Last One On Earth” and “Crimson On The White Sand”. The album was published in four different formats: as download, on a purple vinyl double album (three sides containing the music and side four an art etching of the WHO logo), on CD and in a special fanbox , which was limited to 1000 units and contained the CD, the vinyl in a different (red) colour, a double sided A1-poster, a manuscript music sheet, a personalised plectrum, a photo postcard, a woven patch, a pin button and a sticker. Ordering directly from SPV you could also get a limited edition T-shirt with either version in a bundle.
The first digital single was “Not Forgiven”, published on 22.11.2019 and accompanied by a lyrics video, directed by Ingo Spörl. Its lyrics criticize the untruthfulness which you can find behind so many people’s masks these days. The video shows a girl (played by model Liz Gorgeous) that puts on a gothic carnival make-up and a harlequin cap. However at the end of the video she smears the black and white colours all over her face which makes it look really evil. The cover of the single showed a golden Venetian mask. There was also a radio edit which was played on several British radio stations.
The second single, “Where Are You Eden” appeared as a digital single on 10.1.2020. Its cover showed a bleeding male hand holding a thorny red rose. There also was a radio edit for more airplay
Another track that was published early was “Madman Or Messiah” as part of a compilation CD coming with the German Magazine “Rocks”. This version was 20 seconds shorter than the album version. The lyrics were about false prophets in religion or politics, seducing others to do their will.
“The Serpent Rings” had started as a science fiction story and had then turned into an eerie fairytale. whereas the lyrics of “Man” yet again showed that our species is on the best way to ruin ourselves.
In interviews Tony stated that after the last album he had felt empty and it had taken him some time to start this album. He thought that might have been the case due to progressing age. Dennis had recorded his parts in Germany long before meeting the band for the first official new band photos.
However he had begun to write for this album in 2018 and enjoyed the musician’s freedom SPV had been granting him and the band for years.
The reviews were – yet again – all in unison: a great album! Again, the input by Rick, Lee and Dennis was seen as fresh blood injected into MAGNUM’s veins, having enabled Tony to write and record an album that is unmistakably MAGNUM but still sounding interesting and crisp. Most reviewers were amazed by the fact, that Tony never repeats himself despite having penned so many albums before. Even the reviewer of the Australian “Sentinel Daily” magazine, who was about the only one who had given the last albums a good share of criticism, wrote that it was the best MAGNUM album in many years! The German magazines “Rock It”, “Eclipsed” and “Rock Hard” made it their “album of the month”, in three radio stations it was the “album of the week”. In the first week the album rocketed up the charts. It reached the top position in The UK Rock&Metal and in the Swedish Hard Rock charts as well as in Rock&Metal and Hard Rock downloads on Amazon. In the overall charts it reached position 36 in the UK, nr. 29 in Sweden, nr. 7 in Switzerland and – amazingly - nr. 5 in Germany, even topping the last album, thus making it their highest entry in Germany and in any album charts ever!
Between March and May 2020 the next tour was to take the band all over the UK, to Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain, The Czech Republic and Germany with some concerts being played as support for GOTTHARD. But then the world changed…