36. The Monster Roars - 50 Years of MAGNUM
In early October 2021 the first hint of a new album was published on the social media. A grim face in a dark room was to hint at the announcement of a new album, whose title was finally revealed on 22nd October: “The Monster Roars”. Soon after the album title the cover was revealed, however, the picture was not what the fans had expected. For the first time since the “Brand New Morning”, Rodney Matthews wasn’t involved in designing a studio album cover. Tony explained this by stating that the original idea was to have Rodney design the cover yet again. It was to involve a portrait of a monster and, to give Rodney a basis to work with, Martin Brennan, Tony’s son-in-law, was styled up by artist Kelly O’Dell to portray that monster at a photo shooting with Rob Barrow, Al’s brother and HARD RAIN’s former drummer. The shooting turned out really well and when Rodney broke the news that he wasn’t really available because of the second part of his very successful children’s book project “Yendor”, Tony decided to simply take one of the photos as the cover image. In front of a pitch black background you can see an ugly, but somehow friendly-looking monster. It sports huge horns, a white fur collar and lifts its right hand as to either greet or warn the observer. Within the booklet you could find pictures of the most dangerous animals on earth with the most dangerous one on the last photo: man! The artwork on the inner sleeve and the layout were designed by Al Barrow. The image on back cover is a photo by Andrew Farrier. Tony said it reminded him of the painting “The Nightmare” by Henry Fuseli, which bears a little resemblance although it is much older.
The album was recorded in different places as the musicians often couldn’t meet because of the pandemic. Dennis had to stay in Germany altogether, so he sent his bass parts as sound files after recording them. The final mix was done in the usual studio with Sheena Sear at the helm. “The Monster Roars” was finally out on 14.1.2022 and contained 12 brand new tracks, which made it one of the longest MAGNUM-albums ever: “The Monster Roars”, “Remember”, “All You Believe In”, “I Won’t Let You Down”, “The Present Not The Past”, “No Steppin’ Stones”, “That Freedom Word”, “Your Blood Is Violence”, “Walk The Silent Hours”, “The Day After The Night Before”, “Come Holy Men” and “Can’t Buy Yourself A Heaven”. There were many different formats to choose from: download, CD, 3 differently coloured double-LPs and a box set, which contained the album on CD and audio cassette (!), a woven patch, a photo card, a sticker, a lapel pin, a fridge magnet and a bonus CD. Those who ordered directly from the record company’s store could get a T-shirt-bundle again. The bonus tracks were a newly recorded version of “Days Of No Trust”, the first single from the “Wings Of Heaven”-album, and two tracks from MAGNUM’s very beginnings. The second track was the long-lost version of “Sweets For My Sweet” with the “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”-bit in it and “Track Number Three” started with the same riff as “Slipping Away” but then turned into a completely different melody. It can be assumed that this is the first song ever written by Tony and was originally named “From Where I’m Looking On”.
The two singles, which were published a few weeks before the album were “I Won’t let You Down” (12.11.2021), a mid-tempo love song and “No Steppin’ Stones” (17.12.2021), a song with puzzling lyrics, that surprised the listener with a brass section, played by Chris “Beebe” Aldridge and Nick Dewhurst. In an interview on 12th January 2022 Tony explained the songs one by one. “The Monster Roars” refers to children’s nightmares in which monsters appear. The look of the monster was inspired by “Krampus” who is part of a Bavarian folk tale. He follows St. Nicholas on 6th December to punish children who did not behave during the past year. “Remember” reminds band and listeners of the time when the band still played at the Rum Runner club. “All You Believe In” is about your personal convictions, “I Won’t Let You Down” tells the story of a girl/woman after a nervous breakdown, whose boyfriend or husband sticks with her, no matter what. “The Present Not The Past” was inspired by a strange encounter Tony once had as a young man. A stranger asked him to buy him a cup of coffee at night after a gig and when drinking it together the man told him about the dangers of television like radiation from the old TV sets at that time. Tony often thinks back to that moment and some of the man’s worries have indeed become true. “No Steppin’ Stones” goes back to a night on tour in Germany a long time ago. Tony couldn’t sleep and therefore talked to the bus driver for hours and the lyrics refer to some bits and pieces of that conversation. “That Freedom Day” reflects the meaning of the word freedom. Where does it start? Where does it stop? “Your Blood Is Violence” started its genesis as a song about the four riders of the apocalypse. However, it was too dark for Tony’s taste so he changed the guitar riff to a keyboard line, then back to the guitar and changed most of the music. In the end it became a song about a person who cannot help being violent as it’s “in his blood”. “Walk The Silent Hours” is an autobiographical story about Tony watching a documentary about Syrian doctors, so-called “White Helmets” who retrieve injured people from the battleground. He felt heartbroken when watching it, sitting alone in front of the TV at night but also felt he had the duty to keep watching it. “The Day After The Night Before” is a fictitious scenario of marauding soldiers. “Come Holy Men” is about expectations in prophets and self-proclaimed messiahs who rarely fulfil what they promise. “Can’t Buy Yourself A Heaven” is mostly self-explaining. The song was changed a lot until it found its final guise.
Reviews were mostly very positive, calling the album a logical continuation of the way, MAGNUM had walked on for the last decade. Many reviewers hailed the catchy melodies and Rick’s keyboards. There wasn’t too much innovation, but, on the other hand, why should there be any? Their concept still works and that’s more than enough.
The chart positions were once again impressive: nr. 1 in many Hard Rock and Metal charts all over Europe and online, # 5 in Germany, # 7 in Switzerland, # 29 in Sweden, # 34 in Austria, # 41 and 54 in the Hard Music charts in the USA and Canada, # 2 in the unofficial Metal charts in France and # 51 in the UK.
In March MAGNUM will start touring almost all the venues that they intended to play on the Serpent Rings tour next tour 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 this time with two new albums to be presented live.
This is all the information currently (February 2022) known about MAGNUM. So I hope to see you fans out there at the concerts listening to the music we all love so much together, and let's hope that MAGNUM will be around for many years to come. May all our dreams come true...