14 July 2015

Ten - Isla De Mureta

Requests are strange beast and make for some interesting choices; take this album from British melodic AOR specialist Ten.  Until a week or two ago I had not heard a think about them, but I have been asked to give their latest album which is called ‘Isla De Mureta’.  Now a brief history lesson about this band – formed in 1996 as an off-shoot to vocalists Gary Hughes and his solo works, the band has gone through various line-up changes (including the current line-up, there has been twenty one members of the band) and they have released four EP’s, one live album, four complications and this is their twelfth studio album.  I will be honest, I have not heard the name before but the world of hard rock and AOR is not one I tread too often as it is usually just in the wrong decade lyrically for me.  Whilst it is nice to write a song about your gender of choice, it is not ok to make them sound like a sex object that you wrote about when you were a teenager - after see the cover I am not hopeful,.  It is also an album which is not on any streaming sites; much like the rest of their discography so I have actually invested in the band here just so I can review this for the blog. But let us see how it goes…..

The album starts with a song of two parts – the first is an instrumental called “Buccaneers” and the second half is called “Dead Men Tell No Tales”; the song is a classic Whitesnake era metal interpretation of what a pirate song would probably sound like.  It is all stylised movements unlike the normal sort of pirate metal which sounds like a fight going off in a bar room; I prefer the bar room fight if I am honest and find this version with all the drama and 80’s rock metal/synth to overcook the subject matter.  Next is “Revolution” with is bring the spirit of Queensryche’s ‘Operation:Mindcrime’ era, but the resulting performance is not even close to those guys.  It really does not mix well as the vocals of Gary Hughes does not match the drama of the song (or attempt of drama) – it is much like when I saw Diamond Head in the early 2000, they had Nick Tart who sounded like Cliff Richard covering metal and this suffers from the same fate here.  This is not improved on “Acquiesce” which is actually a decent song underneath the vocals; it has a decent AOR tune at its heart, but the lyrics about sexual life and the frankly awful teenage sexed up drivel being fitted into a bad pirate puns ruin it.  This is not going well, which is annoying as the music is not too bad so far.

There is a slight detour from the bad pirate puns to the straight out of the danger zone/Top Gun style “The Dragon & St. George” with a tale of a battle of the legendary saint.  Now it is cheese, pure vintage AOR cheese and it is not something that can be took seriously in some way, but it does not actually feel forced and the theme is not from a Disney franchise.  Singer Gary Hughes actually sounds confident on this number and the rest of the band actually sound up for a fight which is a vast improvement – so it is cheese, but is decent.  But then “Intensify” comes on and it is as if women are back to be sex kittens on a bonnet of a car and they are objects for the men to drool over; no.  Not even going further with this song, it is awful.  Then the band follow it with the ballad “This Love” which is declaring love to one person and the drama is a relief after the last number; again it is a decent AOR number, it is alright but the vocals feel a little flat once more as if (Name singer) is not feeling it; shame really as it is a decent sounding song.  The seventh track is another split number – the first section is called “Karnak” and the second section is called “The Valley of the Kings” and it has a middle-Eastern, Egyptian theme to the music.  The first section is actually very interesting and effective, the solos are well performed and the steady pace is slightly hypnotic, then “The Valley of the Kings” kicks in and it is another AOR drama which much like “The Dragon & St. George” is actually a decent number; AOR drama and cheesy silliness for their fans to get absorbed in.

“Tell Me What To Do” just rolls by which does nothing for this listener; I wanted to saying something about it, nice or a bit shitty – either way would have been a reaction, but it does neither and this is after many attempts.  The band are playing and it just goes in and straight out, that feels sad more than anything and I would rather have a reaction than empathy – sorry guys.  Then comes “Angel of Darkness” and it does have a reaction – it is the same as “Intensify” and I am again checking the calendar….no we are in 2015, le sigh and next.  The last track on the album proper is called “The Last Pretender” and once more it is aiming for a mixture of drama, sex and mysterious male brooding; it fails on quite a lot of this and almost falls into the same traps as “Angel of Darkness” and “Intensify” with the odd slip of the words like lust and it starts with the jaw dropping beauty of a lady (or man, it is never made 100% clear).  But let’s be honest, it is of no real surprise at this point that the band are still using lyrics which were acceptable in the 80’s, the music is alright (especially the guitar solo) but it is awful once again.  The European version has a song called “We Can Be As One” and the Japanese version of this album a track called “Assault and Battery”; both of these songs are just ok, more of the same AOR and it is does not make any difference to the overall feeling of the album.

Dear Ten, I am starting this section with a heads up – it is the 21st century and we are in the year 2015; stopped the misogynist lyrics, you are not teenager and you sound (to quote Adam Hills from The Last Leg) like dicks! The delivery of the band is competent, musically in places this is spot on for what it is and I think that is what makes the negatives of the album shine out for me; it is old school AOR – good and honest melodic rock which when done right is amazing, but the choice of subject matter at times are not one’s that lend themselves easily to this type of music to these ears.  Actually, change that – the way it is written for these sounds does not sound right, all it would take is a little tweak here and there to make this sound a hell of a lot better.  I reckon there might be an album in this band which will become an AOR classic and it will be my pleasure to say I am wrong at that point, I can hear that Max Yates, Dann Rosingana, John Halliwell, Steve Mchenna, Steve Grocott and Darrel Treece-Birch are all more than qualified to do such an album, but Gary Hughes (who I am surprised to find is the only member of the band who has been there since the beginning) sounds as if he does not want to be there in places and this is his band to all intent and purposes!  I spent a lot of the time listening, willing for my mind to find something that was missing or to make sure I was not having a rant about nothing; sadly this was not the case and I just kept on finding his voice held little to no passion which is needed for this music and it sounds ‘phoned in’ at times – I’ve checked earlier albums and it seems as if the man can sing, but it is always very restrained, held back and that does not work.  I do not want to be mean and I can see that they have an audience and I can see that this has gotten a lot of positive review which means that out there is people who want to hear this type of thing If you need to listen to this sort of thing, more power to ya; personally I feel we have moved on as a species from the lyrical statements which are about three decades too late and this sort of thing went out with David Coverdale’s vocal range. All the marks are for the music which deserves better and I will find someone to have the CD as well.

3 out of ten - Not for everyone but played well

Top track - The Dragon & St George

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Ten website here

The album is not available on Spotify, Deezer, etc at the time of writing.

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