The Visitation

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With Journey witnessing something of a Glee-assisted revival, and the Rock of Ages musical reintroducing several of the AOR scene's signature tunes to packed theaters, the timing of Birmingham five-piece Magnum's 16th studio effort, The Visitation, couldn't have been any better. Largely considered to be on the second rung of the pomp rock ladder throughout the '70s and '80s, they may not have a "Don't Stop Believing" or "Here I Go Again" in their canon, but unlike many of their contemporaries, they're not content to dine out on their past glories, and have continued to challenge themselves with five new albums recorded since their early 2000s comeback alone. The follow-up to 2009's Into the Valley of the Moonking may not reinvent the wheel, but with Bob Catley's raspy vocals and guitarist Tony Clarkin's production as emphatic as ever, there are several moments which are worthy of riding on the current "guilty pleasure" bandwagon. Opener "Black Skies" sets their stall out immediately, its industrial percussion and ominous basslines paving the way for a bombastic slice of "Kashmir"-esque symphonic rock, a sound also pursued on the time signature-shifting title track and the string-soaked "Midnight Kings." The nostalgic "Doors to Nowhere" could be a follow-up to Survivor's Rocky classic thanks to its surging riffs and groove-laden rhythms, while the band successfully showcase a softer side on the patriotic, tranquil ballad "The Last Frontier" and the lighters-in-the-air melancholy of closer "Tonight's the Night." With most tracks clocking in well above the five-minute mark, the band's proggy leanings sometimes get the better of them, particularly on the meandering blues-rock of "Spin Like a Wheel" and the plodding "Freedom Day." But for the most part, Magnum avoid the clich├ęs and the melodramatics the genre is renowned for with an impressively robust affair which has provided them their first chart entry in 20 years, and confirms that they're entering their fifth decade together as a revitalized force.

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