2024 sees London rockers Praying Mantis celebrating their fiftieth anniversary of operation under the PM banner; Fifty years as a living, breathing contributor to the wellbeing of others must almost certainly deserve some sort of medal, probably of Nobel proportions, and certainly when I come to power that will be so; But for now, selfless philanthropists that they are, they’ve given us a new album to help them celebrate their milestone – and very nice it is too.

And whilst Defiance doesn’t quite scale the dizzy individual heights of some of the songs on it’s predecessor, 2022’s Katharsis, it’s probably, if anything, a more consistent offering overall, with the brothers Troy (that’s Tino (guitars) and Chris (bass), as if you didn’t know), second guitarist Andy Burgess, vocalist Jaycee Cuijpers and drummer Hans in’t Zandt pulling out all the stops to deliver slab of high-class, super-accomplished melodic hard rock. Opener From The Start is as classy a slab of heavy AOR as you’ll hear anywhere this year, whilst the title track mines the same seam so successfully exploited by compatriots Lionheart (with whom the band are linked by guitarist Dennis Stratton) recently.

Elsewhere Burgess and Tino combine on a sleek, guitar driven instrumental (Nightswim, which perhaps owes something to Gary Moore‘s work in the same area), whilst on a couple of occasions the band take a left turn into stomping, stripped back pop rock, most notably the uber-classy Feelin’ Lucky which would almost certainly have ruled US radio had it emerged in 1984 rather than 2024; And talking of the early eighties, the band turns in a fine version of Rainbow‘s I Surrender for good measure, highlighting the power and class of Cuijpers’ vocal prowess.

The strident Standing Tall couldn’t really be called a highlight when the level of songwriting on offer here is so uniformly high – but it does get this reviewer’s toes tapping – and closer Let’s See rounds things out in the sort of style that might well prompt punch-the-air  delirium in the right circumstances (say, Friday night, seven or eight pints in). I hope I’m writing this well when Sentinel Daily hits fifty (you’ll be ninety eight – rest of staff)…

All joking aside, however, I really can’t be too effusive in my praise for Defiance – it’s a hell of an album, and you need to get it in yer lug holes as soon as possible . Over to you!

Defiance releases on April 19th.