I’ve been with UK hard rock outfit Ten since the very start. Their debut album, X, remains one of the landmark releases of British melodic hard rock, an unparalleled mix of silk and steel that few have gotten near in terms of song writing excellence, let alone rivalled. Their excellent 1999 album, Spellbound, was almost as impressive, placing the band at the time as possibly the logical successors to Def Leppard and Whitesnake in the UK hard rock stakes.

Since then, however, a number of albums – Gothica is the thirteenth album released under the Ten moniker – have come and gone that have barely made a dent on the senses, as far as this reviewer is concerned anyway – as the band have cemented their reputation worldwide as a dependable source of hard rock-themed enjoyment.

Central to all this is singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gary Hughes. He’s a gifted songwriter and arranger, is Hughes, even if you never quite get the sense that his voice can walk the walk as well as his imagination talks the talk, if you get what I mean. Sure enough, some of the songs on Gothica would be absolutely monstrous in the hands of a truly gifted singer, rather than being handled by the strictly modest pipes of their progenitor. La Luna Dra-Cu-La being the most obvious.

The band are best on the sword n’sorcery/historical epics cooked up by Hughes; Opener Grail and the excellent A Man for All Seasons are bona fide Ten classics, and the man’s love for a big ballad remains undeniable; dodgy lyrics aside, his performance on Paragon is almost (but not quite) spine tingling.

As ever with this often frustrating band , there’s some dross – Welcome to the Freak Show is awful and In My Dreams, a wank fantasy list song of all things, really isn’t worthy of the Ten name despite its bouncy pop rock catchiness. However overall I’d have to say that Gothica is one of the stronger albums to have been released by Ten this century. Weed out the stinkers and load up the rest on your portable device and you’ll have a fine old time.

Gothica is out now on Frontiers Music