It’s time to make my peace. I’ve been following the exploits of Manc hard rockers Ten for over twenty years now, with an ever-growing sense of defeat and grumpiness. You see, I really thought, at the time of the band’s X album (released in faraway 1996 – Ed), that I’d found Britain’s answer to the Yank giants of hard rock and AOR. Put simply, it was the best of it’s kind, a fine album that, in Britain at least, has still never been bettered. 1999’s Spellbound was pretty good too, especially the more-Whitesnake-than-Whitesnake title track, but since then the band have hurtled downhill – at least in my opinion – releasing album after album of cut price hard rock and gothic AOR, each album seemingly crammed full of trite lyrics and obvious riffs just to spite me. And singer Gary Hughes‘ ever-more-annoying vocal style. Don’t get me started on that.
It’s time to make my peace.
With new album, Illuminati, the Sentinel Daily office was thrown into chaos. Editor Scott Adams didn’t want to review the new album – he couldn’t bear any more disappointment it seems- it wasn’t heavy enough for a grim-faced Ferrum Templor to contemplate review and so it fell to me – and I was no more enthusiastic than our esteemed editor, let me tell you. “Make your peace with the band’, he said blithely, ‘lay things to rest if you have to – you’ll feel much better’.
And so here we are. I came finally to bury Gary Hughes, not praise him. Then I put the album on.
Put simply, Illuminati is by some way the best thing Ten have released since Spellbound. For some reason, everything clicks here where it has failed before. Maybe it’s the lyrics – tracks like the title track and Jericho offer genuinely interesting subject matter that’ll make you want to go away and read up more on them – but probably it’s just the music. I’ve been listening to music for a long time, and I’m wracking my brains to think of a power ballad written by a British band that even comes close to the majesty of this record’s closing track Of Battles Lost and Won. It’s spine-tingling, hair-raising stuff that fans of names like Queen, Europe and House of Lords are absolutely going to worship when their ears are lucky enough to get a whiff of it. Parping keys, strident chords and a superb vocal from Gary Hughes (and that’s a set of words in sequence I never thought I’d find myself ever writing) all go together to create a sumptuous smorgasbord of sound that you’ll want to luxuriate in for ever after hearing it only once. It really is that good.
The rocky Mephistopheles is almost as good – it’s one of those rare beasts, a song with a more memorable verse melody than it’s chorus counterpart – but apart from the prosaic metal of Shield Wall the quality doesn’t dip below excellent throughout the record – again a sentence I never thought I’d write!
So there you have it – Ten, to these ears at least – resemble nothing so much as a band utterly reborn on Illuminati – Old fans are gonna love it, but I’ve an inkling it’ll make the band a lot of new ones too. Superb.
Ten release Illuminati through Frontiers Music on November 9th.