Originally published in October 2017
One of the fundamental truths about Rock and Metal music is that a little bit of horror doesn’t hurt, and perhaps that’s why so many artists – from the pioneering acts like Sabbath and Alice Cooper to their faithful disciples – eagerly incorporated it into their songs and stage presence. It doesn’t matter if the shivers coming down the listeners’ spines are of excitement or fear, does it…? However, one must not forget the classic horror stories have their literary potential as well, and as such can also serve as a source of a fruitful inspiration. This time around, it was Gary Hughes of the British Melodic Rock ensemble TEN who brought back the dark and the mysterious – along with the group’s most recent offering ‘Gothica’.
Don’t be fooled by the grandiose choir opening to the first track ‘The Grail’ – there’s really slight, if any, difference between ‘Gothica’ and its predecessors in terms of music. Certain horror-esque themes developed on the album add a bit of dark aura to a handful of songs, for instance ‘Jekyll And Hyde’, and there’s a heavier vibe and more intensity to them as well musically. With its tempo and blistering guitar riff, ‘La Luna Dra-cu-la’ is perhaps the closest TEN’s ever been to Metal genre-wise. Certain and often unexpected changes of pace (‘A Man For All Seasons’, ‘Wild King Of Winter’) keep the tracks varied and interesting in spite of their relatively significant length. And elsewhere on the album, it’s just what TEN got their avid followers used to since time immemorial – tasteful balance of juicy guitar work and rich keyboard layers, Hughes’ characteristic baritone and perfectly crafted melodies. Obviously, the Manchester-based septet didn’t lose their penchant for wistful balladry too (‘Paragon’, ‘Into Darkness’). Also, there’s certain cinematic potential behind ‘Gothica’ as the album itself evokes a plethora of different images in the listener’s head – be it the journey through centuries with an intro to ‘A Man For All Seasons’ or the slightly grotesque, circus opening to the erotically tinted ‘Welcome To The Freak Show’.
Gary Hughes of TEN is obviously not the first musician to weave the bits and pieces of horror stories and figures into songs. But as ‘Gothica’ proves, he’s one of those who did it best. Lyrically, it’s built around a handful of diverse, intriguing themes, while musically it probes and extends the style and sound we all know to be TEN’s hallmark. Overall, ‘Gothica’ not only makes a lucky thirteen in the group’s discography, but also remains one of the best albums released this year.
- The Grail
- Jekyll And Hyde
- Man For All Seasons
- In My Dreams
- The Wild King Of Winter
- Welcome To The Freak Show
- La Luna Dra-cu-la
- Into Darkness
Gary Hughes – Vocals, Backing Vocals, Guitar, Bass and Programming
Dann Rosingana – Guitar
Steve Grocott – Guitar
John Halliwell – Guitar
Steve McKenna – Bass Guitar
Darrel Treece-Birch – Keyboards
Max Yates – Drums and Percussion
Additional Backing Vocals – Karen Fell
Label: Frontiers Records