In terms of rock stars, Meat Loaf was unique. A larger than life character whose best music took in elements of hard rock, light opera, pop and prog to create a musical theatre that became the soundtrack for a generation of fans in the late 70s and beyond. So much of Meat’s greatness was enhanced by his collaborators, of course, and when working with Jim Steinman, members of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and Roy Bittan of Springsteen’s E Street Band on the world dominating ‘Bat Out of Hell’ album, he was a genuine force of nature.
On this follow up to their 2020 EP ‘Got Up Once’, Canadian rockers Shot Down Twice absolutely exude confidence. With a punchier production and a couple of songs that are unafraid to be a little more complex than anything the band have recorded before, ‘Shot Down Twice’ is the kind of release that deserves to take these musicians to the next level.
There’s no debating the fact that the first two Giant albums are genre classics. 1989’s ‘Last of The Runaways’ set out the band’s stall with some massive choruses and equally massive guitar parts, and it’s lesser appreciated follow up – 1992’s ‘Time To Burn’ – showed how truly great melodic rock could stand firm against a shifting musical tide. Tracks like ‘Stay’ and ‘Save Me Tonight’ cemented Giant’s contribution to the AOR cause, and Dann Huff’s guitar work, as always, sounded terrific. An unexpected comeback in 2001 resulted in the ‘Giant III’ album, which was an enjoyable affair, but not on the same level as the band’s original work. In many ways, that’s where the Giant story should have ended. However, the name was revived in the late noughties, and an album release (‘Promised Land’, featuring Strangeways vocalist Terry Brock), appeared in 2010. On the surface, there were some enjoyable tunes, but in truth, it suggested that there’s no real Giant without Dann’s distinctive guitar tone and vocal presence taking the lead.
Following the release of their ‘Princess Alice & The Broken Arrow’ album in 2007, Magnum settled into a vein of huge, sometimes bombastic melodic rock that carried a little more of a European flavour than the sounds of their eighties peak. The songs became bigger, longer, even more narrative, and although the hooks weren’t always as immediate as the best parts of the beloved ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’ or ‘Vigilante’, at their heart, there was always something “distinctively Magnum”. Obviously, this had much to do with Tony Clarkin’s song writing, having written the lion’s share of everything since the 70s, but Bob Catley’s friendly vocal presence could never be undervalued. Over the years, other band members came and went – each one bringing something great and different to the Magnum sound – but it was often the work of these two creative friends that kept the heart of the band pumping, much to the delight of fans.
In terms of classic old school melodic metal, Praying Mantis need no introduction. Chris and Tino Troy have been part of the British rock and metal scene since the early days of the NWOBHM and their band has remained one those hard working acts that can often be relied upon for a decent listen, even if their albums aren’t perfect. By picking up any Praying Mantis LP, you’re guaranteed to hear at least a half dozen riff based belters and at least one more AOR-centric number which, quite often, marks its place as a genuine highlight on any given release. Parts of their 2015 long player ‘Legacy’ – their third for Frontiers Records – presented the Troy brothers in a slightly heavier frame of mind than their 80s selves, and new vocalist Jaycee Cuijpers showed a tendency for over-singing at times, but in terms of song writing it was a more than solid offering. If nothing else, it more than showed there to be plenty of life left in the veteran rockers. 2018’s ‘Gravity’ wasn’t quite on the same level, but offered enough in the way of sizeable riffs and retro hooks to appeal to long-time fans and newer listeners alike.