‘Master of Illusions’ comes five years after Khymera’s previous studio album ‘The Grand Design’, making the wait for new material almost as long as the band’s seven year hiatus following 2008’s ‘The Greatest Wonder’. It’s not like band leader Dennis Ward has been resting, of course: he’s continued to be one of the busiest men in the melodic rock scene, working with his other band Pink Cream 69 and moonlighting with Place Vendome (both of whom released albums in 2017), making an album with Gus G in 2018 and even stepping in for bass duties on Magnum’s 2020 opus ‘The Serpent Rings’. You have to wonder if he ever sleeps.
The all round quality of Khymera’s ‘Master of Illusions’ doesn’t suggest that Ward has spread himself too thinly, either. The album has more than enough top drawer material to make it stand up with the band’s earlier works. In ‘Follow The Sun’ and ‘After All This Time’, there are a couple of career bests, which is reason enough to check out this long player.
Magnum’s debut album ‘Kingdom of Madness’ had a long and somewhat difficult birth. An album had been completed by the end of 1976, but for reasons best known to themselves, the Jet Records label sat on the tapes. Magnum continued to write new material and gig constantly, and subsequently, the album was given an overhaul. A few older tracks were sidelined for newer songs and a rejigged long-player eventually appeared on record shop shelves in August 1978. This possibly didn’t help the album’s fortunes in the short term; instead of being released at a time when the record’s prog and pomp styles were still in vogue, Magnum were left with a fantasy themed album drifting in the unsure waters of punk and new wave bands. It only scraped the UK album chart’s top 60.
Looking back, the three years between the disco and pop oriented sounds of 1976 and the majestic jumble of influences that fill 1979 are a huge gulf. By 1979, disco was on it’s last legs, punk had firmly given airtime to what we now think of as new wave and the pop music of the day was about as strong as it had been since 1975.
After forming in 1989 – towards the end of melodic rock’s heyday – Seven attracted the attention of the legendary John Parr. With Parr as producer, the Brit AOR band recorded and released two moderately successful singles and subsequently toured with anyone who’d have them. They shared stages with the suitable (Richard Marx) to the questionable (Jason Donovan) and various acts in between . Although there were plans to release an album, the band were subsequently dropped by their record label and soon went their separate ways.
Although by the late 80s they had blossomed into one of Britain’s best loved AOR/melodic rock bands, Magnum’s career had somewhat shaky beginnings as a pub rock/covers band. While popular around the local haunts in Birmingham, playing covers was never likely to break them into the big leagues, but surprisingly, they gained the attention of CBS Records who released a cover version of ‘Sweets For My Sweet’ in 1975. The single flopped; Magnum and the label soon parted ways.