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.
In 2015, Praying Mantis broke a six year silence with their tenth album ‘Legacy’. A welcome surprise, the album was not only their first with new vocalist John ‘JayCee’ Cuijpers, a man with a big presence and someone who appeared to be a perfect fit for the band, but also the strongest Mantis offering for a very long time. For the most part, the album featured memorable rockers that allowed the band’s trademark twin lead guitars to shine and also presented some very melodic hooks showing the band could still truly hit the mark. 2018’s ‘Gravity’ – obviously – follows a very similar path lyrically, musically and stylistically. After all, it’s not so much that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but with an album as good as ‘Legacy’, Praying Mantis would have been foolish to mess too much with a winning formula. However, although this second album with JayCee offers a few tracks that are a little less inspiring, on the whole, it’s a great return.
Back in the early eighties when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was in force, there were various bands flying the flag for British rock music. While Iron Maiden and Saxon went on to achieve worldwide acclaim and and Metallica’s constant championing of Diamond Head meant that band’s place in the rock history books was assured, Praying Mantis – at least by direct comparison – have never really been given their full due. Their debut album, 1981’s ‘Time Tells No Lies’, is highly praised among rock fans who purchased it at the time of release and the subsequent albums showed founding members Tino and Chris Troy to be a pair whom liked a strong sense of melody within their metal. For a lot of people, however, Praying Mantis will often (if not always) be a band best associated with vocalists Paul Di’Anno and Bernie Shaw, both of whom served time fronting the band in two distinctly different eras. While Paul’s time with Iron Maiden is well documented, like most of his other works, his time with Mantis barely gets a look in. Shaw – later to become Uriah Heep’s longest serving frontman – was always more sympathetic to the Troy Brothers’ style; in fact, his work with Heep on ‘Wake The Sleeper’ and ‘Into The Wild’ isn’t always so removed from Praying Mantis in 2015.