Ten - Illuminati,
2018 see the band back with their second consecutive album with Frontiers, the fourth with the same line-up, and their fourteenth overall. Straight away one is reminded of ‘Isla De Muerta’ as the album starts with cinematic sounds (this time of birds), before Darrel starts off with keyboards and piano to set the scene. As the refrain is repeated the acoustic guitars make an entrance, and the listener starts to settle down for what is surely going to be an interesting ride. The band are confident enough to let the music move and swell, there is no need to start with a massive roar, but instead to build the framework in readiness for what is to come. The introduction lasts for more than two minutes, before the arrival of the drums lets the listener know that the band is about to change attack and in come the three guitarists. They interweave, mix and move, again setting the stage for Gary. But, from the beginning of the first song on the album until the vocals make an entrance is more than three minutes, quite some time for any band.
When the guys turn it up and go for gold, then they really elevate the music to a new level. There are some blistering shreds on “Shield Wall” that Malmsteen would be proud of, yet there is still restraint within the piece as a whole, which makes it work far better than if it was just heads on and meet up at the end. Gary seems to be holding notes for longer, while musically there is a lot of complexity in what is being delivered. The band can go from hard rock onslaught to piano and keyboards and make the transition seamless, and aren’t afraid to bring in female vocals if that is what is required, or sound effects if that is what is required. Dennis Ward continues to provide superb production, as he has done so since 2011’s ‘Stormwarning’, while the arrangements left Ten far above many of their contemporaries. This is hard rock with substance and real melody, much more than just turning it up and blasting it out, and while they will appeal to fans of AOR, this has way more depth and contrast than one would expect from that genre. Ten continue to deliver melodic hard rock albums of the highest order, well worth investigation.