Quickly following on from the success of 2014’s ‘Albion’, Ten returned the following year with ‘Isla De Muerta’, again with the three-guitar line-up. When I saw the artwork, and then heard the storm crashing the waves on the rocks followed by Darrell Treece-Birch providing us with a Celtic/Pirate shanty I wasn’t too sure if Ten had moved into the world of Pirate rock, especially when the guitars started providing support (special mention must also be made of the highly emotive drumming which accompanies this). Soon this is back to just Darrell and flowing melodic keyboards, until Gary makes an entrance with his powerful vocals, and gradually this turns into much more of a rocker. Straight from the off there was the impression that this was quite a different album from Ten in many ways, with DTB having a more prominent role to play.
Songs like “Tell Me What To Do” show Ten at their majestic best, with Gary accompanied for the first verse just with keyboards and drums until again they bring in the guitars and turn it into a hard rock masterclass. The chorus has gentle harmony vocals, but what lifts it is the way the DTB mimics Gary’s lead vocal, but in a higher register. This is class, sheer class. There are some great guitar solos on this album, but what makes this work so well is the way the whole band are pulling together in the same direction. I have loved Gary’s vocals for twenty years or more, and this line-up of Ten is incredibly consistent with arrangements that show the depth in strength. It never comes across as a three guitar line-up, but one where guitars are important yet it needs the foundation of a superb rhythm section and a keyboard player who is far more upfront and leading the melody than is normally expected in a hard rock band. Ten work best when they are either powering strongly ahead at pace, or are emotional and reserved, and there are plenty of both of those elements here. This is probably my favourite album of theirs so far.