Ten - Isla De Muerta

Ten Isla De Muerta cover
Isla De Muerta
Rocktopia Records
Ten return with a second album after the rather remarkable “Albion” in less than six months... bringing to mind, their early days when they managed to release “X” and “Name of the Rose” again very close to one another. The band then even surpassed those excellent and historic, melodic gems by the grace of “The Robe” still to this day one of the bands finest works, along with “Spellbound”… at any case, even though I like these Brits a fair bit, I must say that I was quite curious, if this truly ambitious release schedule would reward us with a second disk, as good as its recent predecessor.
To answer the above question, it is quite obvious that both albums were written around the same time, but it seems that a lot of the stronger material ended up on “Albion” leaving “Isla De Muerta” trailing slightly behind, but not by a wide margin. It’s classy hard rock, with strong AOR/MR hints in the classic British tradition, but the songwriting, leaves a bit to be desired. A best of “from both” albums would probably make a hell of an album, but now we have to “rather good” ones, but none so great.
“Buccaneers/Dead Men Tell No Tales” really, begins with an epic intro, not to dissimilar to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme, but a bit more epic and closer to the overall sound of the band, which is “Buccaneers”... as soon as the song segues into “Dead Men...” things get more melodic, but still the band manages to keep the epic air, filling its sails. It’s a quite promising intro to the album even if I was hoping for something faster and more rocking, since “Albion” did seem to lack a bit a song like that. The solo is pretty orgiastic and the newest line-up of 3 guitarists and a keyboardist seems to manage to co-ordinate effortlessly, without stepping on each other’s toes...
“Revolution” has a more rocking and urgent tone, but fails to match the band's earlier standards… without being too bad.
“Acquiesce” struts in with a rather over the top keyboard intro and continues with some rather hard guitar riffs, but it sort of loses direction midway, trying to be a shady and sexy number at the same time… while the band has previously, even recently managed to produce interesting results in this style, this is not one of their best displays… I’m sure it could have ended up being a quite fine song, with a bit more work, as several parts seem to work, but the chorus for instance, doesn’t…
“The Dragon and Saint George” is a fast and rocking number, which tries to herald itself as a new sort of anthem, but isn’t as epic or grandiose… as say “Fear the Force” or as imposing as “Dragon Island Cathedral” from the “Once and Future King...” opus. Having said that, it’s not bad at all.
“Intensify” is a quirky pop ditto, neither very good or too bad, maybe a bit too poppy sounding for my tastes, but without quite the proper hook, to make it really good... it goes through the motions, but doesn’t quite seem to have “staying power”.
Then Gary – turns on the charm and plays a card that he’s quite masterful with, “The ballad”... “This Love” isn’t bad by any means, it’s a good song, but the band, has actually written far better ones, it’s just that the competition it faces, within the band’s canon is quite fierce…
The band then repeats the sequed intro-into-track trick with “Karnak/The Valley of the Kings”, the former being an eastern as they come rather generic – in all honest intro and the latter, a mid-tempo semi-mess that redeems itself with a nice bridge/chorus... but sounds a little too repetitive and simplistic to justify its eight plus minutes length… it’s not too bad, but I’d not have minded it being a little darker… I mean an almost too AORy song about ancient Egypt, just doesn’t work as well as one might have thought.
I didn’t like “Tell Me What to Do” on its own, when it was released on the net, but it feels a lot more “in place” sequenced in the album. It's an AOR/soft rock hybrid, with a nice enough chorus, but god, do I hate that “thin” fake string-y sound of the keyboards…. almost anything else might have worked for me other than that. And it’s not the first time that annoying sound-bank, spoils it for me.
“Angel of Darkness” starts like an out and out, heavy metal number and had me listening in quite a disbelief. Gary, is his usual self, but the faster tempo and the generic overuse of various hard rock clichés lyrically, seems to work to great effect on this one. Coming out of the “darkness” this one took me quite by surprise...
Last on the normal album is “The Last Pretender” a quite nice and very melodic mid-tempo, that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Japan gets an extra track in the form of “Assault and Battery” a rather semi convincing fast paced soft rocker (!) with a chorus, that ain’t bad, but ain’t a peach either... just works, let’s leave it at that…
Not an odds and sods/leftovers collection from the “Albion” sessions, but not quite the album that will be remembered as a pivotal point in the bands continuing career, “Isla De Muerta” satisfies, but doesn’t quite “Kill it”, as one might have hoped for… it’s a pity that the band couldn’t manage to outdo themselves like they did back in the day, but still they are every bit as vital and relevant as ever.