Magnum – Princess Alice & the Broken Arrow

By Josh Turner

This band and album has it all: a cool name, a cohesive logo, an intriguing concept, and a suitable label. It might as well be a new Colt King Cobra out of the box with the shipping wax still in its barrel. Conjointly, the fairytale-theme is clever while the outrageous artwork is quick to capture the eye. The Big Bad Wolf, Hansel and Gretel, a massive Black Widow spider named Shelob, and let’s not forget, a very ornery Princess who goes by the epithet of Alice are each chronicled in this fable. The premise is phenomenal, but to let you in on a secret, these opinions and their corresponding swords were forged long before I ever spun the disc or stoked their coals.

When we begin our quest, one truth is certain. This army is packing heavy-duty and high-tech weaponry. On this mission alone, they carry full-metal jackets, armor-piercing bullets, and blast-resistant gear thanks to Mark Stanway’s vital ordnances and state-of-the-art keyboards. On their way to the castle, they put the enemy on alert as they demolish their outposts and trail-blaze their fields. Jimmy Copley’s drums are mighty resilient in the action while Tony Clarkin’s guitars and Al Barrow’s bass are handy in the flank position.

When they are at a distance in the beginning, it appears as if they are a dot on the horizon. The singer, Bob Catley, has a voice and a range that embodies Steve Perry. As he leads the charge, the size of the militia becomes clear. However, the clean and balanced mix allows their anthems to be played loud without painful recoil or an undesirable backlash. It’s heavy metal with a soft side. This is tamer than expected for a battalion knighted under SPV, but I assure you it’s their skill that gives them rank among their many branches of barbarians. If I were to come up with a comparison, I’d choose bands that range from Journey to Iced Earth as their training could have easily been done at these affiliated boot camps. Other nouns to plug into these Madlib spaces could be Pallas, Savatage, Saga, Scorpions, or The Syn.

As for the songs, Officer Catley and his gentlemen cover all kinds of ground, texture, and terrain. In the ballad of “Like Brothers We Stand”, the passage they traverse is more or less a smooth prairie. Without incident, they are steadfast and stay in line, showing both valor and patience in their march. Later on, “Inside Your Head” emits a similar tone and begs for the harmony that they will ultimately produce.

Conversely, they take flight through land that is less flat with cumbersome backpacks and rattling artillery. This is done while they are concomitantly besieged in “Out of the Shadows”. The guitar solos, the sound bytes, and the assistance from keyboards overhead give them an advantage in the closing stages of this skirmish. When this particular engagement is over, they tag the forts and take too many prisoners to count. Still at full-strength, they make further headway in the next song entitled, “Dragons are Real”. I was thoroughly impressed by this pair of successfully-executed campaigns even if the topic matter was slightly clichéd. With that said, it’s probably the ideal time to point out that this material is totally compatible for the ears of progressive power rockers. Plus, it’s never nerdy, hardly cheesy, certifiably sensible, and always sane.

Never does their energy or intent taper off; not even in the eleventh hour, or the ninth inning or track. “Your Lies” finds itself at this numeric spot and as promised, it is rock-strewn cannonball propelled from a catapult. As a result, it exercises some of my favorite calisthenics, maneuvers, and drills. The beat of this one thumps to the movements of a king-sized mallet rapping briskly at the gates. It bashes down the door and makes its way into the courtyard. With endless troops both inside and out of the citadel, this makes for a true clash of the titans. This is followed by the lull of “Desperate Times” as they approach the remaining corridor where the vile and wicked ruler sits with his primary brigade.

In the final melee designated as “You’ll Never Sleep”, they lob every last mortar towards the arena. By the time it’s over, even the silverware has been launched. It’s enough to wake Sleeping Beauty from her everlasting nap. On the opposite end of the combat zone, the fortress of their foe is in ruins. The pillars are toppled while each supporting-beam is busted into smithereens and bits. This supposed stronghold is in such disarray that all the emperor’s horses and men would have quite the time trying to put it back together again. From this clutter, they retrieve Hercules, Robin Hood, and Little Red Riding Hood from the wrecked and wretched dungeons. This makes for a happy ending with the promise of peaceful days ahead.

Once upon a time when oppressive lords and evil sorcerers ruled the genre, Magnum came along and put an end to the misery. They fought fire with fiery arrows, potent spells, and molten lead, but did so with accuracy, finesse, and maybe even a touch of class. Tolerant melodies and rhythms were present, but they engaged in a manner that would still make innocent bystanders quiver. This is accessible, but it isn’t exactly music for your granny. As just implied, credulous serfs will quake in their boots, especially if they did the nefarious baron’s bidding. At the end of the day, the territory has been reclaimed whilst the dark forces ruminate and stew. Moreover, their callous minions paid dearly. The retribution they exacted wasn’t exactly in excess. It was only as much as what was needed in order to secure its citizens’ freedom.

These soldiers are approachable, but they are no less combustible when put to a match. With such injurious reflexes, never think for one minute that you can cross them and they won’t flinch. Like a Ruger, a Remington, a Saturday Night Special, or the dastardly Decepticon, Megatron, don’t overlook the fact that Magnum is one sleek and shiny weapon.