I first discovered TEN about a year ago when I came across “After the Love Has Gone” from their debut studio album, X, released in 1996. From the moment I heard that song I was hooked. They are an AOR band with a powerfully melodic sound and intricate guitar work. When I learned they were still around and making a new album, I was absolutely ecstatic! The release of Gothica (out now, Frontiers Music) makes this record number 13.
The first track starts off with theatric, melodic chanting, then uses synthesizers to transition into a heavy guitar tone that sends good chills down your spine. Soon after the lead guitar kicks in with a powerful yet melodic tone that has you itching to hear what will come next. What made me initially fall in love with this band is vocalist Gary Hughes’ voice. The sound of it is deep, but with a great deal of power behind it. When he starts in on this track you know you’re in for it as the vocals begin to circle around you, trapping you in enchantment. The lead guitarists display their skills so very well throughout this track, adding just the right amount of flourish and so much power.
The next song is even heavier and more powerful than the first. They also do a great job on this one by invoking an eerie tone that goes well with the story of Jekyll and Hyde. From beginning to end, this one is very driven with full open throttle. “Travellers” brings the album down to a more subdued, ballad-like tone. Again, the melodic and powerful style of Hughes’ voice really draws you in, making you want to play it on repeat just to hear him over and over again. The way he harmonizes with the rest of the band and instruments, especially the guitars, is very compelling and soothing. The synthesizer, played by Darrel Treece-Birch, adds an interesting structure to the song. Definitely one of my favorite tracks.
“A Man for All Seasons” starts off very intriguing with a sort of a Renaissance sound. One thing I have always enjoyed about this band is the fact that they will do rather lengthy songs, such as this one that clocks in at seven minutes, with the intro taking up a minute and a half. The bridge is very compelling with the way Hughes drops his voice into a sultry, deep octave before bringing it back up again for the chorus.“In My Dreams,” is another of my favorites that warrants playing on repeat. It has so many different aspects, from flowing and melody on the verses to the chorus that makes you want to bounce around and bang your head. The drums, played by Max Yates, are spectacular, especially the signature fills and flourishes he adds. The guitar solo fits so beautifully with the song and is one that grabs at your soul and pulls you in deep. I found myself singing along to this track after just the second listen.
“Paragon” is one of the tracks they released as a single. A very good choice indeed. The first verse is calm until it starts building up like a volcano about to explode. When the chorus kicks in is when the eruption hits and lava made of glorious music notes flows out. The guitar solo is the destruction of all that is bad in the world. Hughes uses the deep sultriness of his voice to really bring the song together in powerful harmony. “Into Darkness” is a fitting closer for the album, almost as if referring to the closing credits. It is a lighter song, though not to say it lacks the power the rest of the album had. The way the verses build up to the chorus would say otherwise. From the way it’s structured to the way the guitar solo is played wraps up the album very well and leaves you feeling refreshed and empowered.
All in all this is a great AOR record from TEN. The band has always kept to their same sound and style, from their debut in 1996 to this new one in 2017. A busy band indeed. But one that I hope will still continue to create more great music in the years to come. Fans of AOR/Melodic Rock will definitely enjoy this album from beginning to end. Pick up Gothica today wherever you buy your music.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Travellers”, “In My Dreams”, “Paragon”