Style: Heavy Metal
Release Date: 5 May 2023
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The Tygers of Pan Tang have been around for a long time and they've long been one of those bands who show up on lists of criminally underrated metal bands, but they're on top of their game lately and it's surely time for them to reap some more mainstream success. Their previous album, Ritual, was their twelfth and it got a rare 9/10 from me; it only missed earning my Album of the Month for November 2019 because I'd reviewed the latest Opeth a week earlier. It featured a relatively new line-up, with only guitarist Robb Weir surviving from the old days and they're still not quite stable, it seems, with two further changes since Ritual.
First up was Francesco Marras, who replaced two-time guitarist Gavin Gray in 2020, and the guitars certainly sound tasty as the album begins. Edge of the World kicks off with a swirling of keyboards and a vague middle eastern flavour, before the riffs kick in and Italian vocalist Jacopo Meille joins the fray. This isn't remotely as fast and heavy as its equivalent from Ritual, Worlds Apart, but it's a peach of a song and it does rather a lot in only five minutes, even slotting in a Latin guitar early in the second half before some searing guitar solos. Marras is going to fit in fine.
Edge of the World sounds good on a first listen but it warrants a few times through to appreciate it properly and that's not uncommon on this album. It's a little less immediate than Ritual, with the exception of tracks like Fire on the Horizon that blisters out of the gate like classic Diamond Head and carries us effortlessly along with it. It's a fast song, which ought to fit new bassist Huw Holding down to a tee, given that he's also a member of Holosade right now. It's a tailor-made song for me and an instant favourite, but it's hardly the deepest song here. It does what it does and moves on.
There are plenty of deeper songs on offer. In My Blood follows Edge of the World's lead as another elegant grower. The hook reminds me of REO Speedwagon's Riding the Storm Out but the song as a whole doesn't. The same could be said for Taste of Love, which starts out like a ballad but grows substantially until we forget how it began, even though it only runs four minutes and change. The band get sassy on Light of Hope but never stop being heavy and there's another guitar solo that's worth praising, even if it's not as ambitious as some here. I like the ones on Kiss the Sky too.
Perhaps the most interesting song for me is Back for Good, because it feels rather like Sean Harris of early Diamond Head and Mick Tucker of Tank teamed up to record a glam metal song, halfway in between Great White and Skid Row. That's an odd combination of names to throw at one song, but that's how interesting the Tygers are getting. Meille doesn't always sound like Harris, but he has a tremendous range that doesn't seem like one. Everything he does here is consistent but there are points where he shifts into blues rock, hard rock, arena rock, melodic rock, you name it, without an interruption in that consistency.
Diamond Head do keep popping up as a comparison, but that's hardly a bad thing, especially when it comes to riffs. There's a lot of Mick Tucker here but there's also a lot of Brian Tatler and there is no better riffer on the planet than him. If the Tucker influence is most overt on Back for Good and Kiss the Sky and the Tatler influence is most overt on Fire on the Horizon, the rest of the album is often somewhere between the two, at one point channelled through an intermediary, because the album ends with Making All the Rules, which has Metallica guitar touches and we know where they were influenced. It's great to see that feed back in turn.
In short, I don't think this is quite up to Ritual but it's another excellent album from the Tygers. It's easily a highly recommended 8/10 but it's more of a grower so it's within the bounds of possibility I might up that later. It's a perfect example of an album that never feels short but never outstays its welcome, only just shy of three quarters of an hour, with ten solid tracks. Not all are highlights, but none let the side down and every one of them is well worth listening to in isolation. They're also all clearly Tygers songs but none sound like each other. It's almost a textbook for what a heavy metal album by an older name ought to sound like in 2023.
I've been a fan of the Tygers since I discovered rock and metal in 1984 but I'm finding that I'm more of a fan than ever with each successive new release. And can I think of a gig I'd rather see right now than a Tygers and Diamond Head double header? No, I can't.
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