Over the years Ten's studio output could charitably be described as patchy. This inconsistency seems to have had a bit of a detrimental effect with many likely to approach tenth album 'Heresy And Creed' with a bit of caution, if they approach it at all.
Does this album deserve such treatment? No, it does not. AOR/melodic rock it may be but by God, does it clatter out of the speakers.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Gary Hughes could be argued to be one of the greatest British AOR songwriters of all time. He has certainly done a bang up job on 'Heresy And Creed' with songs that have drama and clout.
Article continues below...
He said in a recent interview that "It is a particularly strong selection of material. I feel this is possibly our most mature, and diverse collection of songs ever. There is literally something in there for everyone and every taste". Y'all got that right Gary.
It helps that he's got a hell of a band around him with John Halliwell and Dan Mitchel on guitars, Steve McKenna thumping the bass, Darrel Treece-Birch tinkling ivories and Max Yates on drums and let's not forget producer Dennis Ward. It's a combination that brings Hughes' stuff to life, throwing up some interesting angles in the process.
There is 'Ravens Eye' for instance, with its use of the old English air of 'Scarborough Fair'. The album's instrumental intro 'The Gates Of Jerusalem' is another example, though why they didn't use ethnic orchestrations here is mystifying as the synth generated ersatz Arabian atmospheric is unimaginative and a bit underwhelming.
Elsewhere 'Gunrunning', 'Right Now' and 'The Priestess' give the album a groovy funk that counterpoints the more standard stuff on here. They are about as stompy as this otherwise steady platter gets.
But you want good solid AOR, right?
Alright, try 'Insatiable' on for size, or 'The Lights Go Down', 'Game Of Hearts' and the heavier 'Arabian Nights'. If your taste prefers a lighter, catchy groove, try 'Another Rainy Day' or the crunchy 'The Lights Go Down'.
Mercifully, the lighter waving ballads have been kept to a minimum with 'The Last Chance' and 'The Riddle'. Always a bonus when so many albums of this ilk are smothered in maudlin bollocks. Perhaps Hughes has opted to keep the schmaltz for that future solo project of ballads he's been threatening to lumber us with.
Some have hailed this album as a true classic; a groundbreaking, monumental album in more ways than one. Er, no it isn't; that's already been done and 'Heresy And Creed' does have its faults.
Like most AOR its sound remains embedded in the glory days of the eighties. Oh, it has the now familiar modern clunk and ideas and when the three guitar line up lets rip it is pretty powerful stuff but it has not the muscle, nor perhaps the will, to pull free of the genre's past.
There are occasions where the album sounds slightly underpowered and some of the material would have benefited hugely from the application of a proper orchestra. So yes, it is very, very good but let's not get carried away with ourselves because it certainly cannot be described as the second coming.
'Heresy And Creed' avoids AOR's notorious candy floss bear trap and it pricks curiosity and captures interest with the quality of the songs, arrangements and musicianship. Add a beefy production job to die for and you have the sort of excellent AOR album that Dare threatened, but never actually made.
Will 'Heresy And Creed' see Ten recapture the higher ground in peoples considered estimations? Perhaps not but it deserves to be regarded as one of the best, if not the best album Ten has put out in years and with the band's three guitar attack, it should sound bloody immense live.