Praying Mantis have always had the misfortune of being sort of the odd band out. Though technically part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, they were always a bit less metal-inclined than most of the other bands from that movement. They were always more about songwriting, hooks, melody, and musicianship; indeed, the Troy brothers (Tino, lead guitar, and Chris, bass guitar), along with whatever musicians happen to be filling out the rest of the band at any given moment, have always been focused on composing compelling and absorbing hard rock music first and foremost. But with their 10th studio album, Legacy, the band have created one of the heaviest albums of their career without compromising on song craft or hooks.
The heft of the new songs is immediately apparent with opening track “Fight for Your Honour”, which verges on power metal with both its fantastical lyrics and its percussive assault. New vocalist John Cuijpers proves himself incredibly capable of holding his own in the pantheon of high calibre singers that have graced this band with their talents, soaring high above the crystal clear performance, mixing well with the backing vocals of the Troy brothers.
This is the second album that they have released through Frontiers Records and it’s really not surprising that they’ve found a home with the Italian label. They’re honestly the perfect home for a band with such a melodic and keyboard-infused sound. Fortunately for the band, they have manged to keep themselves from falling in to the “Frontiers sonic template”; you see, at least in my my experience, almost every album on this label sounds eerily similar, and it can be a little irritating at times. Of course, this is not to say that Frontiers releases are badly produced; on the contrary, they are finely crafted, purely professional and crystal clear. The problem is that I’ve always though that production styles should be just as unique as the compositions they’re applied to, and that is not always the case here. Thankfully, hearing Legacy, with its lush keyboard textures, massive vocal harmonies, and the propulsive, crisp drum work of Hans In’t Zandt is a truly refreshing change of pace from the thunderous, almost too aggressive nature of many Frontiers productions. If this album had received the same treatment that, for example, House of Lords‘ most recent release got, then I doubt songs like “Against The World” would have been quite as effective as they are here.
It’s criminal that this band doesn’t get nearly the attention that they’ve always deserved. The amount of passion and talent that has been poured into these songs is painfully obvious, and the fact that they’re playing songs that are more aggressive than what they’ve typically been known for makes it that much more compelling. You’ll find everything here from straight up AOR, to traditional metal, and even to low-end power metal, and it all works wonderfully.
We sit here waiting for the new Iron Maiden album to be released, after the last record they released was, if we’re being honest, a pretty disappointing affair. Meanwhile, this other, lesser known, NWOBHM group has unleashed an album that is, in my personal opinion, a contender for album of the year. Legacy is far better than it has any right to be, and Book of Souls has its work cut out if it wants to artistically surpass an album that it will, undoubtedly, surpass commercially. Praying Mantis, in 2015, is the real deal.