Album Review: Praying Mantis – ‘Legacy’

Praying Mantis, to most people, are merely a footnote in Iron Maiden’s history, as their former guitarist Dennis Stratton (who is pretty much the closest the band have had to a long lasting second guitarist, having played on all of their albums from 1991’s Predator in Disguise to 2003’s The Journey Goes On) was Iron Maiden’s second guitarist on their self-titled debut album in 1980 before being replaced by Adrian Smith and Paul Di’Anno did vocals for their 1990 live album Alive At Last. However, they actually pre-date Iron Maiden by over a year (forming in 1974 compared to Maiden’s Christmas Day 1975) and, despite not being as easily recognisable to most people as some of their contemporaries, they are somewhat unique among the NWOBHM scene in that their sound is more melodic than their contemporaries. Indeed, their debut, Time Tells No Lies, is considered to be a classic of the genre and my personal introduction to the band at age 9. Which didn’t exactly go down well with my Sex Pistols loving mother at the time…

However, I’ll be the first to admit that I never really followed the band. Put it down to me being young, dumb and too wrapped up in playing Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but they disappeared off my radar so completely that I had thought they’d completely disappeared after that one album, not realising they had actually been steadily releasing albums for pretty much the entire time I’d been alive. So it was a very pleasant surprise when I was informed by Nemo that they were releasing a new album and was offered the chance to cover it. Well, since the last time I heard Praying Mantis was in 2000, I wasn’t exactly going to say no!

One of the things I will say before I start talking about the album itself is that I absolutely love the artwork to this album! The colors on the artwork are very vibrant, which gives it a very striking appearance that would make it hard to miss on your shelf, and it’s all very well drawn. I don’t think that it would be out of place on a Magic: The Gathering card, in all honesty! (Please don’t give Wizards of the Coast ideas, HVN, they’ve already had flying goats and flying elephants… -ed.) Credit is definitely deserved to Rodney Matthews for his excellent work here!

Moving to the album itself, I must say that the album starts off excellently with ‘Fight for Your Honor’, which possesses an energetic chorus and catchy main riff that brought to mind ‘Praying Mantis’ from Time Tells No Lies. That one song brought back memories of that album and made me remember why I fell in love with Praying Mantis in the first place. Coupled with newcomer to the frontman position John Cuijpers (their twelfth person to provide lead vocals for the band, having replaced Mike Freeman in 2013) having a voice that is more than a bit reminiscent of the late Ronnie James Dio and this one song alone could be used as proof that Praying Mantis are still alive and kicking.

The rest of the album, sadly, doesn’t quite come together in the same way as ‘Fight for Your Honor’ did, although I did mostly find the results enjoyable. I think the album starts to lose steam towards the end, with probably the worse offender being ‘Against the World’ due to the fact that it simply failed to maintain my interest for more than a minute and made me go to listen to other albums whenever I got to it to alleviate my boredom. I think the problem is that the songwriting starts to get a bit generic, with not a lot that pushes the album from being merely good to being amazing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you like what you’re listening to as I did, but will make it a hard sell to those who aren’t fond of what is on display.

I do have to give a lot of credit to the production on the album. It’s been done very well, avoiding the trappings of the loudness war that Black Sabbath’s 13 (which I felt was otherwise very good) badly damaged itself with and with some very good mixing (courtesy of Andrew Reilly) that gives everything the space it deserves in the mix.

Overall, I do feel that this is a very good album that Praying Mantis fans should really enjoy. I don’t think this is the best album to be introduced to Praying Mantis with, though, so, if you’re not familiar with the band, I personally would recommend checking out the band’s older material like Time Tells No Lies first and come back to this one if you like what you hear!

Legacy was released on the 21st of August 2015 by Frontier Records. A promo copy was provided for review purposes.

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