24. Haunted By Musical Spirits – The Visitation
The fans were very pleased to hear MAGNUM announce a new album for a release on 17th January 2011 to be called “The Visitation”. In July the first song titles were published: “Freedom Day”, “Like Midnight Kings”, “The Visitation”, “Mother Nature’s Final Dance”, “Eyes Like Fire”, “Fatal Embrace”, “The Doors To Nowhere” and “The Last Frontier”. The final album was to contain three more songs, according to Al Barrow.
Sadly, the preparations for the new album were overshadowed by the death of Bob’s mother, Ollie Catley, in August. This was not only a hard blow for Bob and his family but also for many MAGNUM fans who had known her very well. For years she had supplied the fans with information newsletters and many of them including me had known her personally. She was such a warm-hearted person, perhaps the biggest MAGNUM-fan of them all and will never be forgotten.
However, life goes on and new tour dates for Europe were made official in early September so the fans really had something to look forward to for early 2011!
In October the official press announcement held more surprises for MAGNUM fans in store. The album was to be released in five versions: as download, CD, CD+DVD and in coloured vinyl. The fifth version was a deluxe-box set containing the LP, CD and DVD, a poster, a postcard, a sticker and – as an additional extra – the very biography you are currently reading as a fully coloured brochure! (Thanks so much to everyone who made this possible!)
The final tracklist was: “Black Skies”, “Doors To Nowhere”, “The Visitation”, “Wild Angels”, “Spin Like A Wheel”, “The Last Frontier”, “Freedom Day”, “Mother Nature’s Final Dance”, “Midnight Kings” and “Tonight’s The Night”. The song “Eyes Like Fire” was dropped but was featured on the bonus-DVD which contained: “The Visitation” Lyrics / Live at the High Voltage Festival 2010 in London 2010: “Brand New Morning”/ “Les Morts Dansant”/ “All My Bridges”/ “When We Were Younger”/ “Eyes Like Fire” - footage (this is one of the tracks that didn't make the album) / Behind The Artwork video with Al Barrow (with tracks “The Moonking” & “In My Minds Eye”) / Rodney Matthews Artwork / Photo Galleries / Moonblog - montage.
The tour would see the band all around Europe, Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Great Britain.
Tony said: “I feel we haven't brought out one really weak album, yet none of our previous recordings featured a better production than ”The Visitation”. This release sounds more rock-oriented and at the same time more personal than anything we've recorded so far, and it definitely features the widest range of stylistic directions and atmospheres. What makes it so special is the fact that the music's arrangements match the atmosphere and the lyrics' statements. Every cog turns perfectly within the wheelwork.”
On a Greek radio station Bob commented that the album had a heavier feel to it than the last one and more guitars up front – and all the way through. The lyrics were quite remarkable, especially those of songs like “Mother Nature's Final Dance”. Tony describes the destructive way we treat our environment. “Just look at what's going on in the world at the moment, toxic red mud polluting a whole village in Hungary, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – terrible. It's always a mix of greed and lack of responsibility which leads to these kinds of tragedies.” The rock number “Freedom Day”, a kind of praise to self-determination, is equally great. Tony states: “We live in freedom in Europe, but looking at a lot of South-American or African countries, you see oppression, you see people living under the brutal reign of a dictator. That's why we say: let's fight for freedom.”
This time there were two cover artworks. The first one was designed by Rodney Matthews. It reflects the lyrics of “Door To Nowhere”, which has Magnum look back at their own childhood. It shows a room, clean of furniture but with a lot of things that are easily recognizable from earlier albums. The “Sword Of Chaos” is leaning on the left wall and is reflected in two emblems above the windows. The “M” for MAGNUM from some compilation albums can be found on the carpet on the floor. The cap and slingshot of the little boy from “Into The Valley Of The Moon King” are lying on it. The “Storyteller’s” stick and bag are situated on the right wall opposite the sword.
The golden MAGNUM logo was the one used on “Vigilante”. A very similar one had also been used on “Wings Of Heaven”, “Goodnight L.A.”, “The Last Dance” and “On The Wings Of Heaven Live”. The other cover was created by Al Barrow and looked different but great. It was black with a colourful clockwork on it whereas the logo was the same. This cover was actually based on a brooch that Tony had bought in the 1980s. He had shown it to Al who had subsequently come up with the picture.
The title “The Visitation” took a long time to find. Various suggestions were made and dropped until finally Dionne, a friend of Tony’s gave him a book about the topic. He then wrote the title song and when he came up with the “The Visitation” Al suggested to use it as the album title.
Reviews and reactions to the album were amazing. Reviewers all over Europe hailed the album as the best one since the reunion, one fan commented it to be “a best-of MAGNUM album with all new songs”. Ratings in the standard rock magazines were very good as well. The trend charts already suggested the album to be a success, especially the sales figures on Amazon. In the UK charts the album went up to 55 (in the rock charts it was even ranked on position three!), in Sweden to 28 and in Germany the band came in on position 19, which meant the highest chart ranking since the late 80s!
The “Visitation” tour set off in early March in Sweden and took them to Germany, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belgium and finally the UK. Rumours soon spread thet the show at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London would be filmed for a forthcoming DVD and that was indeed what happened! The setlist at the first gig was “Back To Earth”/ “When We Were Younger”/ “Wild Angels”/ “Brand New Morning”/ “Mother Nature’s Final Dance”/ “How Far Jerusalem”/ “Spin Like A Wheel”/ “The Moonking”/ “Freedom Day”/ “Les Morts Dansant”/ “Black Skies”/ “All My Bridges”/ “All England’s Eyes”/ “Vigilante”/ “Kingdom Of Madness” and finally “Wild Swan”/ “Tonight’s The Night”/ and “On A Storyteller’s Night” as encores. Sadly, “Tonight’s The Night” was dropped after the first gig and “Wild Swan” during the German tour. There were as much as six songs from the new album in the setlist which continued the course of the last tours where mainly new material was rendered, much to the fans’ satisfaction.
The band was in great shape though. Bob’s voice sounded as fit as ever and the band had a lot of fun performing. There was only little merch stuff on sale: “Visitation”-shirts for the boys and “heart artwork”-T-Shirts for the ladies. On tour Tony announced that he had already written as much as twelve songs for future release. Even three more dates were announced for the UK in November.
In early summer bob and Al hinted in interviews that there were plans for the release of a proper single-CD and, more concrete, for a “Best Of SPV-Years”-album release for 2012, which was to include some new songs as well. Another idea was an acoustic tour in the style of the “Keeping The Nitelight Burning” album but, of course, including the songs from the last decade, too.