PRAYING MANTIS Album Review: “Defiance”

PRAYING MANTIS
“Defiance”
Album Review by Iron Mathew

10/10

Praying Mantis are a heavy metal band from the UK formed in 1973 by the Troy brothers – Tino (guitar) and Chris (bass), and were one of the earliest bands to spearhead the legendary NWOBHM evolution during the eighties along with bands such as Angel Witch, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Raven and Tygers Of Pan Tang. Fast forward to 2024, Praying Mantis have released thirteen albums, and still tour today – the band currently on tour in the UK and across Europe, including an upcoming appearance at Spain’s Rock Imperium Festival in June alongside the likes of Accept, Judas Priest and Uriah Heep.

Over the years the bands style has shifted onto a more melodic hard rock plane rather than the heavy metal one of their formative years, 2022’s Katharsis reaffirming the band as one of the finest melodic hard rock acts around at the moment – the new album consisting of eleven songs across forty six boundary pushing minutes. Opening with (the appropriately titled) ‘From The Start’, the band are quickly into their stride, parading an all consuming rock sound that’s both attractive and infectious. One of metal – and rock’s – most enduring bands, Praying Mantis reside at the top of the tree when it comes to metal and rock history, for the band have been there, done it, and still doing it, influencing generation after generation of bands. And if there’s one band deserving to be labelled as legends, it’s Praying Mantis – the bands new album striding on with the title song ‘Defiance’. Portraying an even more melodic ambience than the album opener, ‘Defiance’ (the song) is loaded with AOR nuances and a healthy spattering of soft rock – just the right ingredients for a driving anthem! So get your motor running and head out on the highway with ‘Defiance’ (the album) and enjoy whatever comes your way!

And whatever comes your way is a red hot barrage of rock, ‘Feelin’ Lucky’ storming in with more pace than either of the two previous songs – Praying Mantis planting their feet firmly on the heavy metal monitor, yet remaining steadfast right in the middle of hard rock territory. But for those of us old enough to remember the eighties, this style of rock was called heavy metal back then, for there wasn’t the multitude of sub genres around that we have today – ‘I Surrender’ entering the fray with a familiarity that has me thinking “I’ve heard this before”. And I have – it’s a cover of the Rainbow classic from the bands 1981 album ‘Difficult To Cure’. Released as a single by Rainbow, ‘I Surrender’ became the bands biggest hit in the UK, reaching number three in the singles chart – however, from what I know, ‘I Surrender’ was actually written by British singer/songwriter/guitarist Russ Ballard, first appearing on the sixth studio album ‘U.S. 1’ by American rock band Head East. And from what I understand – and I might be wrong so don’t shoot the messenger – Praying Mantis had already began recording a version of ‘I Surrender’ in 1980, but were told to stop, as Rainbow the bigger name at the time were given the go ahead to record and release it! So I guess karma got its way in the end, for Praying Mantis’s cover is brilliant, much better than Rainbow’s original, and even better than the bands re-recorded version in 2017 with (now former Rainbow) vocalist Ronnie Romero (Elegant Weapons, Destinia, Lords Of Black) – Praying Mantis’s version is just so much more punchy with a phenomenal party anthem feel!

And from punchy to power ballad, ‘Forever In My Heart’ strolling in with a huge sway from side to side aura, every listener, fan and follower raising their lighters high in the air to salute the incredible job Praying Mantis have done in reining in all the energy of the album up to this point! And even though it’s bursting at the seams to be set free, the band don’t let it, finally letting the energy surge forth via ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ – and a return to the punchy nature of earlier. The band are masters at crossing borders, effortlessly moving from melodic rock to hard rock to metal to AOR to balladry and back again – simply superb stuff from the British band. The infectious level of ‘Defiance’ (the album) so far has been incredible, the album quickly turning into a “can’t stop listening” album – ‘One Heart’ maintaining the albums melodic rock swagger! Albeit with an increased level of AOR, the catchy nature of ‘One Heart’ capturing every listener’s attentions and not letting go. And to be honest, I wouldn’t wanna be anywhere else right now, for Praying Mantis could well be delivering the Rock Album Of The Year. And there’s been some really great ones so far – Sweden’s The Gems with ‘Phoenix’, India’s About Us with ‘Take A Piece’ and Switzerland’s King Zebra with ‘Between The Shadows’. It’s surely gonna be impossible to choose a winner – I’m just glad it’s not my decision to make! ‘Give It Up’ oozes the most traditional hard rock sound of any song heard so far, the infectious and highly melodious chorus an in concert sing a long moment in the making for sure. Fingers crossed the band include this one in their live set – in fact, Praying Mantis could perform ‘Defiance’ (album) in its entirety and no-one would be disappointed.

And let’s be honest, there’s absolutely nothing to be disappointed about with this album, the band continuing to deliver top notch rock as ‘Nightswim’ strolls in with shoulders back and head held high. Bordering on ballad territory, Praying Mantis also ooze a hymn-like feel here, ‘Nightswim’ turning out to be an instrumental – a highly infectious instrumental too! And with a staggering change of attitude, ‘Defiance’ (the album) widens the bands musical horizon to new widths – ‘Standing Tall’ thundering into sight with a dance, trance, techno, rave kinda feel about it! Surprising yes, but emphatically astounding as well, Praying Mantis tinkering with their sound even after fifty years! And also, there’s just the lightest dusting of the heavy hitting pomp rock of British rockers Magnum. And bringing ‘Defiance’ (the album) to an end, ‘Let’s See’ is more ballsy than anything else on offer, the band stepping on the gas to power forth with a mighty traditional metal feel – Praying Mantis planting one foot firmly on the monitor to capture (or is that re-capture) the bands early heavy metal days.

Overall, a stunning and immensely infectious melodic rock album full of driving anthems, ‘Defiance’ is quite simply brilliant.

TRACKLIST

From The Start
Defiance
Feelin’ Lucky
I Surrender
Forever In My Heart
Never Can Say Goodbye
One Heart
Give It Up
Nightswim
Standing Tall
Let’s See

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