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- 'Ambush (2020 Reissue)' Review by Tigrotto Gorizia

This 2019 ends with a bang!

"Ritual" by "Tygers of Pan Tang" is unlikely to come out of your top ten of the best albums of the year.

The clear and powerful roar of the tiger on the cover reaffirms its place, certainly predominant and primary in the hierarchy of the most classic hard rock / heavy metal music of the genre.

The intention of "Robb Weir" and his companions was to come out in 2018 but the new work was officially released on November 22, 2019, very late compared to forecasts. To this was also added that of the distribution and relative availability of the CD (and vinyl for those who are more traditionalist or not accustomed to the discharge of liquid music). So, it was really lucky who managed to find Pan Tang tigers under the tree.

We still find "Robb Weir" and "Michael McCrystal" on guitars, "Iacopo Jack Meille" on vocals, "Gavin Gav Gray" on bass and "Craig Ellis" on drums.

A well-known sports saying goes without saying that a winning team cannot be touched.
Indeed, it empowers itself. Given the enormous positive feedback received with the previous self-titled album, "Mighty Records" wanted to invest time, resources and hopes in its most prestigious and representative band.

And so the tigers are pampered as if they were kittens. It is no coincidence that the recordings took place at the Newcastle studios, a few kilometres from Whitley Bay (where the band founded by "Weir" was born in the late 70s and punk), relying on the sound engineer "Fred Purser", an old acquaintance with a prestigious pedigree and a past in the same band at the time of "The cage" (replaced "John Sykes").
Mixing by "Soren Andersen" (former guitarist of "Glen Hughes" and "Mike Tramp" among others) as well as mastering by "Harry Hess" ("Harem Scarem").

We will meet the three technicians together with the band to play, have fun and chase each other in solos in the song "Don't touch me there" recorded for the occasion (a mix that lasts twice as long as the original) and can be found on the b side of the first single or alternatively as a bonus in the Japanese edition cd.

Also confirmed is the artist "Roberto Todorico" involved in the project with the creation of the booklet and the cover depicting a stylized tiger mask, icon symbol of the band. The map showing the island of Pan Tang is beautiful.

Behind a great band there is always a support team. The architect of these dense plots and informal contacts between the present and the past is the diplomatic manager "Tom Noble" who has already been with the band in the past. And the sales are proving him right: "Tygers of Pan Tang" prices are rising rapidly under his direction.

The partnership created also produced the split "Purser / Deverill" "Square One" published at the end of 2018 always under the Mighty Music label, bringing to light what should have been the sequel to "The Cage", obviously with the appropriate adjustments and updates of the case. In this way we had the opportunity to listen to "Jon Deverill" one of the best voices born from NWoBHM and still in excellent shape today.

Not to mention the previous publication (2016) of one of the many projects of the dynamic Italian singer Iacopo Meille and his "Damn Freaks" (of which a second work seems to be forthcoming). But let's not digress with parallel works and return to the review.
The "Ritual" album consists of 11 songs that move in the most characteristic and modern style of the group. It was preceded by the physical single, this time a 12-inch vinyl (the B-side mentioned above) "White Lines" released on September 27 followed by the liquid ones combined with the promotional videos "Destiny" and "Damn You".

They are certainly the most catchy, melodic, captivating and instantly gripping songs that fall within the classic style of the band. Most likely we will find them played at their concerts to be sung all together under the stage.

But the album opens with the song "Worlds Apart" an almost annoying hum of the guitar up to the clear and sharp riffs of the guitarists where the voice of Iacopo Meille stands out, dragging with him choruses against choruses and echoes making the song somewhat modern and full of facets that only with multiple listenings can be fully appreciated.

"Rescue Me" is a heavy metal song with an almost doom rhythm that seems to come out of "The Cage" (Making Tracks) also for the characteristic sound of the voice box machine that "Robb Weir" likes to use so much.

But all in all, the entire album is varied and captivating, covering the entire cacophonic spectrum of the group's career. In several passages you can find what are now the trademarks of the various past periods. In fact, there is no shortage of ballads and semi ballads: “Word Cut Like Knives” played with great feeling and “Love Will Find a Way” that will leave you with tears in your eyes if you really don't miss a tear.
"Raise Some Hell" is a crystalline piece in 100% Tygers style with riffs derived from "Spellbound" represents the traditional historical continuity where a solo of "Michael McCrystall" in an overwhelming state of grace does not make us regret the past of "John Sykes " and has certainly grasped the guitar style. The arpeggio in the middle of the song does not limit but only attenuates the range of the tsunami that will catch you unprepared.

In truth, "Michael" stands out throughout the album where he performs two thirds of the solos contained, demonstrating that he can handle and dominate that instrument as much if not better than the illustrious master. In some phrases the "Sykes" matrix is recognizable and evident as in "Spoils of war" another characteristic piece in style but all in all this is exactly what old and new fans want from the Pan Tang tigers. Without a doubt we find ourselves in the presence of a guitar virtuoso, a new "Sykes". Let's just hope he doesn't get attracted by the many lights and sirens of the entertainment world (we recently saw him lend his guitar to prominent figures in various concerts, with "Deexpus" and play in his original band "New Breed Revolution" or accompany "Mendoza" for half of Europe.

"Art of noise" is the essence of the tiger, a concentrate of HM where 40 years of the group's career are mixed in a few minutes. The bass rhythms of "Gray" and drums of "Ellis" are devastating.

The album ends with the six minutes of "Sail on", a majestic and monumental song dedicated to the seafaring life and to the whole range of its moods, so much so as to contain in the text some lines taken from "The Ghost" by "Robert Louis Stephenson". The song turns out to be one of the most complex ever developed by the group and brings to mind the most epic Maiden in style. With various facets, I would dare to say almost progressive, it can be easily compared to “Slave to freedom”, “Insanity” or the more recent “Master of illusion”.
In conclusion, albeit sinking its paws into the glorious past, we are faced with an album that is fresh and modern and that stands out among the various flat and anonymous odes productions.

We note greater care in the production of the product, correcting precisely that weak point that penalized the group in the past. The band has managed to return to the top of the peaks of the most captivating and requested names at festivals thanks to the last 4 albums in crescendo.

This could only be the case for a NWoBHM legend.

But the difficulty will come now with the attempt to stay there as long as possible and avoiding possible slips.
Let's just hope the toy doesn't break and history doesn't repeat itself. (Written on 29 December 2019)


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