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Serpentine - 2010 A Touch Of Heaven

ARTIST: Serpentine
ALBUM: A Touch Of Heaven
YEAR: 2010


LINEUP: Tony Mills - vocals * Christopher Gould - guitars * John Clews - guitars * Gareth David Noon - keyboards * Gareth Van Stone - bass * Roy Millward - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 A Touch Of Heaven * 02 Whatever Heartache * 03 Lonely Nights * 04 For The Love Of It All * 05 Let Love Rain Down * 06 In My Blood * 07 Fashion * 08 We Belong * 09 Love Suicide * 10 Unbreak My Heart



A new band out of the UK Midlands has appeared in 2010. They are Serpentine, a young band, with a cool name, cool album cover, and a musical style that reminds me of some of the 90's output from British bands such as Passion Street, Burn (UK) and Shy (understandably). This lot are rather ambitious, having gone long distance to utilise the services of one Greg Flores, the lead singer from Chicago based melodic rockers Kamera. When that arrangement didn't work out, the boys bought in the UK's answer to Jeff Scott Soto - Tony Mills to handle the vocal duties, plus an extra guitarist and drummer. The resulting album has been a little while in the making, and with AOR Heaven jumping in with a deal, 'A Touch Of Heaven' is now out in the market. Listening to it, it's a good album with Mills singing in a manageable register, like he did on some parts of Shy's 'Sunset And Vine'. The focal points of the band are keyboardist Gareth David Noon, guitarist Christopher Gould and bass player Gareth Van Stone, who had demoed material as far back as 2007. Producer Mark Stuart who has previously worked with Magnum operates the dials here, and gives the band a lush backdrop. That's great for a new band to be afforded such luxury in the studio, but becomes unrealistic and hard when they get to play live.

The Songs
There are some nice songs here, the opening quartet all deliver moments guaranteed to get the insulin levels rising among the diehard AOR diabetics among you. The title track 'A Touch Of Heaven' opens the account, and at a touch over six minutes is the longest track on the album. 'Whatever Heartache' for me is the pick of the album, with lovely keyboard touches all over, a relatively smooth effort too. Very nice. 'Lonely Nights' sounds like a Shy song from their back catalog, while 'For The Love Of It All' has some good ideas with the piano being the lead instrument. Some hardened riffs introduce 'Let Love Rain Down' but the whole thing is smothered in a rich blanket, it's like digesting on a box of white chocolate delicacies. 'Fashion' is another good effort, some lovely synths here, but by now I'm wondering why the rhythm guitar work sounds so weak and pushed down in the mix? I liked 'We Belong', which surges along as a quality AOR track, upbeat and energetic, topped by a great chorus. 'Love Suicide' is a reasonable effort, but the lead guitar/solo seemed to be chasing its tail and sounds completely uninspired. The finale 'Unbreak My Heart' is a symphonic ballad with a sweeping demeanour, a good way to finish up.

In Summary
As mentioned, this is a nice album, but a little bit too safe and inoffensive. As Gerry McGhee of Brighton Rock once said, it's like music being played with a condom on. I was hoping for more, particularly the guitar work because it didn't really stand out. Mostly the rhythm work needed more beef, and the solos were pretty boring really. Great keyboards, so well done to Mr Noon. Not sure what Mr Mills has in mind with Serpentine. He's already got a busy year ahead. Surely he's not over-committing himself? Being unique and inventive is one way to stand out in this field, certainly Serpentine have the talent and songwriting skill, but it would be better to hear them roughened up a bit and playing in a rawer context. Surely they won't be playing this safe in a live situation? I sincerely hope not.

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#1 | george_the_jack on March 29 2010 16:07:36
Tony Mills' recent works fail to impress IMHO.Production here is below average...On the other hand there's a very good cover of Toni Braxton's 'Unbreak my heart' for closure, which is a real winner.
#2 | reyno-roxx on April 05 2010 13:26:13
From what I've heard of this it's not that far away from what Tony Mills was doing with Siam back in the mid 90s.
#3 | Jez on May 05 2010 11:16:00
'The album Journey wish they had made' so said one review. Coffee spit all over my monotor (get my drift). Please get serious. On the other side of things, some people are obviously put off with Tony Mills vox aswell reading reviews in various places, but I have never minded them to be honest and that certainly doesn't distract me one way or the other listening to this. This would have sounded alot better with a beefier sound to it, as it is very polite and lacks in the bottom end department. No big budget here I know, but no excuse for weak and feeble in my book. Negatives out of the way, there are a few nice tunes on here early on which I really enjoyed and just about make this a keeper, and I think the promise is there if another album were to ever appear (which I doubt to be honest), but on the downside again, it doesn't offer up anything remotely new to make it rise above the pile of average releases. Compared to some of the stuff coming out at the moment, this falls way way behind unfortunately.

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