Brother’s Chris and Tino Troy first started playing back in the early seventies (Chris on bass and Tino on guitar), and Praying Mantis is without a doubt their creation and their baby. Unfortunately for them, from the beginning when the band was at the forefront of the bourgeoning NWOBHM scene they’ve always had trouble keeping a steady lineup, which has seen them miss out on the peaks that fellow travellers such as Iron Maiden have reached. In fact, the band have shared a few members, with former Maiden drummer Clive Burr joining the band in the mid 80s when they underwent a name change (to Stratus), and recent Aussie visitor Paul Di’Anno sang for Praying Mantis in 1990.
But this is a new millennium, a new line-up and a new album, so let’s forget the past glories (or lack of them) and concentrate on Sanctuary.
Although, having said that, it is kind of hard to forget the past with a band whose sound encompasses so much of that past. With lashings of twin guitar work courtesy of Tino and Andy Burgess, great melodies, vocalist Mike Freeland - who at times reminds me of David Coverdale and Joe Lynn Turner - along with the touches of Def Leppard, Journey, Whitesnake’s peak 80s commercial period, as well as latter-day Rainbow that drift through this album, you can see that Chris, Tino and the band are not shy about looking backwards to move forwards.
From the twin guitar riffs that launch the album’s opener In Time, this is an album propelled forward by great playing, great singing, solid rhythm and more hooks than Ali Vs Frazier II. So High, Playing God, Highway and the title track Sanctuary are highlights for me, but hell there isn’t a bad track anyway - except maybe for the obligatory ballad Lonely Way Home, which ain’t bad but is no Paul Stanley rock ballad, if you get my drift.
What you get here is a band that is quietly confident in their ability to rock out, aren’t ashamed to be commercially viable, and can deliver the goods. There are plenty of young bands out there looking back for inspiration. But these guys were there the whole time and the difference shows. Absolute classic AOR rock.
Praying Mantis's Sanctuary is out now on Frontiers/Riot.