Though not as well known as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard or many other Union Jack contemporaries of the time, Tygers Of Pan Tang were an integral band to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Following their split after a middlingly successful run in the 1980s, they reunited in 1999 and have been recording since; albeit with guitarist Robb Weir as the sole original member at present. The latest addition to their post-80s catalogue is Ritual, a record that has already been hailed by online publications as their strongest release since 1981’s Spellbound. Many old bands, especially after an extensive hiatus lose their steam and gall over time, so to see an exception to the rule come to fruition is refreshing and promising.
“Worlds Apart” opens the album up and sets the tone perfectly: Full throwback riffing flavour while sounding perfectly up to date in regards to production. Vocalist Jacopo Meille gives off the impression of a heavy metal Steve Perry, not on account of the song title of course but in his soaring, vintage sound that perfectly suits the Tygers’ straight-ahead, simplistic approach. “Destiny” travels further down this path into classic AOR territory, with a harmonized, timeless hook: “This is my destiny, written in stone for me”, and a wonderfully melodic guitar solo by Robb Weir to boot. “Rescue Me” follows in a likewise-though-heavier fashion, featuring some crunching guitar work and talkbox leads on the part of Weir. Craig Ellis holds down the fort as well with his fitting, groovy drum style, totally complimenting the overall flavour of the band with a hard hitting, driving approach.
“Raise Some Hell” is unmistakably old school from the beginning, sonically aligned with contemporary heavy metal bands of the likes of Striker and Stallion that take many of their cues from the original wave of metal Tygers was a part of. “Spoils Of War” tows much of the same vintage metal line in the vein of late-era Rainbow while “White Lines” takes on the form of Scorpions and Whitesnake with a more menacing edge. “Words Cut Like Knives” slows things down into a winding, intimate tempo before launching into an overdriven epic in its latter half with another fantastic solo by Weir- a great reprieve from the heavy-handed smackdown Ritual has cooked up this far without breaking character.
“Damn You!” snaps back to basics with its distinguished riffing and slamming drum work. “Love Will Find a Way” invokes the auditory aesthetics of Scorps and Snake once again with enough vocal power to fill and electrify a 60,000 seat stadium, never mind the raw instrumentation backing Meille in this high-voltage excursion. “Art of Noise” lives up to its name and turns everything in the system to about 100, while “Sail On” in its seven-and-a-half minute glory serves as the album closer. Oscillating between suspended, free-falling clean sections and bursts and punches of distortion, the album could not have asked for a better finale, that is until it kicks into double time at the end- and then it gets better, closing out on a fast, hard and strong note as it fades away.
You may or may not be able to teach an old band new tricks depending on who it concerns, but some bands can take the old tricks they’ve always known and make them better and more efficient for the new age. Tygers Of Pan Tang have shown to do just that with Ritual, taking the root musical basis for 1980s metal that inspired countless other acts in its wake and giving it a perfectly 2019 spin. They didn’t try to sound old, nor did they try to sell out– they stuck to what they knew and it worked perfectly. There are many bands of their cloth who could do wonders for their longevity by doing the same.