After the keyboard-driven instrumental Buccaneers, we reach the first proper song on the album Dead Men Tell No Tales. Given the album's title, artwork, and this opening duo of songs; I feel that Hughes missed the boat (pun intended) to make a pirate-themed concept album - that would have been awesome! That being said, these two songs really feel like classic Ten, and have a great piratey atmosphere to them with lots of folky keyboard melodies, and strong shanty-like melodies from Hughes. The song builds slowly with keyboards and Steve McKenna's bass guitar being featured heavily the in the verses, before the band's three guitarists come in for the chorus and lay down some excellent lead work. There is a really great neo-classical guitar solo in this song too, which highlights the skills of Dan Rosingana and Steve Grocott. Tell Me What To Do is up next, and this sees the quality from the previous song maintained. It opens well, with an excellent guitar lead and a powerful organ riff in the latter part of the verse that brings Deep Purple or Uriah Heep to mind. It is a very simple song, but possess a very memorable chorus that sees Hughes at his melodic best. Another lengthy and enjoyable guitar solo makes it's presence felt later on in the song, and is the icing on the cake of what is a very good slab of melodic rock. Acquiesce is less memorable. The great keyboard opening gives way to a muscular guitar riff that feels a little forced, and the song's chorus just does not really hit the spot. The pseudo-metal of the verses clashes with the AOR chorus, and as a result the song sounds rather disjointed. Plus, the lyrics are pretty bad; and this is not the only song that suffers from this curse. It would not be a Ten album without a sugary ballad, and This Love is the one for this album. As ballads of this type go, it is not bad. Hughes' vocals contain plenty of emotion, and uses his lower range to his advantage. Treece-Birch lays down some simple piano to back him up and, along with some strings, this sound is very effective. The song's chorus sees the rest of the band join in, and it is quite powerful with some soaring vocal melodies and big power chords. The Dragon and Saint George is one of the most instantly memorable songs on the album. McKenna and drummer Max Yates lay down a great groove in the song's intro, before the song gets going with more big chords and a driving piano melody that recalls early Toto. The song has a real energy to it because of this, and the chorus a real sing-a-long moment. This is the sort of song that Ten do really well, and when Hughes is on song he can churn out plenty of songs like this. It also contains a brilliant guitar solo!
Intensify then comes along and puts a bit of a downer on things. This another song that suffers from having some pretty questionable lyrics - not even David Coverdale at his most leering would consider such things! Musically, the song is not too bad, with more interesting keyboard work with lots of nice synth effects. It is a mid-paced rocker that is nice, but never really gets going. The chorus is not very powerful, and those lyrics just make it a rather frustrating listen. Things get back on track with another double whammy of the instrumental Karnak and the slightly progressive The Valley of the Kings. While the Egyptian/Eastern elements to the songs might be quite generic, they still work well to bring the album back around. There is plenty of great guitar playing across the two songs, with Eastern-influenced leads taking centre stage. Keyboards provide a great, swirling backing to the whole song, while the band's three guitarists lay down a myriad of riffs and solos on top of that backing. Rosingana and Grocott find plenty of chances to shred throughout this song, while long-time rhythm player John Halliwell lays down some excellent, crunchy riffs. The song's chorus is another winner, that sounds a little like fellow British melodic rockers Magnum. Revolution starts out with quite a heavy, grinding riff that seems a little out of character from the rest of the album; but it soon becomes a rather pacey melodic rock tune that does not really fit with the song's opening at all. While the song's verses have a great energy to them, the chorus fails to live up to them. This is one area on the record that could really have done with some huge harmony vocals to make Hughes' voice stand out during the chorus. The chorus fails to make an impact here, and this makes the song one of the weaker ones on the album. Angel of Darkness is better. Sometimes Ten move into that pseudo-metal territory, and this is good example of that. The song's riff is very memorable and the verses steam along with a good pace, and an excellent keyboard lead that sits just underneath Hughes' vocals. It also contains a really speedy metal solo that fits in with the song's vibe perfectly. While the song is no classic, it rocks hard, and that's what this album needed! The album's last song, The Last Pretender is another solid melodic rock song that ensures the album ends well. Again, the Magnum similarities are quite prevalent here, and it makes for a good mid-paced end to the album. The chorus could have done with being a little bigger though, if the band really wanted to end on a bang. Overall, Isla de Muerta is not a bad album. As you can see, there are plenty of enjoyable moments; but it is also let down in places by bad lyrics and uninspired songwriting. Ten fans, and fans of melodic rock in general, are likely to find things here to like - but beyond that I cannot see this album making much of an impact.
The album was released on 18th May 2015 via Rocktopia Records. Below is the band's promotional lyric video for Tell Me What To Do.