Praying Mantis - Defiance

Praying Mantis – Defiance (Album Review)

Praying Mantis 2024

One of the earliest entries in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, Praying Mantis is a band which perhaps the more casual fan does not recognize, but certainly should. Initially going by Junction, and forming in 1973, soon becoming Praying Mantis they would eventually create quite a buzz around London; finding themselves on the same bill as bands like Iron Maiden by 1980. Interestingly enough, Praying Mantis would release their debut album Time Tells No Lies in 1981, and while it reached peak positions in the top 100 of UK charts, within a year the band would go on an indefinite hiatus. At this point nearly a decade in the game, founding Praying Mantis’ brothers, Chris and Tino Troy, would explore other projects in the wake of the split; this included one with ex-Iron Maiden Drummer Clive Burr and Vocalist Bernie Shaw (who would go on to join Uriah Heep).

What many thought was the final chapter of Praying Mantis, thanks to a dedicated fanbase, in 1990 the band reformed, and have not looked back since. In fact, since the resurrection they have released 12 more studio albums; starting with 1991’s Predator in Disguise, leading into their most recent in 2024, Defiance.

Before diving into the latest material, it is important to recognize that Praying Mantis’ sound has shifted a bit through the decades. Always on the more melodic Hard Rock side of the equation, the feel has inevitably been retained by the Troy Brothers (respectively on guitar and bass). However, some interesting names have graced the lineup of the band through the years gone by. For starters, the late Steve Carroll is featured on the debut album, before former Iron Maiden Vocalist Paul Di’Anno’s short stint for a live tour in 1990. From here the names continue to turn heads; including former Iron Maiden Guitarist Dennis Stratton remaining a member between 1990 and 2006, well-known Vocalist Doogie White (currently of Alcatrazz) was featured on vocals in 1992, Gary Barden (formerly of Michael Schenker Group) was on vocals between 1995 and 1997, while former Iron Maiden Drummer Clive Burr joined up briefly in 1996.

Just an abbreviated list of the well-known players to be a part of Praying Mantis, currently joining the Troy Brothers are talented Guitarist Andy Burgess since 2007, plus Drummer Hans in’t Zandt and Vocalist John Cuijpers since 2013. A very solid lineup, if you think Cuijpers’ name sounds familiar, it is, because his vocals are featured on a list of records from the Dutch Progressive Rock band Ayreon. Beyond this, Cuijper has now been with Praying Mantis through 4 album cycles leading back to 2015’s Legacy and leading into the brand-new Defiance. This history outlined; Defiance arrived on April 19th through Frontiers Music s.r.l. and is a fitting follow up to 2022’s Katharsis.

Looking at Katharsis for a moment, the album featured a mix of solid anathematic-like heavier Rock tunes, such as the powerful “Cry for the Nations,” and more straightforward ones, like “Ain’t No Rock ‘n’ Roll In Heaven.” With Defiance, Praying Mantis keeps up with this high energy, but contextually and musically the mood feels by and large a bit darker. What this means is there are certainly melodic textures throughout, but you can feel a level of melancholy amidst many tracks. This is the case with the intense “From the Start” and title-track, but also “Let’s See.”

There are also other emotions expressed throughout the album such as love and devotion; prime examples leading this direction are the absolutely beautiful “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “One Heart.” Discussing these two tracks a bit further, they are diverse with rich keyboards as well as guitars, and could be some of the most impressive of the entire collection. Nonetheless, there are plenty of other highlights too; including a stellar instrumental called “Nightswim,” and the almost heavy SynthRock leaning single “Standing Tall.” There is also a really cool rendition of “I Surrender” which you could argue has been decades in waiting. Curious what this means? Well, apparently during the recording of Time Tells No Lies Praying Mantis indeed recorded a version of “I Surrender,” however, Rainbow did as well. The version we will all have gone on to remember, “I Surrender” would become Rainbow’s most successful single, resulting in Praying Mantis scrapping theirs. Wild to think about, at least Praying Mantis has the chance to show the world their take on the tracks… even if it is 43 years later!

Overall, Defiance is an extremely well-crafted Hard Rock/Heavy Metal album with lovely melodic intuition, heartfelt lyrics, and emotive vocals. The sound is bordering Progressive Metal, but rooted in traditional Heavy Metal, all with a modern flair. A perfect way to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary, Cryptic Rock gives Praying Mantis’ Defiance 4 out of 5 stars.

Praying Mantis - Defiance
Praying Mantis – Defiance / Frontiers s.r.l.

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