Bob Catley… Who knows me, also knows that I am one of the biggest MAGNUM fans of this planet and Bob Catley as singer of this Rock legend never has really impressed me, maybe also because of the songs, which had been too streamlined (and a bit too close to TEN) for my taste. Well, for "When Empires Burn" Bob has watched out for a new songwriter (Paul Hodson, who also handled the production job), because what he delivers on this album is strong, really strong!
The music altogether is heavier and more epic, which definitely fits the voice of a Bob Catley very well indeed. After the epic intro "The Torment", "Children Of The Circle" starts out very strong, with powerful Melodic Rock, very present guitars, very well used keyboards, great melodies, a very strong and catchy chorus and, of course, a Bob Catley in absolute top form! He has one of those voices that you recognize among thousands and he crowns the already strong music!
"The Prophecy" surprises with its mystic, haunting atmosphere, especially in the once more very good chorus and here the guitars also have their place in the foreground, Vince O'Regan plays a really important role in the overall sound of "When Empires Burn"! After the spirited "I'll Be Your Fool" "Every Beat Of My Heart" is rocking emotionally and shows that Catley's voice also can fully convince with more emotional songs. The title track is another highlight of the album, gripping, catchy with another very strong chorus, which also would have suited MAGNUM on a "On A Storyteller's Night" or also "Vigilante" - and that is a damn big compliment!
"This Is The Day" then is another track with strong guitars and after the energetic "Someday Utopia" "My America" (a bit weird as Bob Catley is British…) sets a more than worthy closing point. With Irish/Scottish beginning, which also finds its way into the sound in the guitars and melodies, epic, with an exceptionally inspired vocal performance of Catley (who here sings "My Ameri-cay"...), damn strong song or the end, you have to have heard this one as a genre fan!
The switch from Gary Hughes to Paul Hodson has more than paid off, because the claim of the info that "When Empires Burn" is the so far best, most epic and heaviest solo album of Bob Catley can only be confirmed by me. As I had written elsewhere, it is very hard to put something new into this genre, so the quality of the songs is the important part, in this case that is more than just the, well, case, especially because the songs suit Bob Catley's characteristic voice almost perfectly. I love this album and if you love his voice and this genre, then you will do the same! (Online September 17, 2003)