One of the biggest joys of the return of vinyl has been the ability to appreciate album art in a way that has been largely hidden in the recent era of CDs and downloads. Back in the halcyon days of the 70’s and into the 80’s the cover art was a hugely integral part of the music scene and these images were pored over endlessly, absorbing every detail, along with the joy of gatefold sleeves, coloured vinyl and lyric sheets.
One of the leading proponents of this art is Rodney Matthews, possibly best known for his work with Magnum, Nazareth, Diamond Head and Praying Mantis, his work adorning the album sleeves and posters in many a home. An artist with an incredible imagination and a beautiful touch, what’s lesser known about him is that he is also a very good drummer, having cut his teeth on bands in the 60’s.
Trinity’ seamlessly links the two, with the material based on and illustrated with some of his best known pieces as he shows his percussive firepower along with American guitar guru Jeff Scheetz and keys wizard Oliver Wakeman.
The album gets straight down to business with the hard driving Prog Metal of ‘The Heavy Metal Hero’, as it scorches fretboards and stabs with keys as the drums fly and roll underneath it all.
As with the rest of the tracks on the album, this really shows the incredible musicianship, each player a master and it all gels incredibly well as everyone steps backs and lets others have their turn in the spotlight. ‘Mirador’ is more laid back, beautifully layered and benefitting from a great lead vocal by former Asia frontman John Payne, it builds and builds into a wonderful flight of storytelling and prog grandeur.
As you make your way through the album, you can only marvel at what you hear and its details and flourishes. Barring the aforementioned ‘Mirador’, it’s a purely instrumental project and runs the gamut of all the various influences that each musician brings, from hard rock, prog and with a little jazz thrown in for good measure.
Brilliantly played and constructed there are many gems herein, making it something to truly listen to, preferably wearing headphones. ‘Night on the Bare Mountain’ sees Mussorgsky’s classic given the Prog Metal treatment and ‘November Wedding’, written by Wakeman for Rodney and Sarah Matthew’s wedding, is a joyful and utterly lovely creation. Elsewhere ‘Stop the Slaughter’ boasts military drumming and some incredible playing by Sheetz whilst ‘The Hop’ is a fabulously rural and carefree jig that captures bygone eras and Summer days perfectly.
‘Rivendell’ sparkles like a stream in Spring and closing track ‘Trinity’ is a sprawling epic, almost too large and impressive to cover its seven–minute length, it’s a journey through time for heart and mind.
With guest appearances by Rick Wakeman and Magnum’s Tony Clarkin, this album may have been a long time in coming but it’s something as intriguing, imaginative and breathtaking as Matthews artwork. You don’t just have to be a Prog Rock fan to appreciate ‘Trinity’, just someone who loves great music, played incredibly well. A tip though, it’s worth the stretch to buy the double vinyl album as you get to appreciate the stunning pictures in the accompanying booklet.
Like those images, this album will take you to worlds and times you’d never dreamed of, all from the comfort and warmth of your favourite chair. It’s certainly a trip worth taking.
Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM