Praying Mantis

Picture of Praying Mantis

Time Tells No Lies

Praying Mantis - Time Tells No Lies ©1981 Arista
1. Cheated
2. All Day And All Night
3. Running For Tomorrow
4. Rich City Kids
5. Lovers To The Grave
6. Panic In The Streets
7. Beads Of Ebony
8. Flirting With Suicide
9. Children Of The Earth
10. Thirty Pieces Of Silver
11. Flirting With Suicide (live)
12. Panic In The Streets (live)

Praying Mantis is an enormously prolific band that traces its roots back to 1974 when Tino Troy got started on his musical career. What began as an arena rock band that was a part of the NWOBHM movement has developed into a consistently good progressive metal band. It has been fun to watch them develop from a good band to a group that released on of the best power-prog discs of 2000. This band seemed to change their lead vocalist with almost every new album and still maintain a high standard for singing. Hopefully this slate of reviews will take you on a tour of the band's development.

I am not familiar with the earliest releases from Praying Mantis and I tend to prefer the more recent stuff from them, but this disc is a necessary one to have in any discography of the band. It is a fan favorite and is a very good example of the heavy roots the band has. For all intent and purposes, most consider this disc to truly be Praying Mantis's debut album. The music is typical of the era with big choruses that emphasized vocal harmony and gave the listener a toe-tapping good time. The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night" doesn't really fit well on this disc, though it is a far heavier version than the original.

Even at this early stage in their career, you can hear the emphasis on melody and focused song writing. While the songs are not terribly deep or intellectual, they are well written and feature large solos. The strong emphasis is on the guitars and the heaviness they lend to the music is very appealing. The secondary emphasis on the vocal melodies and focus on harmony adds what will be a hallmark of Praying Mantis for many years to come. Listening to this disc now makes it difficult to believe it was released twenty years ago.

Fans of Pink Cream 69, Rainbow, Asia, and other proggy AOR / metal bands will enjoy this disc. This disc is especially vital to fans of NWOBHM because it serves as one of the defining moments in that movement, setting a standard that other discs had to follow.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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Predator In Disguise

Praying Mantis - Predator In Disguise ©1991 Pony Canyon
1. Can't See The Angels
2. She's Hot
3. Can't Wait Forever
4. This Time Girl
5. Time Slipping Away
6. Listen What Your Heart Says
7. Still Want You
8. The Horn
9. Battle Royal
10. Only You
11. Borderline

Praying Mantis were virtually silent for ten years between studio releases. There were several solo and side projects going on during this hiatus from recording together. There were also some personnel changes going on in the interim. With this release, they returned to the anthemic, heavy arena rock from Time Tells No Lies.

This disc opens solidly with "Can't See The Angels". The track has the characteristic vocal melodies, guitar solo straight out of UFO's "Love to Love," and catchy hooks that make Praying Mantis a fun listen. The vocal melodies are outstanding. The whole band contributes to the singing with a lot of harmonizing. The result sounds like the vocal melodies in the choruses of Balance of Power or Asia.

The use of keyboards is much more noticeable on this disc than on Time Tells No Lies. The keys have been brought further out in front. The guitars are still very much the driving force of the music, but they are much more evenly matched by the keys on this disc. If there is a weakness on this disc, it is in the softening of the edges. The music here is not as powerful as on Time Tells No Lies. It has a much more "commercial" feel to it. People who enjoy the melodic, heavy AOR sounds of Balance of Power and other such groups will enjoy the sound on this disc. This may not be the best effort from Praying Mantis, but it is still a solid disc.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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Only The Children Cry EP

Praying Mantis - Only The Children Cry EP ©1993 Pony Canyon
1. Only The Children Cry
2. Who's Life Is It Anyway?
3. A Moment In Life
4. Turn The Tables

This Ep features the vocals of Mark Thompson-Smith who was hired to record this disc, tour with Praying Mantis in Japan and then was let go by the band. In an interview with Thompson-Smith, he indicated that the "fit" with the band was not really comfortable. His approach to practice and rehearsal was not the same as the more relaxed atmosphere maintained by the band at large. It is a pity that he was replaced as his singing was very much emotionally in tune with the songs on this album.

This little disc features music that is much more aggressive than Predator in Disguise. The songwriting is much more mature and the title track is one of my favorite Praying Mantis tunes. Lyrically, these songs are leaps and bounds ahead of earlier Praying Mantis material. The songs are far more thought provoking and are a welcome step away from the "hair" metal lyrics of the past albums. These songs are also a step back to the guitar fueled music of Time Tells No Lies. At the same time they look forward at where the band is going musically. The anthems are being honed into a style that would be imitated by many other groups in the later 90s. This disc serves as another firm step in the direction of Praying Mantis' sound. It is a point where the band turns toward a more focused, melodic, heavy sound. I only wish the CD were longer.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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A Cry For The New World

Praying Mantis - A Cry For The New World ©1993 Pony Canyon
1. Rise Up Again
2. A Cry For The New World
3. A Moment In Life
4. Letting Go
5. One Chance
6. Dangerous
7. Fight To Be Free
8. Open Your Heart
9. Dream On
10. Journeyman
11. The Final Eclipse

I think this is my least favorite Praying Mantis disc. If I were to point to a reason, it would be Colin Peel's singing. He was replaced by Mark Thompson-Smith for the tour and the recording of Only The Children Cry.

Praying Mantis began their "adventure" of securing a lead vocalist to work with the band with the release of this album. That position would see numerous changes as the future of the group unfolded. As such, this disc represented a change (again) for the band and it was not one made gracefully. You can almost hear everyone holding back on the disc. I can hear a level of power in Peel's voice that never comes to the surface in his singing. Probably this is due to the lack of punch in these songs. As I listened to this disc, I caught myself thinking, time and again, "Here's where they're going to really rock." Time and again I was disappointed. The edge on these songs is embroidered on flowers rather than forged with steel. I know that sentence needs work, but it conveys my thoughts. I think this disc represents the furthest departure from metal for Praying Mantis.

On the positive side, the vocal melodies are pushed forward with the addition of another voice in their lead singer. The song "Journeyman" is also an excellent track and the one where the band comes closest to letting it rip. Almost.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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To The Power Of Ten

Praying Mantis - To The Power Of Ten ©1995 Pony Canyon
1. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark
2. Bring On The Night
3. Ball Of Confusion
4. Welcome To My Hollywood
5. Another Time, Another Place
6. To The Power Of Ten
7. Little Angel
8. Victory
9. Only The Children Cry
10. Night And Day
11. Angry Man

To The Power Of Ten begins the Gary Barden era of Praying Mantis. Barden's vocals brought a stability to the band for a while and helped them further flesh out the arena rock anthem sound that has become the hallmark of Praying Mantis' music.

This album is a mixed bag. There are some terrific compositions on it and a few that fans would just as soon forget. The remix of "Only the Children Cry" is not as good as the original one done with Mark Thompson-Smith at the microphone. That observation comes from my own preference for the vocals and the heavier sound on the song's first issue. The title track, however, remains one of my favorite Praying Mantis songs. It has a wonderful edge, a raw, rocky feel that captures the potential of the band with an over-the-top metal anthem.

This album also sees a continuation of the more intense focus on the songwriting. The "mixed bag" feel comes more from the way the songs don't flow comfortably together. They are all over the map in tone and theme. I think that may be partly due to the constant shuffle in lead singers that Praying Mantis experienced in the early 90's. The reaching in several directions at once and experimenting with a wide variety of musical expressions are all part of the growing pains experienced by all bands. It is a testimony to the resolve of the core of this band that they weathered the storms of growth and "came of age" during this time. The results of the growth are seen in the discs released from 1998 and on. The time spent on the road after the release of this disc gave the band a period of introspection that is reflected in those albums. This CD, along with Only the Children Cry, are wonderful insight into the struggle for identity through which Praying Mantis has come.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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Forever In Time

Praying Mantis - Forever In Time ©1998 Pony Canyon
1. Wasted Years
2. The Messiah
3. Best Years
4. Blood Of An Angel
5. Valley Of The Kings
6. Changes
7. Man Behind The Mask
8. Remember My Name
9. The Day The Sun Turned Cold
10. Forever In Time

Fans of Praying Mantis must have approached this disc with trepidation, Yet another change in vocalists was probably the last thing they wanted. Many probably bought the disc simply because the revolving door of vocalists for Praying Mantis had to eventually stop. Maybe this would be the disc that saw all the potential of the band finally coalesce into a focused unit.

This is a stunning album. It appeared on many "best of year" lists in 1998. It is astounding to look back over eighteen years of the band's history to this disc which, at the time of its release, is the best album the band has released. This disc features the very best of everything the band had shown through the years. The songs are very well written. There are no filler pieces on the disc. The vocals are immense and the choruses are enormous. The scope of this disc is staggering. It is one of those discs where you cannot single out a track or two as being the "best" songs on the album. Each track on this disc is outstanding. From the opening chords of "Wasted Years" to the final notes of "Forever In Time", you are swept away by one of the most tightly focused and exceptionally executed discs of progressive hard rock you will ever hear. This disc stands head and shoulders above Royal Hunt, Balance of Power and the other more well known bands of this genre.

The title track, "Forever In Time" was written to honor the memory of Tino of Troy's father and is one of the most emotionally touching songs you'll ever hear from any band. The vocal prowess of Tony O'Hora is shown everywhere on the disc. He sings with emotion and enthusiasm. He is the vocalist for which Praying Mantis had been searching. With his addition to the group's roster they are finally complete and the unity really shines forth on this album. There are no weak moments on this album. There are no signs on uncertainty. There is no hint of disharmony. This disc is a must have disc for fans of progressive metal/rock and commends itself to fans across the genres if only because it is so solid. If you enjoy Royal Hunt, Balance of Power, Kamelot or music in that vein, this disc will win a place in your collection.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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Demorabilia

Praying Mantis - Demorabilia ©1999 Pony Canyon
CD one:
1. One Of These Days
2. Wasted Love
3. Fantasy
4. Woman Of The Night
5. I Don't Take Prisoners
6. Born Evil
7. The Horn (Instrumental)
8. Top Of The Mountain
9. All Over Again
10. Romancer
11. Your Number
12. Give Me A Reason
13. Heartache
CD two:
1. A Question Of Time (instrumental)
2. I Need Your Loving
3. Battle Royal
4. Time Slipping Away
5. Got To Get It
6. Over And Over
7. Never Say No
8. Heat Of The Moment
9. Whose Life Is It Anyway?
10. Enough Is Enough
11. Raining In Kensington
12. Nightmares
13. Give Me A Reason
14. The Story

This double disc release from Praying Mantis is a look back over time. The liner notes indicate that this is a twenty-six year retrospective on the history of Praying Mantis. Most of the tracks on these two discs have never seen release until this pressing. Included with the discs and liner notes is a foldout "family tree" showing the many bands that have had former Praying Mantis members including Iron Maiden, Stratus, Lionheart and Uriah Heep to name a few. The liner notes include photos from each era of the band's various incarnations.

This collection serves as an exceptional way to view the growth of Praying Mantis. While listening to it, I had difficulty believing that some of this music was produced by Praying Mantis; it was so very different from the band they are today. It serves as a great look at where they were and how far they've come. Since many of the discs released since Time Tells No Lies are very difficult to acquire, this collection would very adequately fill the gap between 1981 and today for those who enjoy hearing the musical journey of a band's growth each note of the way.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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Nowhere To Hide

Praying Mantis - Nowhere To Hide ©2000 Pony Canyon
1. Nowhere To Hide
2. Cruel Winter
3. The Clocktower
4. Can't Stop The Fire
5. Future Of The World
6. Whenever I'm Lost
7. You'll Never Know
8. River Of Hope
9. S.O.S.

This is an immensely satisfying disc. It took Praying Mantis almost twenty years to release and album that outshone Time Tells No Lies. That album finally came with the release of Forever In Time. That disc forever raised the bar for Praying Mantis, setting new standards for power pop music. I am happy to say that Nowhere to Hide continues that tradition of excellence.

Perhaps the most exciting thing to note is that Tony O'Hora is still with the group! This disc does not see yet another vocalist at the microphone. O'Hora's warm voice and the huge harmonies that are one of the signature elements of Praying Mantis's music are really showcased on this disc. The rock anthems on this disc are melodic and symphonic. The whole disc sweeps along in the epic progressive hard rock sound that is Praying Mantis. The edge is retained throughout but it is no longer the main emphasis. Now that Praying Mantis have the hard rocking style down pat they are continuing to fine tune the many elements of their sound. What you have on this disc is some very slick music. The sound has been polished smooth. The guitar sound is still heavy, but it is heavy in a way that insinuates itself into your hearing in a very subtle fashion. This is music that bridges the gap between mainstream power pop and contemporary progressive metal.

Praying Mantis once more show themselves a band worthy of a far wider audience than they have. They've been big in Japan for decades, but are all but unknown here in the USA or in the UK. They are one of those bands that are consistently rewarding and are worth your efforts to track down their discs. I highly recommend this disc, Forever In Time, Only The Children Cry and Time Tells No Lies. Here's to the past twenty years of music while looking forward to what the future holds.

One side note: This disc is available on the Japanese label (Pony Canyon) as well as a UK label (Now & Then). I very highly recommend you track down the Now & Then pressing as it contains a song not on the Japanese version. That song is "Naked" and is a deeply emotional song written shortly after the death of guitarist Tino Troy's daughter. As a father, I found this song to be moving beyond my capability to express.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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