Saturday, September 19, 2009

At Vance - Ride the Sky (2009)

At Vance has always stood out in the power metal realm for their use of bluesier vocals inspired more by bands like Deep Purple and Whitesnake than Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson. Add to this the focused shredding and proggish organ/synths of Olaf Lenk, and a touch of neoclassical influence, and you get a band that consistently releases albums that sound like no other. That said, I have never felt that At Vance has delivered a 'knockout punch' of an album. Only Human and The Evil In You were both pretty close, and like these, Ride the Sky has its share of memorable moments.

The title track opens the album with a mid-paced number reminiscent of later period Riot. Rick Altzi's vocals are dirty and hint at an edge of blues rock, but they do create a nice immediacy which the guitars and keyboards coil themselves about. You can definitely shake a fist to this song, but there are better on the album. " Torn - Burning Like Fire" is slower and choppier with a blue collar fervor, and Altzi delivers some Lande-like angst in the chorus. "Last in Line" is one of the more memorable tunes on the album, with a charging gait that meshes well with the organs. The bridge hooks inject some nice speed metal and the solos show Lenk at his peak form. Other notable tracks include the folksy, anthemic "Salvation Day" and the neoclassic monster "End of Days".

The album has a thin and crisp tone to the guitars which does balance off with the full drums and synths and the rasping throat of Altzi. Lenk produced this himself, and he's got an ear for what makes his band sound right. At Vance, as usual, is unlikely to please the legion of spastic come- latelies who think neoclassical/power metal was invented by Dragonforce and Rhapsody, but the band is talented and tight, and a little different. If you're one of the rare breed who enjoys both bluesy 70s/80s hard rock and metal, in addition to modern power metal, At Vance is one of the only bands standing at the cross section. I'm still waiting for an album that can truly blow me away with its songwriting, but Ride the Sky will suffice, and if you enjoyed any of their past 3-4 works, it is mandatory.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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