In spite of a fairly stable lineup collapsing after a series of amazing albums, blending classic 80s influenced Heavy Metal with a slight bluesy tinge; AT VANCE seems to have begun to rebuild their ranks. The band hasn’t really tripped up in their musical delivery, though “VII” did want for a little in the vocal department at times, and has stuck to their RAINBOW, ULI JON ROTH, YNGWIE and occasional German Speed Metal roots. Olaf Lenk has remained the principle compositional force, and has consistently fielded vocalists that stick fairly closer to that gravely, almost David Coverdale like sound that Oliver Hartmann brought to the band at its inception.
“Ride The Sky”, which is ironically the same name of a now defunct German Power Metal band under the influence of ex-HELLOWEEN drummer Uli Kusch, which had a somewhat similar sound to this band, is something of a step back to the heyday of the latter Hartmann era of the band. The slightly heavier remakes of Hard Rock songs are back in “Wishing Well”, which much like the ABBA cover from the first album, I actually prefer to the original. And perhaps the most charming and unique aspect of this band, namely their tantalizing remakes of Classical and Baroque masterpieces are back, this time with a solid reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s “Summer 2nd Set”. At this rate, the long dead Italian composer may see his entire “Four Seasons” work realized through the Metal medium.
But naturally these is always more to this band than just the covers, and in this department the story is a little closer to a fairly solid attempt at recapturing the magic heard on “Only Human”. The only area where there is any real lag is in the harmonized choruses, which don’t quite match the majesty that Hartmann captures with such ease. Songs such as “Salvation Day” and “Power” are very representative of a humbler approach to harmony, going more towards a WHITESNAKE character, rather than the epic, almost AVANTASIA like fanfare heard on the band’s early works. “Ride The Sky” does get a little bit closer to that epic feel during the chorus, and “End Of Days” remembers this band’s glory days of hard hitting Speed Metal with a catchy melodic tinge, but largely the songwriting character seems to conform itself to the more stripped down nature of “VII”, though the production definitely leans towards the Hartmann era with its dense guitar arrangements.
Yet another good release by a very capable band, one that has consistently outclassed most of the Rock oriented Power Metal bands out there, save perhaps MASTERPLAN. Rick Altzi’s vocals are definitely showing some signs of growth here, Lenk’s production practices have remained consistent, and the flocks of new musicians called in to fill the empty slots left from the end of the Mats Leven era are all solid. If you like your Power Metal with a rougher, more attitude driven vocal character, but still loaded with memorable hooks and wild guitar solos, there’s plenty here to go around.
(Online May 4, 2010)