Released: 2012, AFM
For some reason we at Metal-Rules have only reviewed three of the eight studio albums by At Vance and somehow missed RIDE THE SKY from 2009. I guess we can't do it all but since it has been three years since the last one, let's discuss the new At Vance album, FACING YOUR ENEMY.
As a red-blooded male I'm personally delighted that the band have continued their fine and noble tradition of having a naked woman/angel on the album cover!... for about the sixth time in a row. It never gets old. It's almost as if the chick is the bands mascot now. She needs a name. The band should run a contest to name her since she has been around for ten years.
The bands lineup had always been a constant source of confusion with people coming and going with guitarist Olaf being the only constant. Maybe that's why the band isn't bigger, it's difficult to establish a solid 'band identity' when you always have new members, especially frontmen. However, Olaf and vocalist Rick have been the core for the last three records while various hired guns come in and out. In the case of FACING YOUR ENEMY the new rhythm section are Chris Hill on bass and Casey Grillo of Kamelot on drums. Both do an excellent job of holding it together.
To my ears the band really has had three distinct sounds and phases of their career, roughly corresponding to their frontmen. This most recent phase with Altzi behind the microphone has seen the band simply their sound from the neo-classically inspired tunes (and classical cover tunes) of the original band phase, and the darker, more Metal phase of the Mats Levin years.
The dozen songs spans number of moods and styles and range in tempo from 'ballad' to 'firestorm'! The faster cuts are scattered about the album and the variation in styles and speeds makes for a bit of a schizophrenic listening experience. For example, the last four songs are 'Tokyo' (hit single), 'March Of The Dwarf' (guitar solo), 'Fame And Fortune' (full speed) and album closer 'Things That I Need' an acoustic, campfire ballad that would fit nicely on a Tyketto album. I actually don't mind when a band ends an album on a quiet note, the song is quite pretty and juxtaposes the raging power of the previous tune. Pacing and song sequencing are a subtle art and I'm not sure that At Vance have perfected it this time out. The aforementioned sing 'Tokyo' is the first single and it is so catchy that Russ Ballard, Desmond Child or Jim Peterik could have written it! My favorite track is (oddly enough) the mid-tempo power ballad, 'See Me Crying' which is the longest song innate album at 6:00 minutes. On this cut the bluesy rasp and soulful delivery of Altzi really shine through on the infectious pre-chorus and the chorus itself. Its a great song with the typical broken-hearted lyrics and understated, down tempo solo. There are any number of highlights found song by song on the record.
I feel that despite the lack of cohesion in the bands sound, the songs and performances are very strong and the team of Rick and Olaf have really hit their stride. FACING YOUR ENEMY is recommended to longtime fans and people curious about the band.