Released: 2008, Steamhammer/SPV
Doesn’t it seem that so many guitar geniuses are lousy at putting together good albums of songs? Anyone remember the last time Yngwie released a relevant album? Neither do I. We’ve also got a slew of virtuosos out there, like Satch and Vai, who do nothing but release album after album of their most technical instrumentals that go in one ear and out the other. Enter another guitar slinger, ex-Scorpions/Electric Sun lead man Uli Jon Roth, a true guitar hero. No one can deny his influence on a generation of guitar players and the impact he has had on rock and metal music. For a long time now though, he has been working almost exclusively on symphonies and concertos with little connection to his more rocking days. This fact makes it odd that his new album, UNDER A DARK SKY, the first release of his Symphonic Legends series, is being released on Steamhammer Records, a metal label.
What has to be said first for anyone still intrigued by the album at hand is that this is NOT a metal album, and it is not even part of one of metal’s subgenres, like symphonic metal. That being said, it is a rather interesting, highly accomplished piece of classical composition, featuring an orchestra, several classically trained singers, and rock and metal veteran Mark Boals (Yngwie/Royal Hunt) on vocals. As far as the songs go, the three part “Land of Dawn” is a child of the seventy’s more artful productions, suggesting some of that era’s tracks by Rainbow, something that is perhaps heightened by the vocals of Mark Boals, who is an obvious student of Dio and Joe Lynn Turner. The guitar soloing at the end of this track is simply majestic and beautiful, wrapping up one of the album’s few really good tracks. Most of the songs are of a rather low-key nature with long instrumental passages featuring more breathtaking guitar parts and lots of orchestral arrangements. The ultimate moment of the album arrives in the epic scope of the final track, the twelve part, nineteen minute piece, “Tanz In Die Dämmerung,” a track that features a plethora of emotional ups and downs. Unfortunately, though, most of what is presented here works more as nice background music more suited to a dinner party or night of good reading than to a hard rock music collection.
What I always find odd about releases like UNDER A DARK SKY is the fact that it is released on a metal label like Steamhammer, meaning that those who it gets marketed to will likely not care about a release like this and the listeners of classical or new age world music that might really appreciate its artistry will probably never hear of it. For all the beauty and brilliant compositional skills that this album displays, it fails to leave a lasting mark since most of the songs have very little energy. Ultimately, this album proves to be only for the most open-minded fringe of hard rock and metal listeners who might be looking to open up their palate to something completely different. It is doubtful that even those who enjoy symphonic metal acts like Nightwish or Therion will even find much to enjoy here.