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At Vance - "Ride the Sky" (CD)

At Vance - "Ride the Sky" CD cover image

"Ride the Sky" track listing:

1. Ride The Sky 3:31
2. Torn - Burning Like Fire 4:40
3. Last In Line 4:32
4. Wishing Well 3:13
5. Salvation Day 4:25
6. Vivaldi - Summer 2nd Set 3:45
7. Power 3:35
8. You And I 5:23
9. End Of Days 3:31
10. Fallin' 6:13
11. Farewell 5:38

Reviewed by on January 7, 2010

"At Vance unfortunately is much less than the sum of its parts."

At Vance is a German Neo-classical/power metal outfit that has been releasing albums since 1999. Who knew? Formed by Oliver Hartmann (ex-Centers) and Olaf Lenk (ex-Velvet Viper), the band has seen over a dozen members come and go from the lineup over the past decade, with only Lenk keeping the original flame alive for “Ride the Sky.” While all the previous mates had solid credentials, with bands like Scanner, Gallows Pole, Helloween, and Annihilator on their resumes, they ultimately proved to be replaceable. A perfect parallel for At Vance and “Ride the Sky” then, as the band’s eighth full length proves to have all the fireworks but is ultimately forgettable.

The opener, which is also the title track, is a fun and soaring ride. Clocking at only three-and-a-half minutes, the driving riff and stripped down verses are thrilling. Unfortunately the crescendo through the bridge leads to a gang-vocal chorus, which portends vocalist Rick Altzi not quite making the grade. But the music never relents and the song ends up a winner. “Torn – Burning Like Fire” is a slower, chunkier piece, and the guitars get bogged down and the song never gets off the ground. “Last In Line” is back to the formula of the title track, and is a good enough romp through victorious battlefields.

The album nosedives from there. To wit: The slower bass chug of “Wishing Well” and the folk touches of “Salvation Day” get credit for breaking the mold but end up clichés. “Vivaldi – Summer 2nd Set” is the straight classical transcription At Vance favors. Unfortunately Yngwie does it a hundred times better and it doesn’t offer much added depth to the album either. “Power” gives a short redemption, as some of the neo-classical elements carry over from the previous track and give it more life that the straight classical cover – particularly the layered guitar solo. The last four songs are all trash – either big misses on sappy ballads or more tepid tries at power metal glory.

At Vance unfortunately is much less than the sum of its parts. With ten years of experience, much of it spent touring with some of the bigger bands in the genre (Rhapsody and Kamelot immediately jump to mind), and a plethora of members from other big European power and thrash outfits, the music is largely disappointing. Maybe the lack of cohesion from the constant stream of players makes the music a mash up of metal clichés, or maybe Lenk has run out of ideas. But either way, the end result sees “Ride the Sky” getting the same treatment as all those former band members - looking for someone to play for.

Highs: The title track is a really fun time.

Lows: The ballads on the second half of the disc are just awful.

Bottom line: German power metal vets just don’t have enough material for a good album.

Rated 2 out of 5 skulls
2 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)