At Vance - Facing Your Enemy Review
by Matt Hensch
Great bands will occasionally trip over their own success and slam into the rocks with an awakening force. It's the truth, kids; shit really does happen. Germany's At Vance has a fairly stellar record of fantastic albums despite many drawbacks, particularly a revolving door of members shuffling through albums and packing their bags shortly thereafter. Hell, Olaf Lenk—the group's only remaining original member—recruited Rick Altzi after Mats Levén hit the road, and together the mastermind behind At Vance and the faction's third spokesmen released "Ride The Sky" in 2009; not really an exciting album, but certainly a listenable one. With "Facing Your Enemy," I'm beginning to think At Vance's force has dwindled down to a dragon's droppings. No power, no variety, and no signs of a fantastic band; just a fading reflection in a run-of-the-mill cycle of average power metal.
Throughout "Facing Your Enemy," it feels like At Vance is lacking the ingenuity of previous releases and just wanted to heave an album without much care. You could reasonably call what they do here uninspired, as Lenk sleepwalks through a multitude of banal tracks which all sound like they were cut from the same postulate of semi-generic, hard rock-laden songs running between identical tempos and poor choruses. I assume the main idea was to be catchy or somehow memorable, but that isn't the case. I like the way Altzi sounds, yet at times he seems too saccharine and bombastic; it's the way his voice melts into the music that really irks me. The pair of ballads—"Don't Dream" and "Things I Never Needed"—are completely disposable. Altzi's voice is oversaturated to fit the emotional (or whatever) chimes going on behind him, and the tunes lack any sort of instrumental power, just like most of the record, unfortunately.
I did slam some of Altzi's performances, but it should be noted his stature as a singer is amazing, and he definitely has his positive moments here. The melodies and riffs throughout the short instrumental "March of the Dwarf" are amusingly more riveting than most of the album—kind of defeats the purpose of an interlude if it has more substance than the actual chapters it connects, right? "Saviour" has a sturdy neoclassical mold that leaves a big impression on the listener, and the opening "Heaven is Calling" is a traditional At Vance anthem gushing streams of beef. Sadly, these three tunes are the few truly consistent portions lurking between the cracks of "Facing Your Enemy." Acceptable slices are around, sure, but not without their banes balancing out the equation.
Oh yea, "Tokyo" would fit perfectly on a soundtrack based on Miami Vice; I'm still not sure if I like the overabundant keyboards and pop-structured choruses, but I always find myself singing along. It's an appealing track for what it is despite the obvious commercial direction. However, "Facing Your Enemy" leaves me feeling hungry and mildly disappointed, as if this meal hit more like an appetizer. Maybe it's just me, but I expected more out of this. I mean, "Facing Your Enemy" has the essential components of an At Vance release. This is album number nine, after all; it would be outrageous to assume they haven't established a stable identity by now. However, the whole package feels lacking, and I'll take the band's other releases over this.
At Vance - Facing Your Enemy
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