“Heaven is Calling” is a faster pace offering that has me banging my head right along without necessarily going into the traditional Heavy Metal foundation the band has utilized lately. The vocals really pack a great deal of energy, as doess the music. The drums push the beat forward perfectly are stand out the most with a fantastic tighter quality to the snares. The cymbals are utilized a lot, but aren’t exactly the most impressive sadly. The faster chords just hit me non-stop with a slight sharpness that really brought a good deal of bite to the material. The song never really lets up for the under five minutes it exists, even continuing to build in intensity to a heavily bass kick driven conclusion that fits it perfectly. This makes for a fantastic introduction to the album, and I’m completely impressed, as well as anxious to hear the rest.
“Facing Your Enemy” starts off slow with some synth/keyboard sounds that continue to fade in and out. These do continue throughout, but take on more of an Electronica background effect that does fill the emptiness of the slower pace. In no time at all we’re back to a more traditional Heavy Metal sound, but it carries some additional Modern Rock style elements, and even some bridges I can easily picture Beck utilizing, completely expecting to hear some of that horrible white adult rapping that usually accompanies his material there. But, the clean singing carries a strong enthusiasm against a strong chorus that picks a bit of an emotional push to it that brings everything away from that odd sound into a more traditional power ballad territory. This isn’t anything too spectacular, but it had my head bobbing along throughout, and I did completely enjoy my time with it.
“Eyes of a Stranger” ditches the ballad approach for a slightly more aggressive faster pace. The vocals are a little deeper here as well, matching the somewhat beautiful Power Metal style the band is utilizing. The guitars really stand out here, creating an infectious melody that still has a large set of balls to them, working well with the restrained singing to build up a little tension throughout. The chorus once again stands out the most, and the subtle keyboard presence works out well during the slower moments of it, though the bass kicks largely take command when the pace picks up. Of course there’s a strong Hard Rock push with the track, which shows well during the build up to the guitar solo, as well as the solo itself, a longer piece that isn’t too technical or faster paced, but perfectly suits the offering.
Like clockwork, “Fear No Evil” heads back into the slower paced ballad material once again. The echo on the drum kit really comes through here, and the keyboards add some nice atmosphere to the material to keep the music coming off rich, filling the dead air the simpler guitars don’t quite fill. The transition into the first chorus sounds natural to the song, a subtle build to a slightly more powerful performance all around with a little extra emotion, though you can really hear a good deal of pain through the vocals in each main verse. The only problem is that it doesn’t really seem to work out well, though the execution is a lot better the other times they hit. This isn’t a largely impressive track, but for a less than four minute song, there honestly isn’t anything bad about it.
“Live & Learn” finds the keyboards at play again against some harsher chords with a Hard Rock authority. This isn’t another faster track, though it does merge a slower approach with the attitude of a mid-temp eighties Rock track. Again, there’s restraint, which really shows in the chorus. The music sounds lower in tone, never letting the energy out like on previous tracks aside the chugging approach used. The main verses are a lot slower and ultimately a little more hollow. The guitar solo, like on “Eyes of a Stranger,” is well suited to the song, and not another short experience. While it isn’t that bad a song, it also is far from impressive, and not really too unique for At Vance, or just this style of music in general.
If it weren’t for “Live & Learn,” I would be very enthusiastic about this album. Unfortunately, I’ve come to expect that once you reach a less-than-enjoyable song on an At Vance CD, chances are good the rest might be as bad. But, up to that point, Facing Your Enemy is a pretty strong release that I really dug, and would have easily gotten into had it been in my car or a place where I could blast it and not have to limit myself large to two small earbud headphones. I’m anxious to hear the rest, though I’ll tread that territory lightly…
Article based on digital review material provided by AFM Records via Earsplit PR.