At Vance – Facing Your Enemy
Face Your Enemy
If ever there ever was a band that I’ve always enjoyed, it’s At Vance. Fair enough, there have been instances where they’ve had a slight fumble, but for the most part they’ve been a solid act. I’ll always retain a soft spot for the Oliver Hartmann era of the band, with Only Human remaining a personal favourite to this very day. Still, it’s been years since Oliver Hartmann has sung, Mats Levén of course did a couple of albums, and as of VII they’ve had the capable Rick Altzi handling vocal duties.
The previous album, Ride the Sky, was sadly the weakest link in their discography, so I approached Facing Your Enemy with much trepidation (I was shaking like a recovering drug addict to be frank). After hitting that play button I was greeted with a face melter the likes of which At Vance always manage to create. “Impressive” I thought to myself, and I was digging that Only Human vibe that bled out through the track. Then I broke into a cold sweat remembering their last album, At Vance always does this, they always make a promise with a great opener that sometimes isn’t fully realized across the album. Listening on with further caution seemed the best approach here.
“Damn, this is good.” That trepidation slowly drained, churning into full fledged joy, the air guitar was out, and a smile was painted across my face. Rick Altzi has really come into his own as a singer as of late, and on both Facing Your Enemy and the latest release from Herman Frank, he delivers probably his finest performances, giving the likes of Jorn Lande a run for their money. His tone is impeccable, and he really captures that neo-classical vibe well, so well in fact I’m surprised a certain Mr. Malmsteen hasn’t snapped him up. There is a definite hard rock (as per) feel going on here as well, but it is entirely beneficial on Facing Your Enemy and really makes the likes of the title track and “Fear No Evil” pop.
It isn’t all smooth sailing though. “Don’t Dream” is a stinking ballad that Whitesnake wouldn’t touch, and it hurts the flow of the album which is a damn shame. “Tokyo”, whilst good enough, sounds like it would be better suited to a Rocky film soundtrack. However, in saying that, there’s still plenty of treats lying in wait on the later half of the album. “See Me Crying” is a majestic track with brilliant hooks, “Saviour” is neo-classical At Vance magic at it’s finest, and “Fame & Fortune” is one of the finest tracks the band has penned in ages. It’s typical At Vance, but you can’t help but love it!
With Olaf Lenks’ awesome guitar skills and session drumming courtesy of Casey Grillo, the performances here are stellar, and in all honesty I’ve really enjoyed Facing Your Enemy. This is head and shoulders above the last few At Vance albums, and totally reminds me of Only Human (which is absolutely a good thing). Whilst hardly breaking new ground or original by this band, what they do is play with the kind of conviction not heard since The Evil In You. Fans of neo-classical and hard rocking power metal would do well to check this out, and I’m pleased to see At Vance back on form. Recommended!
Chris’ rating 3.75 out of 5