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This is a tough review for me. On one hand, I love the more traditional side of the equation more than the progressive in most cases. On the other hand, as a musician I really appreciate when people step out and explore territory we don't often get to hear. Ark's Burn the Sun has a little of both, but while the power metal succeeds wildly, the progressive is, I think, slightly less satisfying.
Tore Ostby is quite frankly astonishingly talented as a guitar player. The very first thing I noticed when putting Burn the Sun on is the tight, perfectly executed guitar lines that permeate this material. His guitar tone is pleasingly half-distorted (by todays' standards), accentuating every pick stroke and every emotion. The confidence he displays is nearly all-encompassing. Tore plays everything like he's been there before -- and he has. He's dominating this material; fast-picking staccato rhythms with ease, ringing power-chords in all the right places, and flashing strange, dissonant modalities when he wants to throw a changeup in your direction. In fact, some songs are nearly *all* changeup, like the spacey Torn or the airy and syncopated Absolute Zero.
Heal the Waters starts the CD off in a decidedly power, even commercial, direction. It's a nearly perfect hard rock/power metal piece, featuring some extremely confident and talented vocal lines and an ultra-tight, staccato rhythm section. The chorus is memorable, driving home the band's environmental message with the right blend of testosterone and elegance. I can't deny this is my favorite song on the album. It's beautiful, harkening back to the commercial metal masters of old while injecting a powerful new direction and energy.
Immediately Tore and the band throw a major wrench in the works, however. If you thought Heal the Waters was going to represent this CD, you were completely wrong. Torn starts off the progressive bent of Ark on this album, and I must say it's the most successful foray into the strange on the CD. The song utilizes sonic space in a big way, preferring atmosphere and developing vocal lines over mechanical rhythm. I really dig this tune, in large part due to Jorn Lande's vocal delivery. Jorn wails away on the wave of a strange landscape, providing inflection and delicacy to his lines where necessary, leading the listener on his strange trip.
Burn the Sun heads back in a more traditional direction, developing a chugging train rhythm into a commercial chrous and some great bridge work (which is expected on every song, frankly). Jorn's exceptional vocals lift the song beyond where it probably would have been with 90 percent of other vocalists. Tore's solo just makes me want to pick up my guitar every time. All his solos do that, though. The man's a dynamo. Love it.
I feel like the album is a little front-loaded. The best songs for me sit on the front of the lineup. To be fair, Ark is trying to explore more interesting directions than your average metal band. I can imagine it's tough to do this and sell CDs. The answer? Front load your more commercial material. Other than Noose (a very solid, more traditional rocker) and the aforementioned Torn, this feels like the way Burn the Sun was put together.
The latter part of Burn the Sun is much more exploratory. Ark is experimenting with a wide variety of interesting rhythms and influences, interlaced with more traditional guitar lines and strange sonic landscapes. Sometimes the guitar line is expected to hold everything together, and sometimes it's Jorn's vocals. Both are quite capable, but ultimately I feel the more progressive material is hit and miss. To be sure, even when it misses it is interesting, but this is clearly a band that comes from a metal background experimenting in the progressive, and not the other way around. The metal portions of the CD are done like they've been doing it all their lives. The progressive elements are valiant and worthwhile, but obviously not second nature.
Still, in all I whole-heartedly recommend Burn the Sun. I love when a group of musicians gets together and does something strange and unusual. What is there to lose? Pick this up if you can, there are likely a few songs you will really like, no matter what style of music you enjoy. I would have loved to score this thing higher because the parts I enjoy are absolutely fantastic. But as it is, it's still well worth anyone's time.
This is a very well polish cd , with very unique and talented musicians. The songs themselfs sound very modern (not a bad thing) and pushy as if to get the point across right away and leave no chance for bordom. These songs are all mid-length, and are extremely catchy especially if you listen to the whole disc in rotation many times over. Literally no one has heard of Ark and it leaves me dissapointed because this is a Grade A quality metal band, but it seems these days all people care about is Linkin Park. All the tracks are very different some ranging from almost mexican acoustic stuff to heavy power metal that grips you by the balls. How about those weird vocals at the start of Absolute Zero? Thats some crazy stuff, although when the chorus comes in you can't help but realize this is one of the best vocalists ever. Jorn Lande comes up with some of the best melodies i've ever heard, and has one of my fave high pitched screams listen to Waking Hour 1/3 of the way through to get what i mean. Holy fuck hear the chorus in Burn the Sun? Who wouldn;t blow their load on this track? Oh yeah did i mention this is also meant to be played at loud fucking volumes in your car? This band was formed by Conceptions ex guitarist Tore Østby, Randy Coven - bass (Holy Mother) , Mats Olausson - keyboards, and John Macaluso - drums (ex-Riot). It's unfortunate Jorn Lande left after this album because i would have loved to hear what would come next from him and Ark. Hopfully Ark continues their work because i love every song on here. The Production is very good and i fail to see any problems on this cd. No complaints on this one. Fans of Progressive Power Metal will like this although there are other elements in this cd that are not exactally in those genres. If your an open minded individual and love music in general you will like this (that is better). Trust me and take a listen. Burn the Sun Rules!
Best Tracks: Heal the Waters, Burn the Sun, Absolute Zero, Waking Hour, Noose, Feed the Fire
Every once in a while you come across a release that just can't be pinned down too much......for instance - it's too light for some metalheads, too heavy for some of the rockers, it's too popular for the elitists, too good to ever have radio touch it, and it's generally too varied in style that a good number of people will have trouble enjoying it all... all at the same time. Burn the Sun is the album I speak of in those descriptives, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
This album, 'supergroup' Ark's second release, has at least one song that just about anybody could enjoy, but never stays with the same exact sonic brew for long, continually branching off of their older ideas into new territory and causing the enthused creative sparks between the band members to jump out at you from the speakers. Man-of-a-thousand-bands Jorn Lande is the head of this lunatic fringe, screaming, shouting, crooning, and howling (and whatever else he does) the often contemplative or futuristically themed lyrics of Burn the Sun over the wall of creative sonic energy anchored by guitarist Tore Ostby and drummer John Macaluso. Musically, this nucleus of the band starts at a core of crunchy, progressive influenced hard rock/metal and extends itself into jazzy passages, spacey programming, Latin flavored motifs, and explosive, almost jam like sessions - all with bassist Randy Coven and keyboardist Mats Olausson acting as the perfecting layers of this strange, progressive cake.
With all the musical intensity and chemistry abound, the natural concern would be whether or not Ark actually delivers in the songwriting department - and I am more than happy to say the answer is YES. Burn the Sun is an excellent example of an album that truly puts each and every one of the band's ideas to good and tasteful use, and with good lyrics to top it off. Album opener Heal the Waters pulls out all the stops and gives a clear sign that this album is going to be different, displaying firey guitar riffs, extra rhythmic (not to be confused with 'groovy') drumwork, blazing jazzy organ and a passionate chorus crying out for a stop to man's madness (Heal the waters/Earth is the lamb to the slaughter). From there on almost every track is a high point, each displaying it's own individual personality and share of great parts. Torn is a short and sweet, punchy rocker featuring some of the best hooks on the album and a bizarre multilayered Jorn-making-strange-noises part bringing to mind Roger Waters on Pink Floyd's Several Small Species of Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict. Lande cops an odd, almost robotic jerky feel in Absolute Zero, highlighted by airy fretless bass and programming, and Just a Little would be poppy if it wasn't for Tore Ostby's Latin influenced shredding and the trademark odd directions the band takes in the middle section, creating another delightful hybrid creation of a song. The entire album moves along like this, often unpredictable, yet with a tasteful, somehow "right" feeling. Of course, there are weak moments here as any album has. The last three tracks, Feed the Fire, I Bleed, and a more epic scope of a sorrowful ballad in the form of Missing You, all have their moments but come off a bit more disjointed and perhaps unfinished in comparison to the previous 8 songs. Many of the songs can also unfortunately seem shorter then they are, leaving one longing for more.
Yet even within the inconsistencies, and the ideas bursting forth every moment throughout this album, the band still keeps you hooked and in tune emotionally more than some more straightforward bands would. Cases in point include again, just about every song, and even the slower songs like Waking Hour, a heartfelt lament on the effects of war, that includes ethereal keyboards, innovative drumwork and perhaps the best vocal performance on the album, truly bringing the feeling in the lyrics to life. A normally difficult to bring out line like, "Sing a song for the broken ones/And their faith will reappear/Cause there's power in the melody/Power enough for changes" is handled flawlessly, with the music to back it up. That's where the true strength of Burn the Sun lies - Ark is a real BAND, a unit, with real visions, dedicated to capturing them with the best of their ability. The refreshing potpourri of music they bring to the table is a welcome bonus, but it is this passion alone that makes music great. If that's what attracts you and you need something new to listen to, Ark's Burn the Sun should be high on your list.