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This album I highly inconsistent especially for Axel. ARP’s age old formula of keeping things simple and straight forward have cost them dearly in this album. ARP’s earlier albums worked due to excellent songwriting and arrangements which stayed interesting no matter how long you dragged them and highly catchy choruses. The fact that this album lacks the power in the choruses doesn’t help it. Many of the songs don’t sound epic and atmospheric the way they used to sound during Oceans Of Time. They are tolerable during the fast parts, but when the songs get slow, or even mid-paced, the album is in trouble.
Incredible individual performances were never found on an ARP album, and this one is no exception. The performances are well-to-do by everyone; not too excess but not sloppy either. The guitar work is standard for Axel, melodic and grounded, yet well composed. The vocals sound the same, Bon Jovish, with a little more range. The drum work is not hyper-technical power metal work, but just provides the background necessary for percussion. The production is once again good.
We start the album by a random intro which is easily omitted. The opener Fly To The Moon kicks off with a standard ARP riff. It has excellent pace and a superb chorus and I might not hesitate even a bit in claiming this to be the best song in the album. The main riff is damn catchy and is used effectively. The lead work is also excellent. The song contains all the ingredients of a perfect ARP song. Rock The Nations takes the pace down from the opener several notches. It’s not that great, because it feels too random, and the chorus though being catchy, isn’t quite inspiring. Actually the song reminds me of Bon Jovi with better guitar work. Valley Of Sin is much better. It starts softly and builds up with a mid-paced and generic (yet quite effective) riff. The chorus is again good. The problem with it is that it feels overlong and does not contain enough caliber to keep it interesting for seven minutes. Living A Lie brings the pace back and is another highlight, the chorus being excellent. No Chance To Live is the ballad from the album, and this one is boring, mediocre and cheesy. It fails to hold our attention and lacks imaginations of composition. Where are the great ARP ballads that they used to write, Oceans Of Time, need I say more. ARP title tracks are always great and so is Mystica. It opens as expected with an atmospheric guitar passage and then breaks into a mid-paced trot. This is the only song which has the mystical atmosphere of their earlier albums. The chorus is again brilliant. Over eight minutes in length it comes together as an excellent epic. Haunted Castle Serenade is an instrumental which again sounds too random. Thankfully it is short and is just OK. Losing The Game is fast but mediocre. The chorus lacks depth. The closer The Curse Of The Damned is nearly ten minutes long and tries to be epic and mystic like the title track, but fails miserably. It is overlong and the chorus is just dull. It picks up in the middle for the solo, the only killer part in it. The rest of the song is mid-paced and boring.
The major problem of the album is that ARP sounded too random here and the sound being extremely simple didn’t help the album at all. The inconsistent nature of the album was another hole in its armor. When the album gets it right, it does sound great and reminds of their earlier glory and their construction capabilities. The album lacked the epic atmosphere which is also one of the reasons many of the songs sounding boring. The choruses were poor. Overall this album is average and is recommended only as a one-time-listen. But don’t expect an Ocean Of Time as this one is miles from it.