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New Edguy, new Twilightning, new Heavenly, it's all terrible. The only band that does it well is Masterplan, and even they ditched most of the rock stuff with their latest album.
This is one of ex-Masterplan/ex-Helloween drummer Uli Kusch's numerous excursions into the land of "Hey, I have a side project called...OH FUCK I JUST GOT FIRED, I GUESS THIS IS MY MAIN BAND NOW." It's really unadventurous. Really really unadventurous. Put New Protection by Ride the Sky next to a potted plant and the potted plant looks daring and bold and genre-defying.
Before getting into the songs, I must totally disagree with Hells about the production. The vocals and keyboards sound great, but the rhythm guitar tone is the weakest I've ever heard. The bass drums are too loud (at times they overpower the snare drum), and the whole thing sounds fluffy and insubstantial.
The song writing..hell if I know. It's competently put together. There are hooks in the right places. Everything is nice and neat and compact. But that's the whole problem. New Protection is too safe. By the end of it I was screaming "come on, fuck with my mind a little! Play an 11 minute guitar solo, just because you can! You're a metal band, you're not supposed to play by the rules!" But that's not the case. It's just nice, forgettable, radio-friendly power metal, from beginning to end.
"Corroded Dreams" and "Far Beyond the Stars" are very catchy, and my personal favorite songs from the album. "Prince of Darkness" is fun, but completely undermined by the ridiculously weak guitar tone. Seriously, did this guy throw a stack of blankets over his guitar amp or something? Tracks like "Break the Chain" and "Heaven Only Knows" are just exercises in uninspiration. "The End of Days" has some good vocal work (it's the closest to a ballad on here), but at barely four minutes it feels overlong. Don't bother getting the bonus edition, the two bonus tracks are bullshit.
So the band broke up, and that's the end of Ride the Sky. They came, they went, and now they've found their final resting place on the Metal Archives. As you can see, my enthusiasm for the band is just flowing off the page here, but whatever. New Protection does have some good points. But it's a long way from being a good album.
Oh yeah, and the environmentally sensitive lyrics are a hoot. "We can't ignore / the changes in the weather!" Shut up, you annoying phallus smuggler.
If you're ever feeling down about yourself, thinking you're not good enough, you can at least feel reassured in the fact that at least you are not one of the people from Ride the Sky, and at least you didn't have a hand in making this abomination. I'm going to keep this review pretty short, because if the band didn't want to take their time writing better music, why should I even bother going into depth on why this is so bad? But enough about that, let's dig into this stinker:
Ride the Sky are barely even a Metal band at all, only really qualified on the virtue of the fact that one of their members was in Helloween and helped create The Dark Ride...oh, and they have a few electric guitar solos and whiddly synths in there, sometimes. The album title sounds like a condom advertisement, and the cover artwork pretty much makes no sense at all. Every song here pretty much sounds the same, and while I'll give this points for the title track being listenable and catchy, the band never really kicks it up a notch. Every song has the same poppy, distorted fuzz in the background, and a faceless layered chorus with its crosshairs dead set on radio airplay, and some distorted lumps that are almost riffs. The problem isn't the fact that this is poppy, but the fact that this is small. Metal is supposed to sound larger than life and bold, no matter what subgenre you're looking at. Ride the Sky are insignificant and petty, making soulless pandering into an art form every time they trudge through another wimpy chorus. And this album just keeps going and going, too! It's absolutely agonizing, especially with the band's dreadful attachment to that ever-popular "depressive" lyrical mind-set. Oh, yes, you can tell these guys think they are dark, tormented and all around misanthropic, as they are far too removed from reality to ever include something as silly as actual emotion or feeling in their music. No, that would be downright crazy! Ride the Sky are hardened to the ways of life in all its blackened, frayed anguish, and they intend to express this through their music with the most stoic of facial expressions and the blackest of Hot Topic clothing - with the tags not removed, of course. How will we ever get out of this one?
But music as an art form has won again, as Ride the Sky disbanded last year because they didn't sell enough records, so I don't see a point in mincing words anymore. New Protection fucking sucks, a degenerate piece of pomped up plastic garbage that amounts to little more than a pimple on a pimple on a pimple on the ass of the Power Metal scene. If you think this is any good, you should be ashamed of yourself. As for me, I'm done with this.
I bought this album when it first came out with no knowledge about it all. I saw it in the record store under the metal section and thought the cover looked interesting and so I bought it. From the first listen I was very pleased with it, it's some interesting symphonic power metal, which instead of displaying a crazy over-the-top feel like typical power metal, prefers a more down to earth and accesible sound.
The only really big problem with the album is that the first four songs are better than all the rest by far. These four songs that open the album are some of the finest power metal that I've ever had the pleasure to hear and it really makes you think that this album just might be one of the greatest metal albums of all time. After you finish the album for the first time though, you realize this isn't the case. Even still, it's a fine disc. None of the songs are particuarly bad, and as I said the first four songs ("New Protection", "A Smile From Heaven's Eye", "Silent War", "The Prince Of Darkness") are absoulutely fabulous.
The band is indeed a power metal band, but there are lots of other influences thrown in as well including symphonic metal, hard rock, and even thrash metal on "The Prince Of Darkness." So the band keeps it's sound from getting too generic but at the same time manages to sound fresh and exciting at all. True, the band isn't fresh or exciting, but they're good, and they wrote some really great songs for this album.
It's not an album I listen to often but I pop it in every once in a while and every time I enjoy it. So, don't rush out and buy this and expect the next Keeper Of The Seven Keys, but if you see it cheap somewhere then pick it up, it's worth it just for those for songs alone, and the rest is all just bonus material in my mind.
Musical dead ends are a dime a dozen in the power metal genre, particularly considering how saturated it has become with bands mixing more and more Arena Oriented Rock into the style. When you combine this with the tendency of major record labels to either barely support or even sit on the work of certain bands while using the money spent on the album’s production as a tax write off, new acts calling it quits before they’ve even gotten started is not terribly surprising. In some ways it’s sad because a lot of good bands with future potential end up as footnotes in the heavy metal encyclopedia, and this brief side-project stint by former Masterplan drummer Uli Kusch definitely had some.
No matter how good the product put forward by “Ride the Sky”, their fate was sealed the very minute they decided to put forward an album like this at this particular time. Not only is the entire sound of this band almost completely indistinguishable from that of Masterplan and remarkably similar to about 9 or 10 other bands with a longer history and an established following, but they chose an underlying message that has been done to death by everyone from Gamma Ray to Green Day. Most people who are predisposed to liking AOR are tired of being preached to about how screwed up the world has become, and with very few exceptions this album dwells on this with no regard whatsoever for subtlety.
While the band is unapologetically generic in nature, and almost perfectly mimics much of the formula found on Masterplan’s debut and “Aeronautics”, the execution is nothing short of flawless. This is likely the greatest produced power metal album put out at this point, as everything melds together into a thudding, chunky as hell whole that makes the Black Album sound like Kill em’ All. The guitar sound is down-tuned, but avoids the sludgy mess that often results when applied to the speed metal format. Bjørn’s vocal performance is a near perfect imitation of Jørn Lande, save perhaps a smaller and even more gravely high range, and Benny’s guitar solos are extremely brief and tastefully crafted to be both memorable and enjoyable.
The only area where the band really separates itself from Roland Grapow’s longer established outfit is that they’ve narrowed a pre-existing formula to one or two elements. There are absolutely no ballads or acoustic songs on here, let alone anything that is relatively complex structurally, only melodic speed metal or heavy, rock oriented metal with traces of groove and traditional doom influences. The surrounding atmospheric ambiences mostly tend towards anthem-like synthesized string or brass fanfare accompaniment, with lead synth work occasionally popping in that paraphrases both John Lord and Jens Johanssen. Perhaps another problem that held this band back was deciding to separate itself from others by eliminating things from the formula rather than adding to it.
Individually these songs stand quite strong, but when this album is taken as a whole there is a sense of a straight line sound rather than the crests and troughs that typify a classic album. The only two points where the album really picks up and rises above the stylistic flatness are on “Prince of Darkness” and “Far Beyond the Stars”, which also happen to be the only two points where the band wanders a little bit away from the Masterplan model. The former has some pretty solid neo-tonal/dissonant keyboard ideas meshed together with some solid chunky speed metal riff work. The latter is where the band actually lives up to their name and turns up the afterburners on the tempo, while Bjørn is actually singing about something aside from preachy political idealism. Naturally there aren’t any bad songs to speak of, everything is basically catchy and good, but not terribly adventurous. Shorter melodic rockers like “Endless” and “Corroded Dreams” are also quite solid, despite being extremely formulaic.
Unless you have some odd religious fixation with Jørn Lande and can’t accept a band sounding like this without him in the lead, if you’re a fan of Masterplan you’ll like this. It’s as about as competent and faithful of a direct emulation of a band as you can get, so people with extra money after buying all three albums by the original are encouraged to pick this up. The only real downside to this is that it’s extremely safe, which might ultimately be the real reason why Uli and the two Janssons decided to go back to other projects and put this one to rest. If anything, the fate of this band proves the point that Arena Oriented Rock has little purpose in this world if it can’t get the arenas filled.
Ever have CD's, where you listen to them, the first song sucks, so you skip it, and realize the next song sucks as well, so you skip that too, and you're on the fifth song, you get frustrated, and throw it out the window? That happened with this.
I plopped it in, expecting a power metal assault on the ears. I promptly threw it out my window and forgot the band existed until I found the album on my hard drive, taking up space. I decided to listen to it again, and review it.
This shares the same flaws that seem to perpetuate the ex-helloween drummer's post-helloween project, Masterplan. It's got the same lack of variety that makes listening to it a chore, it's got the same lack of balls, and it has the same wishy washy radio sound that I've grown to despise. I don't know why honorable and upstanding power metal juggernauts seem to be infatuated with this putrid radio rock sound, but it's scaring me about the future of metal. It didn't work with "The Scarecrow" (Avantasia), it didn't work with Aeronautics (masterplan), and it most certainly doesn't work here.
I really feel like I'm writing the same review over and over again, bashing the mundane, monotonous drivel these bands are putting out, and by the same token, when I listen to them, it feels like I'm listening to the same CD over and over again. There's no creativity, no spark, no inspiration to be found here; just old ideas rehashed in a complacent, non-offensive, radio friendly voice. While I do have to give points (I guess) for the fact that while it may be pure shit, at leasts it's performed competently enough. But then again, knowing the extent of studio wizardry, who knows how much of that slick, polished sound is the musicians and how much of it is the studio smoke and mirrors?
Uli Kusch has been nothing if not productive since his departure from Helloween 5 years ago. As well as forming, recording 2 CDs with, and then ultimately departing from Masterplan, he has also started the female fronted Beautiful Sin and re-joined the reactivated Mekong Delta. The latest project to feature the songwriting drummer is Ride the Sky, another supergroup-type project featuring several veterans of the Swedish power metal scene. Specifically, the group is rounded out by vocalist Bjorn Jansson, guitarist Benny Jansson, keyboard player Kasper Dalqvist and bass player Mattias Garnas.
Kusch is due credit for the amount of work that he's been putting in over the last few years, but it has to be said that all the projects he has been involved in as a primary writer have had a certain familiar sound to them, and Ride the Sky are no exception to this, playing a keyboard-heavy, AOR-influenced brand of power metal. While there is a progressive metal aspect to their sound that is not present in either Beautiful Sin or Masterplan, there is no mistaking the similarity between the projects, particularly reinforced by the fact that Jansson has a crooning style very similar to that of former Masterplan singer Jorn Lande.
The best songs on the CD are uplifting and showcase some brilliant musicianship, but there are also those that simply chug along at mid-pace, ending in more or less the exact same place that they begun, relying on some overbearing keyboard playing from Dalqvist to bridge the gaps between the sugary choruses.
"The prince of darkness" is a definite highlight on the CD, a speedy song with some of the most overt progressive metal elements that are quite reminiscent of Circus Maximus. On the other hand, the opening title track is pretty redundant, offering very little that hasn't been heard several times before – quite reminiscent, in fact, of 'Lost and gone' from the Materplan CD 'MK II'. This balance (or imbalance) continues throughout the CD, though thankfully with more hits - like the excellent uptempo number "Far beyond the stars" – than misses.
The end result is a rather divided combination of AOR-influenced power and progressive metal that for the most part make for entertaining, if not exactly amazing listening. While it is debatable if the metal world really needed another CD in this vein given its similarity to previous projects, there is definitely a market for it – those who like the sound of a more progressive Masterplan are definitely going to love it, but anyone hoping that Uli Kusch was going to spread his wings a little with his latest venture are going to be a little disappointed.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)