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More fodder for the AOR metal junkies. - 77%

hells_unicorn, November 29th, 2008

For anyone who was upset that Ride The Sky broke up after releasing only one album, fear not, for they didn’t actually break up. It was all just a ruse so that the band could move their operation to Spain and get rid of their keyboardist. The sophomore effort that you were looking for anxiously in between the real long wait of 7 or 8 months since the last Masterplan album is finally here, and the band has actually opted to do something slightly more rock than metal, although still well within the bounds established on the AOR friendly debut “New Protection”. They even paid us the courtesy of bringing in some outside talent to augment the sound a little and recorded it in Sweden.

Naturally I was being facetious in that intro, as this is actually a group of Spaniards who have a sound pretty close to the previously mentioned band, but who are definitely a different metaphysical entity. Their sophomore release “Fly To The Sun” lacks all of the keyboard gimmicks of the Swedish outfit in question, and the subjects of the songs are a little less flowery, and the riff work has a little bit of a doom element that occasionally emulates early 90s Black Sabbath. Anyone who wonders what I’m talking about when listening to the more power metal oriented songs on here can refer to “Ring Of Fire” or “No Matter What” to get a good idea of where I’m coming from, particularly the former with that muddy, low end principle riff that definitely flirts with Candlemass territory.

But aside from the occasional individual quirk that most bands in a given genre will exhibit, this is well within the realm of cookie cutter metal, albeit reasonably entertaining in its entirety. Rick Altzi has one of those husky yet jagged baritone ranges that come with a singer sounding fairly similar to Jorn Lande. He doesn’t spend as much time in the upper reaches of the Axel Rose scream range, but his big and full voice definitely reeks of a hard rock oriented take on singing. He tends to do his best work on songs like “Shadows In The Rain” and “Seasons In The Sand” which are more ballad-like and have extended acoustic passages, but he pulls his share throughout and offers an emotional performance despite his range limitations.

The songwriting on here is just slightly less predictable than your average AOR oriented metal outfit, but mostly this is formulaic stuff with few surprises. The only thing that really wows the ears is how much the high end production compensates for the lack of variety in the songwriting and how relatively basic guitar riffs get a huge boost from the processing of the entire arrangement. Songs like the title track and “Bad Dreams” are plenty catchy, but wear out after repeated listens. Aside from the slightly doom oriented numbers, the only thing on here that really has a good deal of staying power after a couple listens is the galloping rocker “Double Cross”, which also highlights Altzi’s best vocal performance. It has the same affect that some of the faster songs on Masterplan’s debut did, but with a few less ideas thrown in and basically no keyboards to speak of.

If you really enjoyed Masterplan’s first two albums and Ride The Sky, this will likely appeal to you. I wouldn’t say that this is essential listening for someone who is on a steady diet of melodic metal when you have bands like Mystic Prophecy, Messiah’s Kiss and Hammerfall putting out stuff on a regular basis, let alone acts from the 80s like Manilla Road and Candlemass still active. It’s pretty good for what it is, but the problem is that there is a lot of what it is out there.