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One nude angel deserves another. - 80%

hells_unicorn, June 20th, 2013

The post-Leven era of At Vance has been marked by a continual cover art theme, and with it a less speedy take on the 80s revivalism that has been apparent since the band's inception. The quality has naturally taken a downturn in light of this, as a once varied formula that included Helloween inspired glory alongside the typical mid-tempo groove machine, as well as a more virtuosic guitar display and a number of brilliant arrangements of classical works by the likes of Vivaldi and Bach. Essentially, since 2007 Olaf Lenk has opted to stop competing with Malmsteen and Petrossi for who could win the Neo-classical crowd and has jumped on board with the more rock oriented craze spearheaded by Masterplan, a fitting eventuality one could argue given that Rick Altzi has been tapped as Jorn Lande's replacement in said band.

Of the 3 latest albums under the At Vance name, "Facing Your Enemy" is arguably the most formulaic and stylized, following the AOR format to the point of shedding the power metal style and having a bit more in common with Whitesnake and Ratt than previously. Granted, while the rhythm section and riff attack are far more simplified, they are consistently heavier than said 80s icons and does bring to mind the laid back yet hard-hitting character of Masterplan's "Aeronautics". There are semblances of a slightly faster formula at work on songs like "Heaven Is Calling" and "Eyes Of A Stranger" that are reminiscent of faster songs heard out of Dio or Astral Doors, but barring perhaps the brief instrumental "March Of The Dwarf", nothing on here can qualify as speed metal per say.

The majority of this album is an exercise in slow paced, melodic fanfare that conjures up some occasional inklings of "Chained" and "The Evil In You", particularly the title songs of said albums. The two most auspicious and memorable of these being the lead off single "Tokyo", which listens like it a heavier variation on the sort of keyboard oriented music that graced the soundtrack of a number of iconic 80s movies, and the slow trudging title song "Facing Your Enemy", taking after the title songs of the two Leven era albums with an even smoother melodic contour. Altzi's vocals are loud, gritty and bombastic, perfectly matching the sort of David Coverdale sound that has made a comeback lately. Much of the album tends to follow the lead of these two songs, save the 2 token ballads "Don't Dream" (heavy on the keyboards and light on metallic edge) and "Things I Never Needed" which might lead to Lenk getting slapped with another lawsuit, this time by Boston songwriter Tom Schultz for its heavy similarity to said band's 80s AOR ballad hit "Amanda".

If one discounts the ballads and sticks to the rest of this album, this is a decent listen, though not quite up to snuff with the glorious "Only Human" or the mythic "Dragonchaser". Anyone who needs their Masterplan fix and need more than the new upcoming album featuring the same vocalist, "Facing Your Enemy" will definitely take the edge off. Olaf Lenk hasn't jumped the shark as of yet, but hopefully he'll put a little more flash into the next At Vance offering so as to remind his steadfast following of how they first fell in love with their sound, the writer of this review being among them.