Andre Anderson
Black On Black

Track Listing
1. Coming Home
2. Tell Me Why
3. Arena
4. Desperate Times
5. Life
6. Black on Black
7. Eclipse
8. Sail Away
9. Piece of My Heart

Frontiers 2002

andreandrsen_black.jpg (25517 bytes)

 

More Releases by Andre Anderson:
(solo) - Changing Skin (1998-99)
Royal Hunt - Paradox (1997)
Royal Hunt - Fear (1999)
Related Releases (Ian Parry)
Ian Parry - Thru the Looking Glass (1995)
Elegy - Forbidden Fruit (2000)
Consortium Project II (2001)

 

Royal Hunt with Ian Parry... that's what we've got here. And what exactly is 'here', why its none other than Andre Anderson's second solo attempt. The first, 1999's "Changing Skin" was pretty solid indeed, a couple of tracks made it worth the price of admission such as the slow burning ballad "1000 Miles Away" and the slamming drive of "Burning Bridges". But a few others also kept it from achieving the kind of status Royal Hunt has enjoyed since the very beginning. Vocalist Kenny Lubcke was a breath of fresh air, how many people had ever really heard the guy before he was coaxed to do vocals on this disc? Now he's gone, and will probably make good fodder for "Where are they now?" discussions in the deep, deep underground before too long. He did perform backup vocals on Royal Hunt's "The Mission", which makes it rather odd that he doesn't appear on "Black on Black". Where did he come from though? For those that must know however, he was previously spotted way back in 1991 with Zoser Mez, a one off project by ex Mercyful Fate guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner that resulted in only a single album, "Vizier of Wasteland". But that's neither here nor there since he's been replaced by...

...Ian Parry! This makes one apprehensive right off the bat. The name "Ian Parry" has slowly turned from great applause to disappointment in the span of not quite a decade. Starting off great with appearances on Misha Calvin's "Evolution", a stint in Vengeance and a snappy solo career, Parry has been wasting away in Elegy for the past five years. He caused the band to mutate from this delightful high pitched prog act to a darker, more sinister creature that murks around in boring rhythms and instrumental tangents all obscured by this murky 'progressive' haze. A far cry from the ear shatteringly cheerful earlier incarnation of the band that ventured into the higher sound spectrum with unabashed glee. Its a treat to hear Ian wailing away with more of a melodic edge as was seen in his solo material and works with Misha Calvin and Arjen Lucassen's various rock operas. His "Thru the Looking Glass" cd still gives me chills, that's one creepy melodic rock disc - even if its not supposed to be!

And what does "Black on Black" sound like? This is pretty much another stab at what Andre's homebase, Royal Hunt, has been doing all long. Catchy hooks caught up in prog pomp aire, pumped along by Anderson's instantly recognizable keyboard doodlings. Yes, he is superb at what he does, and heads definitely turn when he begins tickling the ivories. The DC Cooper duo "Moving Target" and "Paradox" and John West's belted "Fear" and their latest full length, "The Mission" have all benefited from the keyboardist's signature style. The main drawback of the songs is repetitveness. The choruses are hammered into the head ad nauseam until you either want to scream or pull your hair out at times. The rest of the way is smooth sailing with a glittering of highlights adding a sparkling contrast of colour.


01.] "Coming Home"
The opener is a straight forward and blistering rocker a'la Royal Hunt. No frills or chills, and that chorus suffers on the umpteenth run through. Why they decided to beat it to death is beyond me. Still cool though, and worth a listen. A forgettable track that serves as a high energy opener. It just doesn't have the power to last.

02.] "Tell Me Why"
Things pick up here thankfully. The gun is set to stun and the band aims high with the warped guitar effects hitting a sensitive note and striking the bullseye. Gimmicky, yes, but if it works why quibble over details? The backup vocals are especially strong, and very different from the lead, slamming against Parry with no remorse. The guitar solo is a brief delight, latch onto it while you can, for its gone far too soon!

03.] "Arena"
The first instrumental that sees the keyboardist exercising his skills. The opening reminds me quite alot of early Yngwie Malmsteen, a mix between the "Rising Force" solo and "Trilogy". Not bad at all.

04.] "Desperate Times"
Complex arrangements abound on this little wandering hard as nails proggy track. The atmosphere is eerie and unsettling, and it rocks hard. I love all the twists and turns thrown into the music, the sweeping effects, powerful backing vocals, and ghostly whispering acoustic. It has that epic feel of a Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath track as well. Surprisingly, Ian didn't blow a lung out performing this puppy. Congrats!

05.] "Life"
Back to the Royal Hunt comparisions. "Life" is a melody packed tune that would have fit comfortably on "Fear". The first thing that comes to mind is "Paradox", just in structure and styling, but is nowhere near the caliber of that masterpiece, so "Fear" is the next best match. Lots of cool moments here, such as the raw guitar that slams the soul back into the confines of the chorus box and the little synthesizer runs that race up the stairway and slide back down again.

06.] "Black on Black"
The title track is the most aggressive ditty of the bunch. The rhythm section slays and kills, lumbering the pathways of darkness with caution. Parry's voice adds to the drama, taking a theatrical turn for the better. Despite the backbone of too-heavy steel, this one ignites in the verses and slacks some in the chorus.

07.] "Eclipse"
If you thought the first instrumental was good, then you haven't heard anything yet. This one is simply magnificent, and overall much better than the overly indulgent "Arena". A beautiful mix of instruments captures the imagination with lovely ethereal piano and rain effects. One can vividly visualize the opaque shadow of twilight swallowing the milky moon whole and then sliding off the edge of the atmosphere into oblivion.

08.] "Sail Away"
Jarring the senses back into the metal realm, this one warms the heart and gets the blood flowing again after "Eclipse" froze us solid with its enrapturing beauty. A rattle of thunder and Parry's voice probing the demonic register reminds the forgetful that this is no pansy prog rock album, this is sheer metal, baby. The chorus is sleek and simple, flowing right along with the urgent feel of the verses.

09.] "Piece of My Heart"
Different, yet still a whisper of Royal Hunt at its heart, this track casually throws around the hammond organ with wild abandon, lending a Deep Purple-ish edge and simmers us down with a softer feel, striking out into mid tempo territory. The chorus is flatter than the mid western plains and suffers from the repetition curse but the verses are hotter than the Sahara sun. It balances off in the end, and some of that 70ish jamming saves it from mediocrity.

 

And with all that praise, one would think "Black on Black" is the bee's knees, and although admittedly more fun than being stung by a sworm of the stingy insects... it decieves by not sliding down quite as easily as imagined. The music never gels as effortlessly as Royal Hunt, which are easily digestable by even the most resisting, and certain songs are carried on way past their expiration date. One can only stand being bashed over the head by the same frickin' chorus repeatedly, eventually you become beyond disgusted. Ian Parry can be pinpointed as a huge chunk of the problem. His voice, while excellent in short doses, is too monotone for extended listening sessions. Whether its just the signature tone of his voice or the fact he stays in the same flat range for the majority of...well...any of the discs he performs on, it gets tiresome about halfway through. They tried to take some preventive steps to avoid this issue by shoving a boat load of nifty effects across the musical tapestry, changing up his sound by throwing some sections his way that require throatier areas, and including the very different sounding backup vocalists, but Ian still grates reguardless. He just can't help it. And then there's the inevitable comparision between Andre's solo albums and fellow Hunt member Steen Morgensen's Cornerstone project with the ever lovable Doogie White. For those that wonder in a Celebrity Deathmatch sort of way, who comes out on top in the end, it would have to be Cornerstone. Anderson's solo albums are fun Royal Hunt knockoffs, Cornerstone is another world entirely. And that's 'that'.

Ratings and Wrap Up:
7.0
Hot Spots: "Eclipse", "Desperate Times", "Life"
Bottom Line: Wondered what a slightly watered down Royal Hunt would sound like with Ian Parry on vox?  Then here ya go...


Review by Alanna Evans -



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