At Vance are a German band formed in 1998 by guitarist Olaf Lenk and vocalist Oliver Hartmann. After eleven albums (two were compilations) and a number of line-up changes (only Lenk is left from the original line up) At Vance are back with their latest album 'Facing Your Enemy'.
For those who haven't heard the band I think the best way to describe them is Melodic Power/Neo-Classical Metal with a little bit of 80s Metal thrown in. Earlier albums have seen the band tackle classical pieces such as the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and 'Spring' and 'Summer' from Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons'. There is none of this on this new album but it gives you an idea of the type of band they are.
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The album opens in fine style with 'Heaven Is Calling'. It's an up-tempo power rock track with some great guitar riffs, shredding and some powerful vocals. The mix is a little odd though and I find I lose the vocals behind the guitar work a little. But it is a good introduction to the album and just how technically good the band is.
The title track is next and things start to settle down a bit. This starts as most power ballads do nice and slow, building as it goes with some great vocal harmonies and a great guitar solo.
The following three songs, 'Eyes Of A Stranger', 'Fear No Evil' and 'Live And Learn' all have Ozzy type opening riffs but then switch straight to the core of this band's Power Metal roots. Tempos across the songs may vary but they all carry the same trademark riff work form Lenk and very catchy choruses.
Things now slow right down with 'Dream On', a classic lighter waving power ballad. It's got every cliché in the book with swirling keyboards, a piano line and tight harmonies. It builds up then fades away. I couldn't help but think of Whitesnake when they did the 'Here I Go Again' remix with the keyboards.
Staying with the slower side of things, 'See Me Crying' is another mid-tempo ballad style song. It really shows the talent in the band with great singing and playing throughout.
These two songs are a nice lull in the album and a welcome break from the pounding guitars and soaring vocals. But not for long as 'Saviour' kicks off with one the catchy riffs on the albums and wakes the listener up with a jolt. Back to the Power Metal and shredding we go and what a track it is. For me this is one of the highlights of the album. The riff work is brilliant and the vocals are just perfect.
'Tokyo' is next up and takes on a very AOR sound which is a little different to the rest of the album and it works well. It's a little reminiscent of Bon Jovi when the chorus comes in but that's not a bad thing.
We now get an instrumental called 'March Of The Dwarf'. This is probably the closet track to the classical tracks on previous albums. It's another highlight of the album for me with some very strong, technical guitar work.
'Fame And Fortune' blasts out of the speakers next and brings us back to what this band do best.
Finally we get 'Things I Never Needed' which ends the album with a surprise as it's an acoustic ballad! A slightly odd end to a Power Metal album but it's a wonderful song showcasing just how versatile this band are.
All in all a solid, well written and performed album from a band that really should be bigger in the UK than they are.