A credible band, but At Vance have never been high on my list when it comes to melodic power metal. Amongst others, I preferred their compatriots Gamma Ray, Helloween and Edguy to be perfectly honest. If I were pushed to put my finger on the reason for this, I’d say that At Vance were a little too ‘bland’ for me; whereas the aforementioned bands can be flamboyant, occasionally self-mocking and over-the-top at times, At Vance seemed to lack the same persona. Additionally, unlike their compatriots, there was also a lack of what I’d call proper catchy anthems on their albums, instead focussing on a more neo-classical approach. But, nevertheless, having given them a wide berth in recent years, I was intrigued to hear what the Germans were up to on their ninth release, “Facing Your Enemy”. I’m glad I was curious because I have been rewarded with a very pleasant listening experience. Maybe not an Earth-shattering experience, but definitely enjoyable.
“Facing Your Enemy” starts well with the galloping “Heaven Is Calling” and the more mid-tempo title track with a much more immediate chorus. This is the first time that I have heard the band’s third vocalist, Rick Altzi and he immediately calls to mind a slightly less flamboyant Jorn Lande in his tone and approach. Nevertheless, his performance is more than satisfactory, covering all the bases with his gravelly, yet powerful range.
With no fewer than five different bassists and three drummers over At Vance’s fourteen-year history, it is clearly not only the vocal slot that has caused problems. Indeed, only founding member and guitarist Oliver Hartmann remains a constant. This inconsistency may account, in part, for the failure by At Vance to hit the upper echelons of the genre. Others reasons may include a lack of stand-out barnstorming tracks and, bizarrely, with nine albums in fourteen years, too much material too quickly. Whatever the reasons though, “Facing Your Enemy” attempts to redress the balance.
It is undeniable that the album displays a certain maturity and polish. Tracks like “Fear No Evil” offers more of a melodic hard rock approach, whilst “Live & Learn” ups the pace nicely with some faster riffing before slowing down in the verses allowing the rhythm section to take centre stage. However, it’s the slower, more ballad-like tracks “Don’t Dream” and “See Me Crying” that steal the show for me. Naturally slower and more clichéd as ballads can be, they nevertheless work thanks to some great songwriting and sumptuous melodies that will stick in your mind like superglue. All-in-all, “Facing Your Enemy” is a very decent slab of power metal with melodic rock overtones and, whilst it may not set your world well and truly alight, it is very unlikely to disappoint.