Ark - Burn the Sun

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Ark - Burn the Sun

Postby KAIPA » Thu Jan 12, 2006 9:24 pm

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Tracklist:
Heal The Waters 6:37
Torn 3:51
Burn The Sun 4:34
Resurrection 5:31
Absolute Zero 6:05
Just A Little 4:36
Waking Hour 4:15
Noose 5:03
Feed The Fire 3:56
I Bleed 4:03
Missing You 9:04

Every once in a long while, a record comes out that just knocks you on your ass from the first notes and won't let you up 'til you're battered, bruised and exhausted by the relentless, meticulous assault infiltrating and annihilating your senses. It has, indeed, been some time since I had an ass-kicking like the one so generously administered by ARK's sophomore effort, Burn The Sun.

On this follow-up to their eponymous 1999 debut, guitarist Tore Ostby (Conception), drummer John Macaluso (TNT, Yngwie) and lead vocalist par excellence Jorn Lande (The Snakes, Millennium) have added the big-gun talents of Randy Coven (Steve Vai, Steve Morse) on bass and longtime Yngwie Malmsteen keyboardist Mats Olausson to their already formidable attack. The result is an absolutely amazing display of ensemble musicianship, vocal virtuosity and most importantly, songcraft - the all-too-often missing link for an ever-growing number of prog-metal bands the world over. ARK has achieved what so many others have failed to do. While the glut of recent prog-metal releases features many schooled musical technicians, most of the songs lack the emotional depth required to connect with a listener and remain memorable. To the contrary, Burn The Sun is the perfect marriage of shred abandon and catchy, meaningful songs.

Produced by Tommy Newton (best known for his work with Helloween), the disc opens with Macaluso firing a flurry of warning shots before the rest of the band joins the fray for "Heal the Waters." Lande immediately rips into the lyrics with a gruff, melodic power that puts him in a class with Dio, Dickinson and Tony Martin. He seems to have shed his penchant for simply aping David Coverdale and found a style of his own that occasionally tips a hat to the rock vocal elite. As heavy as this tune is, practically every line that's sung is a killer hook, but good luck trying to sing along without half killing yourself in the process! Lyrically, this song introduces an optimistic, pre-apocalyptic theme that is brave and inspiring without becoming cliché. This theme is elaborated on throughout the record on songs such as the completely original "Torn." Anyone who thinks invention in rock music is extinct is cordially invited to fire this monster up at extreme volume! The chorus to this track will stick in your head hours after you finally manage to turn off your CD player. (Ya gotta sleep sooner or later!). Macaluso and Coven make a perfect pair as they simultaneously anchor the song while spewing obscene flurries of odd-meter fills. That is the genius of this record; the band unleashes the shred at precisely the right times, so as not to ruin the melodies and song structure. Ostby, in particular, shows a very tasteful restraint throughout the album, making it all the more gratifying when he does unload.

The title track is next and is more of a straightforward metal tune. Lande sings the verses in a low-register snarl that belies (or perhaps demonstrates) the extent of his range. By the song's end, he is cutting loose with the kind of controlled abandon so many singers lack the talent to employ. "Resurrection" exemplifies the direct connection between having a great singer and touching the listener on an emotional level. This is a giant nose thumbing to the endless array of One-Note Charlies sailing today's mainstream! Halfway through this heaviest of all love songs, the tempo abruptly changes, leading to an awesome bit of soloing from Ostby before veering back to the original melody and finishing up with an off-the-rails barrage that is the only piece of true excess on the record.

Another unique melody graces "Absolute Zero," with Lande adopting an ethereal tone not unlike Physical Graffiti-era Robert Plant at times. Ostby's rhythm playing is powerful and when combined with the brutal Maiden-on-steroids bass/drum gallop, is truly impressive. (Don't let the band references throw you, though - this is some of the most original heavy rock I've heard in eons).

"Just a Little" features some breathtaking Spanish guitar with bass and drum syncopation reminiscent of Al DiMeola in his speed-picking prime, as well as some cool Hammond organ from Olausson. With its Latin feel and hyper-catchy hooks, I could see this being a hit if radio wasn't controlled by castrated wussies searching dusk 'til dawn for the next big, disposable thing. Then again, given the general public's severe allergy to anything that rocks, it would probably fill emergency rooms around the globe with hive-ridden, guitar-phobic candyasses.

A heartfelt plea to the screwed-up world at large is the basis of "Waking Hour," a piece of pure power metal excellence with yet another jaw-dropping performance from Jorn Lande: "Sing a song for the broken ones and our faith will reappear/ 'Cause there's power in the melody, power enough for changes/ If God is here, His tears are falling now/ Pouring from the ceiling of the sky …It's time to awaken - it's Waking Hour/ A new day is breaking - the future's now/ It's here and then it's gone…Wake up!" If this little chunk of melodic mayhem doesn't wake your ass up, you're already dead, my friend!

The band refuses to let up as they tear into "Noose," a progressive hurricane that showcases the band's affinity for complex time signatures and runaway train rhythmic excursions. Macaluso and Coven are all over it and are soon joined by Ostby and Olausson for a dazzling instrumental break that rivals the lofty Dream Theater for sheer musical finesse.

"Feed The Fire" begins as an uptempo rocker sounding briefly like The Police meet Rush (No, really…it's very cool!), then takes a turn toward heartbreak and longing that anyone who has ever lost in love can certainly relate to. When Lande sobs, "It's love that feeds the fire/ In for desire, I dive endlessly/ And I can't stop believing someday she'll be mine," it is virtually impossible not to feel his anguish. This is the type of song that kind of sucker punches your heart, leaving you with visions of the one that got away while you masochistically hit the "back" button to feel the glorious hurt one more time…but perhaps I've said too much.

The Coverdale influence returns in "Bleed," a rocker in a classic vein that allows Ostby to show his stuff on guitar. No new ground broken here, just a solid heavy rock song with a cool Middle Eastern melody line.

The next track is an anomaly in the form of a nine-minute progressive power-ballad! "Missing You" may be the quickest nine minutes in the history of music as not a second is wasted or excessive. Olausson embellishes this song with some beautiful, orchestral keyboards as the music comes to a slow boil, showcasing the band's ability to create brilliantly cinematic arrangements that reach into the deep places, like all great music. At one point, it becomes almost like an Italian opera with Lande just dumping his guts out so honestly, it's astonishing!

Already causing a major buzz throughout Europe and Japan, this CD should be hitting US shelves soon, so do your shred-loving self a favor and buy it and rejoice, for Rock has a mighty new herald! While it may be a bit early to start spouting Record of the Year superlatives, let me just say that I can't wait to hear the disc that outdoes this near-perfect modern masterpiece! In a word: unfuckingreal!
A band is nothing without a great vocalist.
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