Ride The Sky
9/8/2008 - Review by: Vinaya Saksena
Funny how a band's ill fortune can draw one's attention to them. Ride the Sky looked somewhat promising when I first heard the title track of this album on a compilation CD last year. However, the surprising announcement of their breakup shortly after the release of this album puzzled me, while also serving as impetus to take another look at this album sooner rather than later.
What I make of it after repeated examination, I still cannot say for sure. New Protection is full of conflicting signals, and to my ears, is a decidedly mixed bag; not blowing the listener away with dazzling multi-faceted artistry, but certainly defying easy categorization. I suppose a good reference point would be Masterplan, the melodic semi-power metal supergroup from which drummer Uli Kusch departed before embarking on this odd new project. Like Masterplan, Ride the Sky combine power metal tendencies, thoughtful lyrics and a faint but noticeable tendency toward a modern, somewhat mainstream-ey form of heaviness. This debut offering finds Kusch's latest recruits trying on many hats, all with admirable degrees of musical ambition, buttressed by a somewhat irritating reliance on what sound like generic mainstream "modern rock" ideas.
In particular, vocalist Bjorn Jansson's performances sometimes annoy me, the Beyond Twilight veteran being equipped with an adequate voice and good lyrical ideas, but having a grating tendency to go for a Disturbed-style rasp, even when it really doesn't fit the songs. In particular, the title track and heavier offerings such as "Silent War" are marred by a trendy nu-metal-like approach to both vocals and riffs, which occasionally suffer from the "chugga-chugga" cliches afflicting so many otherwise commendable acts such as Kamelot and Echoes of Eternity. The fairly generic mix and guitar tone don't help in this regard either.
Okay, enough complaints; now for the good stuff. As tired as I have become of "New Protection," the song, it is a fairly memorable if overly commercial leadoff track, which finds Jansson managing to express with depressing effectiveness the feeling of hopelessness felt by caring individuals "trapped in a world where nobody cares no more." After this bout of poetic depression, the album's mood takes a welcome skyward turn with the soaring, melodious anthem of hope aptly titled "A Smile from Heaven's Eye."
The rest of the album consists of moody, modern and sometimes prog-tinged metal of various shapes and sizes, adding up to a very general sort of mature power metal-type material, even if you get the impression that the guys would rather not be called a power metal band. Too bad the Ride the Sky saga ended so abruptly (blamed by the band on poor promotion of this album), as I feel a second, or even third album may have proven a more rewarding experience for both band and listener once the band had a chance to hone their skills and songwriting chemistry further. Unfortunately, it appears that this is not to be. I, for one, hope the band members find an outlet that works for them creatively and commercially before too long, because the lingering feeling here is one of unfulfilled potential.
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