At Vance - Heart of steel 3/5

Reviewed: 5-27-05


1. Prelude
2. Soldier of time
3. The brave and the strong
4. Heart of steel
5. S.O.S.
6. King of your dreams
7. Princess of the night
8. Goodbye
9. Why do you cry?
10. Don't you believe a stranger
11. Chopin/Etude No. 4

At Vance is a classically influenced band with melodies eerily similar to those of Symphony X. Unlike Symphony X, however, At Vance's songs are mostly short with basic structures. The majority of this CD is very good. From the beginning through "Goodbye", this CD is great. Unfortunately, the final 2 original tracks, "Why do you cry" and "Don't you believe A stranger", the former especially, are below par and make me want to turn the CD off 3 quarters of the way through.

Starting with the first full–length track, 'Soldier of time", this CD gets off to a great start. Lead guitarist Olaf Lenk is an exceptional player full of classical melodies. Vocalist Oliver Hartmann has a strong, deep, scratchy voice that is very effective. The rest of the band is excellent, but the drums sound way too light. Drummer Sledgehammer Lucas is a good player, but his drums need a thicker, heavier sound. As previously mentioned, the melodies have a striking resemblance to Symphony X. Tracks like "Soldier of time", "The brave and the strong", "King of your dreams", and "Goodbye" would fit right on a Symphony X CD with no questions asked. Even the power–ballad "Princess of the night" would be a perfect fit. Despite these similarities, though, the songs do not sound like rip–offs. One song that must be mentioned is a version of ABBA's "S.O.S.". While I would have preferred this to be a little heavier to further draw a distinction from the ABBA version, At Vance clearly puts its mark on this excellent version with a heavier, more raw sound than the original.

This is an excellent CD through "Goodbye". It sounds a lot like a less progressive, more accessible, simpler version of Symphony X. The band is excellent and the songwriting is strong. To take the next step to a great CD, however, At Vance needs high quality songwriting from start to finish.




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