At Vance - Only Human

Year of Release: 2002
Label: AFM Records
Catalog Number: AFM CD 056-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:55:00

This is definitely not the At Vance that I remember from Heart Of Steel, although it still features the same line-up, which appears to have given the band a chance to develop a sound suited, but not owned, by them. At Vance's musical progression has moved them from the mainly melodic power metal vein to something akin to neoclassical melodic metal - a mix of Yngwie Malmsteen, Impellitteri, and Stratovarius, with a touch of Symphony X or Adagio. With a few power metal traits in there to; you arrive at At Vance circa 2002.

From the opener "The Time Has Come" you realise you are in for something special, especially as vocalist Oliver Hartmann (who appeared on Tobias Sammet's Avantasia) has an interesting vibe that covers Coverdale, depict Dio, and leeches Jørn Lande. Vocals are often seen as the cornerstone of an album and his sonorous exhuberance is pleasureable to the ear and his is a voice that people can get into easily and sing along with. Oliver's vocals are just one of the attractions with Only Human as it continues on with a heavy dose of classical metal material with guitarist (and producer) Olaf Lenk. Olaf, ex-Zed Yago and Velver Viper, works his arse off combining classical music with Yngwie type guitar-wankery. He reminds me of Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius) at times and Jarno Keskinen (ex-Kenziner) at other times and he is an absolute pleasure to listen to mainly because he keeps the guitars heavy throughout. Two classical pieces appear on Only Human; the first is Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons (Spring)" and the second is Johann Bach's "Solfeggieto."

There are plenty of outstanding, as Bjørnar would put it, killer songs, on this album that include the Symphony X crossed with Sonata Arctica "Witches Dance," the hyper-happy title track, and the Abba inspired "Sing This Song" (At Vance have dabbled in covering Abba before and this song is just SO Abba it's not funny). In fact, the whole album has a very strong radiance surrounding it which could be construed as being pop-like (although it isn't) but this blissful happiness could also be viewed as too cringeful for some people with no real let up in the happiness.

The catchy songs, with a trailblaze of technicalities and melodies, are the strength of this band along with with an up-tempo vocalist and a guitarist that doesn't miss a beat. The only loss seems to be the sometimes mis-timed songs and marginally repetitious music. Thus, there is a lack of consistency across the whole album. When the band hit the right vibe, the songs are completely mind-blowing. But when the band miss, the songs let the album down - namely the meandering "Hold The Fire" and "Time" that just seem to plod along. The album tops in at 63 minutes (including one bonus track) so if you remove a couple of the weaker numbers then this would have been a huge highlight for 2002. As it is, I can't wait to see what they come up with next. I'm sure At Vance haven't nailed their sound completely yet which is why I'm looking for bigger things to come from these five Germans. But then again, they are Only Human.

[This review originally appeared November 2002 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]
The Time Has Come / Only Human / Take My Pain / Fly To The Rainbow / Hold Your Fire / Four Seasons/Spring / Take Me Away / Time / Solfeggietto / Sing This Song / Witches Dance / Wings To Fly / I Surrender / Bonus track: Heroes Of Honor

Uli Mueller - keyboards
Olaf Lenk - guitars
Oliver Hardmann - vocals
Rainald Koenig - guitars
Jochen Schnur - bass
Juergen Lucas - drums

No Escape (1999)
Heart Of Steel (2000)
Dragonchaser (2001)
Only Human (2002)
The Evil In You (2003)
Chained (2005)
VII (2007)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: December 8th 2004
Reviewer: Gary Carson
Artist website:
Hits: 1111
Language: english


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