|Review: At Vance - Dragonchaser|
Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2001
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: September 4, 2015
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
Third album for At Vance, and certainly their most Power Metal release, what with the title and artwork and killer neo-classical pomposity at high-speed. Dragonchaser holds a lot of memories for me, as I was working a bullshit job at the time (in a grim industrial site), and every time I spin this I just remember walking home, absolutely jazzed, hoping some more Power Metal had come in the mail while dicking about with credit card receipts in an open-plan office.
Anyway, the title track opens up with a perfect At Vance riff from Olaf Lenk; backed by the tinkling harpsichord in true Stratovarius fashion, it serves as the perfect introduction to the genre at this point in time, and when Oliver Hartmann starts wailing over it, I just drop to my knees and surrender to its power. Hence my username, guys and gals. After that, we kick into the fastest song the band ever recorded in the insane "Ages of Glory", straight into the up-tempo "Crucified", which brings back some of the Rainbow influence of their first two albums and lays down the blueprint for their following record, career highlight Only Human.
Oliver Hartmann was one of the best vocalists working in Power Metal at the time, with a wide range and a great tone (hell, even Tobi Sammet used him in Avantasia once upon a time), and while many people forget about Olaf Lenk, his guitar skills, especially in the solo department, are pretty much stunning. Now, we usually get an Abba cover with At Vance as I've said before and this time it's "The Winner Takes It All". Not as cool as "SOS" from Heart of Steel, but well done all the same. I'll dock a couple of points for the arrangement of "Beethoven's Fifth", not because it doesn't slay, but the eight-minute instrumental kinda fucks with the flow. Factor in the Abba cover and ballad "My Bleeding Heart" and there's a certain dip at the mid point. After that, it's all killer, with speed fest "Too Late" bringing back the high quality of the album's first half. Fans of Power Metal from the early part of the century need this on their shelves, especially if you think their later stuff without Hartmann is too hard rock orientated. Just remember this: DRAG-ON-CHASERRRR!
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