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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Park Sipes

Rise Above

Review by Gary Hill

Parts of this set lean toward heavy metal. The majority, though, is in the vein of modern pop rock. It leans a bit too heavily on ballads, creating a set that feels a bit too similar at times. The thing is, moving a few songs around would have really gone a long way toward mitigating that issue. Either way, though, this is a solid set of music that should appeal to a wide demographic. It doesn’t really take a lot of chances, but when it’s this good, that doesn’t really matter much.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Anytime, Anyway (Rise Above)

This is a great AOR styled metal tune. It’s neither nu-metal nor modern extreme metal. This lands in the territory of melodic heavy metal. It really rocks. The hooks are catchy, too.

Caught in Your Storm
While there is still some metal edge to this, the cut is more an AOR alternative rock tune. It has some great vocal hooks. It’s catchy and effective. The guitar solo is pretty much metal in nature, though.
This Love
The opening section here is metallic, but the cut works out to a real AOR ballad. It has a powered up movement built into it, but this really is a great ballad more than it is anything else.
Don't Chase the Night Away
Here’s another cut that’s basically a ballad. This is more modern pop rock in tone. I can even hear some traces of modern country in the mix. It’s a good tune, actually one of the better ones here, but it seems we’ve had too many ballads already by this point.
A New Horizon (Instrumental)
A much needed bit of variety, this hard rocking jam has plenty of metal and progressive rock in the mix. It’s a classy number that’s one of the coolest things here. It has a great balance between mellower and more rocking ends of the spectrum, too.
Midnight Ride
We’re back into power ballad territory here. This has a real adult contemporary meets AOR kind of sound. While the whole ballad concept is overused on this album, the break that “A New Horizon” provides allows this song to stand tall on its own. It’s one of the better pieces here, really.
Breathe
Another balladic piece, this has some country in the mix, but the modern pop rock side of that genre. Again, there isn’t enough change in terms of tempo and style here to allow this to really shine. That’s a shame because it’s really a great tune.
Life (Revisited)
I like the energy and groove of this tune. It’s still an AOR based cut, but it’s just particularly effective, really. It’s also more of a rocker than a lot of the rest.
Bonus Tracks
                 
Burn Into the Night

This lands in ballad territory, but it’s one of the best cuts here. Yet, it’s a bonus. Of course, when it comes standard on the album, I’m not sure what that whole “bonus track” thing really means. This is rather moody and metallic. It’s evocative and has some of the best vocal performances of the disc.

Caught in Your Storm (Original Version)
I like this cut a lot, too. Frankly, I think this set would have been stronger if these two bonus cuts had been placed as part of the album proper between two ballads. Yes, I know there is another version of this here, but this one could have gone in the penultimate slot on the album, far enough from the other rendition, but separating a couple ballads. The guitar solo on this thing is really some screaming melody machinery of beauty.
 
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