|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Harion Vex & Fred Mika|
|Record Label: Musik Hall||Country Of Origin: Brazil|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 60%|
|Running Time: 53:26|
The original line up of Brazil’s Sunroad initially came together in the mid-nineties but did not record its full length debut Heat From The Road until 1999. After a promotional CD, SR 2001, was recorded two years later, the label Golden Music took interest in the band and in late 2001 released an EP entitled Light Up The Sky made up of material from both SR 2001 and Heat From The Road. With the experience of one full length album and two EP’s behind it, Sunroad – despite a constantly revolving line up – returned to the studio and in 2003 recorded its sophomore effort Arena Of Aliens.
It is worth noting that following the release of Arena Of Aliens Sunroad continued to experience ongoing turnover. Vocalist Harion Vex and guitarist Alberto Conde both left the band only to be replaced by Leo Yanes and Rafael Milhomem respectively. Akasio Angels switched from bass to rhythm guitar. He still fills in on keyboards. Enilson Macedo is the newcomer on bass. The lone holdover is drummer Fred Mika. I don’t know how you feel, but reading this is like reading some of the transactions that take place during a typical NFL preseason. Much, much too complicated. Seriously, what gets lost in the shuffle of so much turnover is continuity- which in my estimation contributes a great deal to many of the problems found on the bands third full length album Flying N’ Floating. Let’s face facts, as a result of so much change in its line up, what we are dealing with here is almost an entirely new band that also happens to go under the name Sunroad.
The best way to describe Flying N’ Floating would be a musical continuation of Arena Of Aliens in that the band still moves in a straightforward hard rock territory while mixing in an occasional blues based or groove flavored moment. The album even finds Sunroad expanding upon its sound by adding a few progressive tendencies as well. Leo Yanes is a very fine vocal talent who contributes a clean and at times gritty lead vocal style. Rafael Milhomem proves quite the exciting guitarist, best showcasing his abilities on the melodic hard rocker “Polar Winds”, the ballad “First Day Without You” and last, but certainly not least, the Scorpions cover “Sun In My Hand”. Akasio Angels adds just the right touch on keyboards, while the rhythm section of bassist Enilson Macedo and drummer Fred Mika put in place a solid foundation for the bands sound.
So, what is the missing ingredient here? The songs. No matter how many times I listen to Flying N’ Floating it fails to grow on me. While its material, for the most part, is well constructed and the bands performance is without question, the songs lack melodies of a strong enough nature to keep me coming back to the project again and again. In other words, my attention is not maintained on a consistent basis. That being said, the music – as previously stated – is well performed so I can see how others might get into what Sunroad is doing on Flying N’ Floating.
Production values, a step ahead when compared to the muddy sound of Arena Of Aliens, come across crisp and clean but would benefit from a touch of big budget polish.
In my review of Arena Of Aliens I complained that its lyrics often came across as ambiguous if not particularly well written. And such is the case here. I cannot help but think that the lyrics to several tracks - “Polar Winds” and “Till The End Of Time” are the first that come to mind – deserve an additional rewrite or two.
The album gets underway with “Cosmic Sunrise (Heliotropism)”, a track with an experimental feel that is carried a good part of its way by narration. The song begins to a keyboard based introduction that segues to a clean blend of quietly played guitar and audible bass lines. Once the voice of the narrator enters the mix, however, a crisp rhythm guitar soon fades to the songs forefront and increases the energy level tenfold. A guitar driven instrumental section closes out the last minute of “Cosmic Sunrise (Heliotropism)”.
When it comes to narration, I have mixed feelings- depending on the context in which it is used. More often than not, narration works best when it supports the storyline of a concept album. Pyramaze’s excellent Legend Of The Bone Carver is the first that comes to mind. On the other hand, narration for narration’s sake often, well, gets in the way. Hero’s erratic Bless This Nation is also the first that comes to mind. The narration here, however, does not come across all that bad except that what is being said sounds downright silly. Take the following line as an example:
Run out of our dimension, our ego
our human space and time convention
We must orbit through the heliotropism
Helium means the Creator laws, flying n’ floating
If anyone can figure out what “heliotropism” means then drop me a line (I do not like listening to music and having to look things up in the dictionary at the same time).
The albums title track has a nice progressive edge to it. The song moves ahead to time changes galore, introduced to an instrumental section in which a quickly moving riff is underscored by pounding drums. As “Flying N’ Floating” reaches its first verse, it trades off between slower passages in which the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix and others that feature a return of the quickly moving riff at the start of the song. Picking up in pace, the song attains a chorus shored up by just the right amount of clean sounding vocal harmonies. Milhomem decorates the scene with a very well done guitar solo.
“Polar Winds” opens in a quickly moving manner to a hard hitting riff. Tapering off to a trace of keyboards at the start of its first verse, a strong and steady tempo is maintained by the song as it moves ahead to a sweeping chorus with a pleasing melodic feel. Milhomem again steps forward, his solo starting out slowly before he cuts loose in intense fashion at the end. Many of the problems with the albums lyrics can be found here:
Why the ice feeling covers the world
Young hearts telling wrong words
Doing so many hard ways
It’s a bad emotion today
Every hour you need to break the ice
Joining people is the good advice
The six minute progressive influenced instrumental “Invisible Connections (Anima Vitae)” – what’s up with the super complicated song titles? – is my favorite track off Flying N’ Floating. A quietly played guitar line slowly carries the song over its first minute until the rhythm guitar crashes to the front of the mix. “Invisible Connections (Anima Vitae)” proceeds to move forward in a catchy manner to a riff that reminds me of Symphony X- all the while Akasio Angels adds the perfect touch on keyboards and organ in the background. In the end, the song gives Sunroad the opportunity to display the strength of its musicianship as bass, guitar and keyboard solos lead the way.
On the seven minute ballad “First Day Without You” Sunroad puts in place a haunting setting that brings to mind the track “Falling” off Revelation Project’s self-titled debut. The piano at the start of the song interweaves with an acoustic guitar upon reaching its first verse, the pace picking up for the second before the rhythm guitar steps forward in time to drive a chorus bolstered by a forward mix of backing vocals. Milhomem puts his talent on display during the minute long instrumental section following the songs second chorus.
“Till The End Of Time” returns the album to its hard rocking ways. Gradually advancing through its first verse as Yanes trades off the bands backing vocals, the song picks up in pace as it moves ahead to a chorus progressing at a strong upbeat tempo. “Till The End Of Time”, on the other hand, represents what I find good and bad about Flying N’ Floating: Yes, this is a pretty good song but I cannot help but get the feeling that with a bit more work it could have been better. Its lyrics could also have been improved upon:
You are lost like an errant comet
Catching symptoms of the ignorant sceptic
Or believing in all your therapeutic aid
But look for the truth, the vertical raid
Someone named Uli Jon Roth penned the albums next song, “Sun In My Hand”. Anybody out there ever hear of this guy? Seriously, Roth, as I am sure most of you reading this know, is widely considered one of the most influential guitarists of our time. His song “Sun In My Hand” was originally performed by Scorpions on its 1975 release In Trance.
“Sun In My Hand” commences to clashing symbols followed by several seconds of neo-classical riffing. Briefly moving forward in anthem-like fashion, the song makes a time change to a blues based direction before progressing on a catchy chorus with a huge hook you will be challenged to get out of your head. Milhomem, as one would expect, puts on a literal clinic here, decorating an instrumental section with his dazzling leads while carrying the song over its final minute with more of the same.
“Searching For The Sun” gets underway to a few seconds of open air rhythm guitar prior to moving forward as a touch of organ accentuates the mix. Marching through its first and second verse at a laid back mid-tempo pace, “Searching For The Sun” culminates for a chorus that, due to its lack of direction and energy, can come across on the pedestrian side. This is one of the albums weaker tracks.
“Hero Or Criminal” made its initial appearance on the bands 1999 debut Heat From The Road. After a slowly moving instrumental section with an ominous feel propels the song over its first minute, it continues through its first two verses in the same hard rocking manner. The backing vocals shoring up the chorus that follows, on the other hand, end up coming across way too heavy handed.
Speaking of complicated song titles, how about “Don’t Lock Up The Truth (Nostra Aetate)”? The song immediately kicks in at an upbeat tempo only to settle down prior to reaching its first verse. Picking back up in pace, “Don’t Lock Up The Truth (Nostra Aetate)” moves ahead in a catchy and upbeat fashion until it culminates for a chorus drawing its lyrics from John 8:32:
Hear me, are you afraid to see?
Come on, don’t lock up the Truth
Hear me, The Truth will set you free
Come on, don’t lock up the Truth
The album closes with “Floating Gardens”, a two and a half minute long acoustic based instrumental.
In closing, on Flying N’ Floating Sunroad displays a great deal of talent and potential; however, in order to maximize that talent and potential in question a certain element of continuity is needed. With that in mind, it is essential that the band stabilize its line up and avoid the ongoing turnover that has plagued its history. Once this is accomplished, I cannot help but see Sunroad polishing its songwriting skills and coming up with the better and more well rounded follow up effort.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Leo Yanes – Lead Vocals & Keyboards
Rafael Milhomem – Guitars
Akasio Angels – Keyboards & Rhythm Guitar
Enilson Macedo – Bass
Fred Mika – Drums & Percussion
Track Listing: “Cosmic Sunrise (Heliotropism)” (4:14), “Flying N’ Floating” (5:00), “Polar Winds” (3:23), “Invisible Connections (Anima Vitae)” (6:29), “First Day Without You” (7:05), “Till The End Of Time” (5:08), “Sun In My Hand” (4:13), “Searching For The Sun” (5:44), “Hero Or Criminal” (4:37), “Don’t Lock Up The Truth (Nostra Aetate)” (4:54), “Floating Gardens” (2:35)
Also Reviewed: Sunroad - Arena Of Aliens