Ark Storm – The Everlasting Wheel – 3.5/5
A neo-classical band with what should be considered a prize-winning guitarist, he manages to dance rings around most with exceptional speed, he provides a number of interesting riffs to the proceedings with no shortage of solos. Beyond this exceptional talent, there is a little else to add, for they play a well defined genre with little deviation from the Malmsteem-influenced style.
The guitars are without a doubt the highlight here. From the moment you hear the intro to “Symphony on Wings,” we are left no illusion that this is a man who knows how to play his instrument, and prefers to do so quickly. Frequently with something of a speed-toned crunch during the riffs, he isn’t afraid to slow things down and provide an epic riff to complement the vocals. The keyboards are often used as an epic backing, and to the joy of many, aren’t overdone. Often providing riffs, where they are tastefully inserted to a prominent position, they constitute a short solo, usually setting up the lead guitarist to work his magic.
The drums feel a bit wooden, as though the drums were made of plastic and the bass is non-existant, but then in such an upbeat, almost jolly, tone a deep bassy presence may well be counter-productive. The vocals however, are surprising good. With a decent variation of pitch, and superb power, the only indication of his Japanese origin is a slight accent, marking a complete absence of that ‘overly smooth’ tone many Japanese vocalists sport. This may well make the artist more palatable to a western audience.
The main issue presented here is that of originality; more specifically, there isn’t any. With the exception of the swept riff in ‘Symphony on Wings,’ there is little that stands out as being unique or memorable. The lyrics are the stereotypical cheesy affair, and the solos fall into the same trap as many neo-classical guitarists in that they are void of emotion, feeling quick, simply because they can be. This is a solid band that seems to missing a particular passion, a uniqueness or drive that sets them apart from the rest. If you’re a neo-classical fan, there is certainly much to enjoy here, but little that will have you hooked beyond when the next solid slab of neo-classical emerges.
Highlights: Symphony on Wings, Face the Evil Master, The Giver