Thursday, April 11, 2002 @ 9:39 AM
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Since The Sky's The Limit is the debut of the German/English/French co-operation Horizon, not many people will have heard of them yet, so a little introduction appears to be appropriate first.
Horizon was put together by singer/guitarist Patrick Hemer and drummer Krissy Friedrich in 1998. Both musicians had been working as studio musicians as well as playing in several bands, so there's a lot of experience here. The line-up is rounded off by bassist Bruno J. Frank and keyboard player Vinnie Angelo.
The staff being introduced, let's deal with the music. As with many bands that get started, Horizon still seem to be searching for their own style. On The Sky's The Limit, it is not difficult to tell what they've been listening to. High up on their playlist must be Rainbow, Yngwie and also Dream Theater. Although a little bit more individuality would do the album good, the combination of both elements, the Rainbow/Malmsteen guitar style on the one hand and the prog elements on the other, works out very well and results in powerful and driving metal tracks with easy-to-shout-along hook lines, well thought-out arrangements and an outstanding performance.
The emphasis is on straight and energetic metal tracks like "Freedom" (surely not the most original song title), "Keep The Fighting" or "Hometown Star." Yet the song that really grabbed me straightaway is the mid-tempo rocker "Living In Danger," a song, once heard, you won't get rid of easily. In my humble opinion -- not only the highlight on the record, but also one of the best tracks I've heard recently. On the other hand, the ballad "Don't Hide In The Shadow" is a real bummer. This song seems to be going nowhere and the endless repetition of the chorus line, which is not too exciting anyway, makes the ballad a candidate for the skip button on my CD player. Fortunately, it is the only not-so-good song, so you'll need your skip button only once. The progressive riffing on "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" duly compensates for it.
The album features excellent musicians with real talent. It is certainly dominated by the exciting guitar playing of Patrick Hemer, who at the same time turns out to be a top-class vocalist as well. As a singer, he very much reminds me of someone in particular, but I just cannot remember who it is to save my life. He's got a bit of Joe Lynn Turner, a bit of all Malmsteen singers together, a bit of Geoff Tate -- you know, that sort of voice. On the guitar, be it a metal axe, be it a nylon string guitar, Hemer does a brilliant job and comes along as a credible and versatile musician, who basically sets the tone of the complete album. Yet, as I said before, one of the main influences seems to be Malmsteen and that goes along with a temptation to slip into guitarsturbation every now and again, and especially at the end of the last track (cleverly entitled "The End"), he seems to find it difficult to resist that temptation. Less is sometimes more.
Nonetheless, The Sky's The Limitis a good record with some really great songs on it, power, drive, excellent playing and a lot of variety. It's definitely recommended, not only because Horizon come across as a real talented band (which is rare enough these days), but also because the debut of this promising young act is really worth it and I do hope to hear more of them in the future.