Under A Dark Sky by Uli Jon Roth
Release date : August 2008
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Uli Jon Roth has penned material since the 1970s, particularly for the likes of Scorpions, and additionally both Dawn Road and Electric Sun, not to mention several solo outings. Hoping to widen the scope of both hard Rock and Metal fanatics' musical preoccupations, the axeman has spent much time working upon a metaphorical bridge between the two. Within hard music circles, Roth has been long respected, and hailed as a magnificent guitarist. Playing via his own very invention, the “sky guitar”, the man has tirelessly attempted to unite a love for all the arts and their respective philosophies within his material, and author something unique, and long lasting.
In 2007, it was revealed that Roth was working upon a new studio full length entitled Under A Dark Sky. The first installment in the Symphonic Legends series, itself a cycle of music for the Sky of Avalon project, a tentative summer 2008 release was slated. Recording occurred in both Germany, and the UK. Scribbled down, Under A Dark Sky's personnel is magnificent. A host of musicians surround Roth, including; Mark Boals (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Royal Hunt), Liz Vandall (ex-Sahara), Michael Ehre (Metallium), and Michael Flexig (Zeno) amongst others. In addition, the album features the Sky Orchestra. In early August 2008, its track listing was unveiled. Whilst Marquee Records would issue the album in Japan during late August, the album's North American and European release was scheduled to occur a month later via SPV Records.
Following Under A Dark Sky's conclusion, you'll likely muse as to whether any other musician could achieve the goal Roth has set his sights upon. Furthermore, you might even muse as to what that goal happens to be. An apocalyptic theme which reflects the future of mankind, and the possibility of a hope that may not arrive, is prevalent within the record. Unquestionably gorgeous, the album's front cover artwork captures the dawn of a new mankind. Resplendent in luxuriant colours, these sprightly shades burst out of the darkness. Theoretically, it would be safe to assume that Under A Dark Sky is a flawless body of work. As far as likability is concerned, however, the album boasts little.
In approaching the album's weaknesses, it's difficult to opt as to where to begin. Of the full length's weaknesses, its greatest issue is its remarkably fake sonics. The credits reveal that the instrumental components happen to be genuine, though somehow, in translation, those components adopt an extremely synthetic sound. Consequently, this fosters an overtly cold and distant ambience. Upon Under A Dark Sky, the symphonic passages often take centre stage, causing additional distraction. Had these symphonic passages been relegated towards the background, Roth may have discovered a more reasonable sound. Furthermore, the record's vocal aspects woefully lack consistency. Using multiple vocalists is a great concept, and aptly works in such genres as Gothic and Opera, though Under A Dark Sky doesn't lean further enough towards either of these respective genres to forge a viable recipe. In all, the album's vocal ingredients comprise a mixture of failed attempts to soar.
In truth, Under A Dark Sky's lone strength is Roth's guitar work. Additionally, this doesn't rank amongst his greater work (though nonetheless happens to be greater than works penned by the majority of latter day guitarists). Often buried within the mix, Roth's guitar should form the focal point, and lead the album's very charge. Generally speaking, Roth's aims are understandable (a full length in the vein of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's material), though Under A Dark Sky never even closely approaches that juncture.