It has been a few years since the previous ACE album was released, so it is nice to see them return. And it seems there have been changes. Of course Aaron is still singing and providing keyboards. Bassist Devin North is also playing guitar now and co-wrote most of the songs. And on drums we now find Tim Smith. Several guests are joining for additional guitar, mellotron, piano or violin, cello or viola.
The result is an album that gave me the feeling this was less brain and more heart when compared to Outer Light Inner Darkness . Meaning it feels more organic and more song based. The 8 minute track Absent Lovers still hints at Kansas because of the violins in various parts, but the metal has made room for rock. Somehow it seems this makes it more easy for Aaron to deliver his vocals. Or he just kept growing as a musician, but he definitely sounds more up for the task.
I quite liked former guitar player Gutierrez’, but while the playing on this album might be less technical, it sure is served with passion and a keen sense of what lifts a song. Often based upon quality lead melodies.
The Queen similarities in Better Off Before are a treat for me. Mind you, it’s not a rip off of one of their songs, more some style ingredients serving as a tribute. Castle In The Sky brings back some of the more technical side of ACE, but because of the more vintage sound it sits nicely besides a track like Savage In A Fancy Suit. Here the hammond makes you think Deep Purple hired Clift to do their bidding. And returned to their more progressive earlier days.
All in all it is a different album which appeal is the more vintage sound and the quality of the songs and the delivery. So my advice remains: check them if you are into progressive rock!