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Dark Sky - 'Once' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/52/f0/2e/Dark-Sky-Once-46-1558554780.jpg

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What they do, they do well.

Melodic Metallers Dark Sky have been quiet since their 2012 'Initium', but now they're back with 'Once', an album that offers six new songs and nine live tracks on CD, plus a DVD featuring the live performances only in a CD/DVD digipak release.

Starting off with the studio tracks, 'Into The Arena' brings a dark, heavy riff with it as the song's intro swirls Symphonic keyboards and a no-messing drumbeat. This lays the foundations for 'Once' which keeps up the pace; Frank Breuninger's vocal commands this AOR-friendly song with its cool chorus, melodic hooks and smooth guitar solos. Whilst not technically a new offering, 'When The Rain Begins To Fall' sees the Pia Zadora track covered with a healthy dose of Metal that actually works quite well.

'Reasons', which ebbs and flows between a ballad and an out-and-out Rock song, keeps up the drive and pulls in some sweet licks from Steffen Doll; it also has a simple but effective sing-along chorus. 'Final Day' cools the mood considerably with its shimmering, jangly guitars and slower pace, before Uwe Mayer lights up the drums and vocal harmonies drip from every chord. The last studio track, 'Gladiators On Ice', starts off in a similar vein to 'Mars: Bringer Of War' with orchestral, Symphonic majesty and Operatic chorusing, and just when you think it's going to get going, it finishes!

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The live part of the album was recorded in July 2015 at Rottweil, Germany. Hitting the stage with 'Initium' in all its pomp and keyboard-laden glory, they swiftly move into Metal mode with 'Hands Up' as Breuninger unleashes all his front-man energy onto the audience; Doll also rips up his fret-board as the licks pour out. The Classic Rock feel of 'Empty Faces' is up next and it merges Rock guitar chops with Hammond Organ, plus synth padding in organised mayhem. The metallic thumping drive of 'Chase Your Dreams' takes no prisoners as it rocks out to an appreciative crowd. This is then followed by Claudio Nobile's keyboards riding high in 'Flood For A Million'.

Setting the speedometer to "max", the band belt out 'Dance With The Devil', another song with a beautifully crafted chorus and a melody that seems to defy the speed of the track. Coming down a level or two, 'Living And Dying' sounds so powerful live, yet it allows the band to catch their breath before the meaty 'Cute Little Lies' sees the energy levels peaking once more. The last song of the night is 'Eternity'; it's perhaps a strange choice to end on as it's essentially a ballad, and whilst brilliantly performed, it feels like the handbrake has suddenly been pulled on a roller-coaster ride.

From a visual perspective, the live footage documents the basic aspects of a Dark Sky concert (including a few moments behind the scenes) at a grass roots level rather than being a lavish production.

All in all, 'Once' is a good and enjoyable package, but it does leave you wondering if any other new material has been written, apart from those found here, and if so, will it ever see the light of day? Dark Sky may not be a household name, but what they do, they do well. They've supported Europe and are also going out on the road with Treat.

Paul Sabin

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