Review Summary: an ode to the Egyptian sun god, or: a watered down nu-metal album ten years too late
Ra’s music is Pop made to sound like hard rock. Sound familiar? It ought to. Sometime around the mid-90s Pop figured out how to masquerade as heavy, crunchy hard rock and the little bastard just couldn’t get enough of it, waving his arms and carrying on to get the attention of the six or so bourgeois gentlemen who decide what 85% of the population will hear, see and buy for any given year. And, what do you know, the little guy was right: he had a winner on his hands. Nu-metal exploded and the record companies swarmed to milk their new goldmine dry, repacking, reprinting, and re-selling the same sound with a million new outfits to wear.
Enter Ra, the hard rock group with a cosmic bent. Ra’s music exudes a different aura, one separate from Korn’s diluted nightmare shock imagery or Staind’s melodrama. This is a group with an exploratory vibe, looking to the cosmos and channeling the spirituality they find there. I mean, look, they’re named after the Egyptian god of the sun for chrissake and that artwork
! Surely their unique celestial preoccupations give the music an exciting, fresh twist and result in an album layered with astral possibilities and unheard musical bliss!!!
Well, no, not even close. The album starts off promisingly with a nice little Latin-tinged acoustic arrangement. But, then, out of nowhere, the real
Ra surfaces, and all thoughts of the 30 second little ditty with that nice foreign flair are completely forgotten in place of melodies lifted from almost any given alternative rock song played on the radio in 1998. Crunchy guitars play a nauseatingly simple groove. Vocals sing hook after hook, each melody more obvious and played-out than the last. Drums never insinuate any command over the groove, content to play unobtrusively in the background, lacking any punch (did they record these with a MIDI keyboard or something?), ingenuity, or excitement. Quite literally, any bit of musical variety on the album serves only as a 30-second distraction to usher in the same old onslaught of groove-crunch guitars and painfully mundane vocals.
Still, good ol’ Ra isn’t devoted to the Egyptian sun god for no reason, surely? Their lyrics must be something to really dig your teeth into, right? With gems such as “I can’t believe I’ve fallen down to my knees/ you got me beggin’ you please / can there still be another way? / Why won’t you talk to me? / When did I want to be lonely? / When did I want to be cold? / I can’t believe that it’s over / The beating of my / Broken-hearted soul”
, Ra manages to separate themselves from the pack in…no way at all.
Any thought or care put towards the album’s flow seems to have been quickly forgotten by the sixth or seventh song, after which it feels as if track after monotonous track is tacked on ad nauseam just because the band decided to do that familiar old dance of filling up a compact disc with material. Sure, there’s a certain unifying coherency to the whole affair, but that’s just because the band’s sound is so one-dimensional and homogeneous that their pool of available tones and atmospheres runs dry pretty quick.
This is the embodiment of a society content to allow its musical artists to survive on the superficial. The music serves the image, not the other way around. Ra may be rejecting the music industry that so callously chewed them up and spit them out like all the other clones, but they are still, ironically more than ever, a dismal part of that grinding industrial machine. Do yourself a favor and avoid this release at all costs.