Review Summary: Ra's debut album is an overlooked gem that showed some of the most creative and effective song-writing within the mainstream rock genre.The Tale of Ra: Part 1
Ra’s 2002 debut From One
landed back in the middle of the nu-metal era. There are elements of their music that are taken from nu-metal, but simply branding them with that label sells them short. The most nu-metal elements here are the use of down-tuned riffs and occasionally angst-ridden lyrics. But Ra has more in their arsenal, not only is From One
much more varied than the typical nu-metal fare, they make use of Middle-Eastern style guitarwork that adds a definite twist without being overused.
But the biggest appeal here is Sahaj Ticotin’s voice. His emotional delivery is reminiscent of Sting. (This is actually quite fitting, as Ra would later cover The Police on Duality.) His powerful range and emotion are this band’s biggest assets, and his energetic style is very refreshing for a modern rock vocalist. The rest of the band aren’t slouches either, they all get to display talented moments here and there, such as the quick-paced tribal drumming in Violator
. The guitarists utilize the 7-strings better than most nu-metal bands, and while they are typically not flashy, their performance is excellent throughout the album, and a solo pops up here and there to make things interesting.
Ra’s first and biggest hit was the opening track, Do You Call My Name
, and it was a great choice for a single. It opens with an extended Middle-Eastern style intro and leads into a heavy riff. Sahaj’s vocals are powerful and melodic, and the chorus has an extremely catchy hook. Ultimately this was a great track to release, as it shows off the strengths of Ra’s sound without having to dumb it down. Only
serves as a more up-beat vocal-driven song that emphasizes the sing-along catchiness of Sahaj’s voice, it could have been a single as well.
The tracks have a great diversity among them. The contrast of heavy and soft is very effective here. Such is the case in the shift from the more subdued ending to I Believe
to the heavier, more frantic Parole
, which is actually more focused on riffs over Sahaj’s vocals for once. His vocals are still good, but not as prominent. The near-metal distortion is cranked up on this track, making it the heaviest song on the album. The short shredding solo at the end is a nice surprise as well.
The album stays fairly heavy throughout, but in the times when it becomes softer it is very effective. On My Side
shows off Sahaj’s vocals better than any other song on the album, and it is a very beautiful song. Sahaj’s passionate performance conveys a sense of longing and depression that makes this a truly moving song. The lyrics are very effective, with lines like
“I wish I could see you
I'm stuck in a fog
I wish I had patience
A virtue since gone”
This song is musically simple in its structure, starting with a clean riff leading into a distorted chorus, but despite its simplicity, it is every bit effective as an emotional ballad.
The acoustic ballad Walking and Thinking
appears later, and it’s the most subdued song on the album. Sahaj’s vocals are softer and quieter throughout this track as well. Even in the chorus he remains subdued, and it’s nice to see him exercise restraint here. His delivery as well as the lyrics make this a ponderous, contemplative track that works in its simplicity.
The final track, Sky
, avoids the filler-esque style of many closers and actually ends up being a major highlight. It starts with a palm-muted riff and leads into another heavy but still melodic track. After On My Side
, this is Sahaj’s next best performance, going from the quieter but still powerful first verse to the bombastic second verse, where he sings his heart out. The guitar solos are well done too; the first is a nice slower melodic solo in the bridge, and the second solo picks up the pace a bit and closes the song and album with an uplifting feel. Ra display perfectly how to close out an album and maintain the energy kept through the rest of the album.
While Ra mostly provide a solid rock album, there are a couple of bumps. Fallen Rock Zone
verges on cheesiness with its lyrics about a sexual predator. The chorus is catchy and well-delivered, but lyrics such as “You’re just a traitor, eleventh grader, a cyber sex-addicted masturbator” were going for shock value here, which was not necessary. The song’s heavy chugging riff and melodic guitar solo are quite nice though. Skorn
is the other track with questionable moments. Most of the song is quite good, but the intro is unbelievably cheesy, with a woman reading a Dear John letter. This is not a bad idea, except that the woman’s voice sounds like a man trying to sound feminine, which really throws the song off. The chorus is also the weakest on the album. The song is not without its merits, however. Heavy distorted riffs mixed with sitar riffs makes for a great contrast, and the sitar solo midway through the song is very fitting.
The two aforementioned tracks are probably the most “nu-metal” songs on the album, yet Ra still brings some flair even to the weaker tracks here. Ultimately the weak moments are more than made up for by the high quality of the rest of the album.
is an overlooked gem. Ra’s debut album was their best, showing a raw but still organized sound that was miles ahead of most radio-rock bands. The songwriting is top-notch, and the album is well organized, it’s truly a shame that Ra could never produce anything to rival this afterword.
Top Tracks: Do You Call My Name, On My Side, Sky
To Be Continued…