Review Summary: Ra's disappointing third studio album is a mediocre hard rock album that loses the charm of the band's previous efforts. Black Sun is plagued by forgettable melodies, weak musicianship, and an overall lack of focus.The Tale of Ra: Part 4
After a strong hard-rock/nu-metal debut with From One
, Ra switched things up and went for a more mainstream sound for Duality
. Although the debut remained their finest work, Duality
succeeded thanks to the strength of Sahaj Ticotin’s vocals and strong song-writing. Black Sun
attempts to create a fusion of the 2 records, but what comes out of it is just a mess.
The previous opening tracks, Do You Call My Name
and Fallen Angels
both ranked among Ra’s best; despite being singles they managed to show off Ra’s originality. Here we have Broken Hearted Soul
. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it fails to grab attention like the previous openers. It has a couple nice short speedy Spanish-style acoustic picking interludes and a catchy chorus, but ultimately it feels like a forced single, nice but forgettable. And already Sahaj doesn’t sound too inspired. A decent opener, but definitely not up to par with what Ra is capable of. And unfortunately it doesn’t get much better. Faulty Information
is one of the flat-out worst songs that Ra has written, from the repetitive pop-punk sounding riff to Sahaj’s forced delivery and some of the worst and cheesiest lyrics the band has written. Luckily, it’s at least partially redeemed by a strong chorus, but everything else about the song, including some awkward rapping in the bridge, is very poor.
The upside from there is that the rest of the album for the most part manages to avoid embarrassing itself. The downside is that most of the rest of the material here fails to stand out in any way. Sahaj still can pull off some catchy choruses, but fails to consistently deliver an engaging performance, which is a shame considering how well he was able to accomplish this on the band’s first two albums. He holds a 26-second note at the end of First Step
, showing that his vocal abilities are still as strong as ever, but unfortunately his performance is less than inspiring for most of this record.
There’s certainly potential on some of these songs. Push
starts off with a nice intro that blends acoustic guitar with a nice tribal drum pattern that brings a flicker of hope. Unfortunately, the song soon fades into obscurity, particularly with the mind-numbing and anti-climactic repetition of “we can make it right, we can make them see us in the light” that closes out the last minute and a half of the song. Lost Along the Way
has another cool Middle-Eastern influenced intro, but it turns into yet another Duality
outtake. I Believe Again
tries to be a poppier version of I Believe
off of From One
, with its chorus starting off exactly the same. Unlike Only One
’s effective sampling of Do You Call My Name
, this just ends up showing a lack of creativity on Ra’s part, and will make fans just want to go back to From One
to hear the superior version.
At a length of 6 minutes, there’s hope that Waste of Space
might be more ambitious and revert back to From One.
No such luck. The song appears to be about Ra getting screwed over by the record label and not getting the promotion they deserve. After the quality of the first two albums that’s a fair sentiment to express, but this song is seriously just a waste of space itself. The verses are preceded by pointless spoken interludes from a producer. Sahaj sings like Usher through most of this song, no joke. There’s an impressive shredding solo midway through, but it’s out of place and can’t redeem this 6-minute mess.
Luckily a few tracks manage to rise out of the mediocrity. Don’t Turn Away
, a track previously included on the band’s live album, is the best song here. It has engaging riffs, some impressive drumming, and most importantly, Sahaj’s best and most powerful vocal performance on the album. It’s the one song on here that feels like it could’ve been on From One
, with its perfect heavy and melodic blend. Other than Don’t Turn Away
, the only other impressive part of the album is the final 3 tracks. Genocide
adds a heavier kick to the end of the album, with heavy chugging riffs and an overall darker atmosphere, which is a welcome change of pace. Sahaj also delivers a memorable performance in ballad Poet’s Dream
. Easier Than This
is another well-done ballad that is also an effective closer. It slowly builds up over its 5 minute duration and ends with a fitting melodic guitar solo supported by a good bassline. It’s too little too late at this point, but it’s good to at least end the album on a high point. That is, if you ignore the atrocious acoustic version of Broken Hearted Soul
While there a few saving graces that keep the album from completely failing, overall Black Sun
is a generic and forgettable hard rock album, a disappointing effort from a band that is capable of so much more. For the uninitiated, this album won’t seem too bad, but for a true glimpse of Ra’s potential, check out From One
, where the songwriting is stronger, the musicianship is better, and Sahaj’s vocals are much more inspired than they are here.
Top tracks: Don’t Turn Away, Genocide, Easier Than This
To Be Continued…