REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/13/2008
The liner notes for
It would be the last time we'd see that statement, as Walsh would leave the band the following year. It wouldn't be the last we'd see or hear of him in relation to the band, but it'd be a few years.
AV drives on the same set of wheels forged during the pinnacle of the band's success: riff-heavy arena rock with a progressive flair, lifted up on colorful keys and Steinhardt’s always-remarkable violin playing. It would be nice if Walsh's swan song with the original lineup was a little more solid, but there's some unevenness here. During the hiatus between touring for Monolith and recording AV, both Livgren and Walsh would release solo albums, and it feels like they may have held a lot of their best material for those outings. The songs don't quite reach the caliber of their earlier work, but it's still an improvement over Monolith.
Walsh's contributions are flavored pretty much as they were on Monolith, His penchant for little noir melodramas about loners living in the edge has been a common theme, as in the tracks “Don't Open Your Eyes” and “No Room For A Stranger.” His lyrics are, as they were on Monolith, inscrutable to say the least. His melodies aren't catchy enough, and maybe a little too ambitious for the basic rock he was pushing. These aren't songs Joe Camaro and his girl can sing along to; their instrumentation is a little busy for his audience. He comes closer to the mark with the goodtime rocker “Got To Rock On,” but again there's no hook here and it doesn't stick with you.
Livgren's material is more solid. He was strongly expressing his newfound Christianity in these songs, but he does it in a way that isn't too obtrusive. This would eventually polarize the band, but on this album it's the basis for two of the best tracks on the album. His opener “Relentless” is a tasty hard rocker driven by Williams' always powerful guitar work and Walsh sounding better than ever. Already renowned as one of rock’s finest voices, Walsh really hit his stride vocally on this disc; in fact, the entire band sounds remarkable tight and fresh after the disappointing Monolith. Livgren also turns in the gorgeous power balled “Hold On.” This track has the elements that are missing from most of the other songs on Audio Visions. It's got a catchy hook, a chorus you want to sing along with, and a gorgeous melody reminiscent of the best songs from Leftoverture and Point Of Know Return. A couple of additional songs of this quality would have elevated the album a few notches.
The band had lost some of the creative alchemy that brought them to the top. The lush Wall of Sound was gone. The two primary composers’ tracks don't mesh up sonically and the gap between them is wide. The light that inspired two great albums in a row seems have been dimmed, possibly under the weight of an oppressive touring schedule, and definitely because of internal rifts within the band. Despite a few really good tracks, this album, like its predecessor, is a pale shadow of their best work.
|Good, fair review, Bruce. Would have enjoyed some discussion about two of the stronger pieces on the album -- Curtain of Iron and, especially, No One Together, which is a juggernaut and belongs in any discussion of classic Kansas. There's no doubt that the song would have strengthened Monolith, which, as the story goes, was already planned out when Kerry brought the song to the band. The other members are said to have rejected it for Monolith, with the promise to do it for the next album, which, as we know, turned out to be Audio Visions.|