Onward - The Neverending Sun
Traditional Metal
12 songs (1'00''21)
Release year: 2007
Reviewed by Crims

Onward is the project of shred-guitarist Toby Knapp (his solo material is quite good if you’re into the whole shred thing) and they bursted onto the scene in 2001 with Evermoving. It was released on Century Media with a fairly slick production job (for the time) and a balanced Euro-Power Metal sound mixed with the more riff-oriented 80’s US version and the result was somewhat sporadic. There were a select few who swear by this release but I wasn’t one them. Though occasionally quite good most songs on Evermoving (in my opinion) were average or slightly above and not much more. The follow up Reawaken followed, more or less, the same style found on Evermoving, which was mostly above average but a bit too generic for its own good. Sure enough, given the talent of Knapp the solos were all over the place and completely ripping as Mike clearly pointed out in his review of it and elevated the overall CD a few notches. Contrary to the one year gap between the first two releases the band made a label change, along with a 5 year wait for their third release, entitled The Neverending Sun.

With this new release Onward, once again, forges no new ground but is so entirely trenched in an 80’s vibe (as opposed switching between modern and classic Power Metal in previous releases) that this becomes a somewhat pleasant nostalgia release for those of us who long for the Metal stylings of the early 80’s. Perhaps done on purpose, the production is a lot less polished and muted. Moreover, though the bass sound isn’t quite a throw back to Keeper Of The Seven Keys I it is somewhat audible. The 80’s production, and believe me, this sounds like an 80’s release, gives the guitar and vocal melodies a clear and distinct tone. All too-often modern releases are overproduced with too many tracks and overlaying instruments. For some bands this works in their favor but when you’re playing the type of Metal Onward is, stripped down and barebones is the ideal presentation. The riffs switch between the Hard-Rock inspired NWOBHM of the late 70’s and early 80’s (Feast for the Reaper) along with more conventional 80’s US Power Metal (Beyond the Strong). In addition a few songs demonstrate a penance for a trip down memory lane (with the lane being early Bay Area Thrash) which lends itself to a head banging good time (check out Dawn of our Only Day for the best example of this). Meanwhile vocalist Michael Grant sings with a lot of character and his mid-range falsetto is excellent; I was reminded of Ripper Owens (minus the snarl) on occasion from his Winter’s Bane days. Grant adds some dynamics to the music with his voice and the CD presents itself with some of the better vocal melodies the band has done. Once again, due to the under-produced nature of the CD Grant voice comes across very pure and clean which allows for the emphasizing of every vocal melody and hook rather nicely.

Naturally a highlight of the CD, as in previous releases, is the guitar solos. As one might expect most songs feature 2-3, some times more, solo breaks. What’s nice is Knapp seems to have a certain structure to his scale runs which works well with the theme of each song when used. This is not mindless wankery, and Knapp throws in slower hook filled melodic leads as well to change things up. Knapp’s song writing has also improved. There are some excellent riff and tempo transitions and the pinnacle is probably Dawn of Our Only Day which manages to create a distinct, somewhat dark, atmosphere without any over-produced production wizardry or blatant keys. This song works because of a quality combination of hook milking but with enough tempo and aggression level changes to keep things interesting (the Gamma Ray inspired chorus helps as well). Above all else the main appeal is every song features constant riffs which use three distinct 80’s influences with the mixture of the shredding solos. There is no extended palm-muted chug runs, this is pure riffs from beginning to end. Sure enough, not all the riffs are of the same quality and the odd song has similar soundings riffs that you’ve already heard on an earlier tracks but the mixture of the NWOBHM, US Power Metal, and occasional Thrash riff works in the bands favor. I have to admit the songs that feature the Hard Rock NWOBHM influenced riffs were some of the most appealing with Feast for the Reaper being the best of the bunch. If this track doesn’t bring you back to the 80’s the only thing that probably would then is a time machine. The song even has an early Axxis vibe which is nothing but a good thing. I could actually see Onward making a whole CD in this style with great success as even the bonus track Front Line Away follows the same principle and these were two of my favorite.

I really enjoyed the minor change of focus with the band. The only thing holding this release back is the occasional repetition but the overall quality is more consistent. For those of you sick of the 80’s throw back sound many bands are employing then stay clear of this; I for one eat this stuff up when performed and written well and for the most part Onward has done both of those things.

Killing Songs :
Feast For The Reaper, Mind Bomb, The Neverending Sun, Dawn Of Our Only Day, Triad, Front Line Away
Crims quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Onward that we have reviewed:
Onward - Reawaken reviewed by Mike and quoted 77 / 100
Onward - Evermoving reviewed by Danny and quoted 68 / 100
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