Sound: Radiance is the progressive/power metal solo project of Necrophagist guitarist Sami Raatikainen. For a musician in a technical death metal band to be writing such music should come as quite a surprise to some, however hearing just how well the music itself is written and executed may be even more shocking. Being constantly in the shadow of Muhammed Suimez, it is very rare that we ever get a chance to hear Sami's true talent for ourselves, seeing as to this date he has not made an appearance on any Necrophagist release. If anything, this album is undeniable proof of just how underrated and overlooked the Finnish virtuoso really is.
"The Burning Sun" is a concept album composed of one single 49-minute song split into seven different parts, and as such is intended to be listened to in one sitting rather than each track individually. Every single note, chord, and progression was written and performed by Sami; the guitars, bass, drums, keyboard, and pretty much everything except the vocals. The guitar work shows much variety, ranging from Djent-style riffing, to clean interludes, to incredible solo work with some serious John Petrucci influence present. The keyboards bring their own unique element to the table as well, from the three spacy synth interludes in the form of the "Lambda" songs, to the beautiful piano work in "0" and the title track, and of course the incredible symphonic string-work displayed in "Downward Spiral".
The album is not without its flaws of course. While the album has an incredible flow to it, with each track transitioning into the next seamlessly to create a unified vision, some of the interludes do seem to drag on for a bit longer than necessary in some parts, particularly the latter two "Lambda" tracks. Also, I feel that some parts of the giant song could have been broken down into slightly smaller segments for better organization. Other than these two small issues, there really isn't much more to gripe about as far as the music is concerned. // 9
Lyrics: The vocals were originally also to be performed by Sami, however midway into the process of recording, he soon came to the conclusion that it would take far too long to train his voice to be able to sing what his standards required. Realizing he would require the assistance of a professional vocalist, he managed to recruit former Yngwie Malmsteen singer Mats Levn to record the vocals for the album. Mats' voice here can be best described as a mash up between an older version of Tim Ripper Owens (mostly his clean singing voice) and James Labrie, which can prove to be a little jarring on first listen. At first, I was off put by his delivery, but upon repeated listens began to enjoy Mats' performance much more.
Also providing vocals in certain sections is Noora Hkkinen, the singer of her own solo project Noradrenaline. Her wordless backup vocals provide a very beautiful, soothing atmosphere to the album and amplify the softer portions to heights further than they could reach under normal circumstances. I do wish Sami could have let her sing some lyrics along with Mats however, as she really does have such a wonderful voice.
As for the lyrics themselves, I am not entirely sure of the story they are trying to tell. I believe it is about the evolution of man and one person's refusal to accept the regression that his race has begun to undergo. At least that is what I THINK it is about. I guess we'll never really know unless Sami posts a plot summary on his website. // 8
Overall Impression: With "The Burning Sun", Sami Raatikainen has managed to craft a marvelous work of art like none before, expertly combining the best aspects of djent, progressive, symphonic, and power metal. Some listeners may be turned off by the vocal performance at first listen, but those with an open mind will no doubt find much enjoyment in this excellent debut.
The album can be streamed for free at the Radiance website with directions on how to purchase if you like what you hear. // 8