Or so you would think.
My introduction to Ra came about when I went into a local FYE with a handful of cash and a cd player with an appetite. I came across the hard copy of ‘From One’, and was so impressed by the album cover I bought it on a whim. Why shouldn’t I have, with thirteen dollars to lose, and a timeless classic to gain, what choice could I have made.
I played From One to the point the bottom half of the album nearly turned black. Songs such as ‘Only’, ‘Sky’, ‘Rectifier’, ‘High Sensitivity’ and ‘On My Side’ had such multilayered elements of talent embedded into every second of music it was almost impossible not to succomb to an obsessive affair with it. The production, and sound quality on that album was fantastic (for it’s time), and you were presented with a group with unlimited potential, and the presence of mind to capitalize on that potential.
In between the releases of ‘From One’ and their 2005 sophmore album ‘Duality’, I had begun my personal music career as a hip hop artist, which required a great deal of dedication to the genre. I had not even been aware of Ra releasing ‘Duality’ until I breezed by it in the same FYE I had aquired ‘From One’ in. I purchased it without even a first thought. I will be the first one to admit that nine times out of ten, I prefer ‘Duality’ to ‘From One’.. the elegant, moody compositions coupled with the aggressive skull crushers that completely validated the concept of the album were too superb to deny. From the moment the cinematic intro exploded into ‘Fallen Angels’ all the way until the conclusion of the album it was obvious that these guys had no direction left other than upwards.
Or so it seemed.
The interim between ‘Duality’ and ‘Black Sun’ have been well-documented, and I will not waste your time by having you read about it, when you could just as easily enjoy the ‘From One’-esque gem ‘Waste Of Space’.
The title of ‘Black Sun’ is truely befitting of this album. This is a very dark album, to put it as simply as possible. ‘Broken Hearted Soul’ being by far the most tame track on the album in terms of thought provocation, makes for one of the most fun listens. Yet it is in the song that we encounter the most critical failure of ‘Black Sun’. Just about every song on this album is excellent. However, while listening it feels as though these songs are just one notch below the level of execution that they were built to me. Perhaps the previous two albums have heightened our expectations.
‘Lost Along The Way’, “Waste of Space’, and the pleasant ‘I Believe Again’, round out the superb midsection of this album, leading us into the formidable, yet subdued tail end. It is in the first act this album truely shines.
‘The First Step’ is classic ‘From One’ era instrumentation and cinematic sound, yet updated with newfound sound quality. The inclusion of the popular B-Side ‘Don’t Turn Away’ is definitely a big plus, considering it would’ve gone down as the best Ra song to never see a studio release had it not been on, and the updated version of it only ices the cake.
The highlight of this album comes in the supercharged ‘Faulty Information’, which may quite possibly be the best song Ra has released to date. So potent is this song that it almost weighs the album down simply because the other songs just aren’t quite on it’s level. While it may frustrate some to know that there is a clear divide between the “best”, and “worst” songs on the album, it should serve as a reminder that Ra always leapfrog over their previous albums, each time they release a new one. I just think that this time they just came up a little short, but that does not mean that they shouldn’t be carried upon their own shoulders. This is a fantastic album, and is more than enough to satisfy fans until their next release.
4 out of 5 stars.