You get what you probably expect on André Andersen’s second solo album, Black on Black. That is, more of Royal Hunt. As keyboard player for one of Denmark’s most successful progressive bands, Andersen has a knack for making majestic, pretentious music and finding the right vocalists to add character to his compositions. Black on Black is no exception, as the leather lungs of Ian Parry (Elegy, Consortium Project) inject a Ronnie James Dio vibe into the proceedings.
There are no epics or major themes here, as there were on the last couple Royal Hunt albums, The Watchers and The Mission. But three of Black on Black’s nine songs clock in at longer than six minutes ("Desperate Times," "Eclipse" and "Piece of My Heart"), and two of them are instrumentals (the electric "Arena" and the piano-and-strings "Eclipse"). A handful even break away from the Royal Hunt formula a bit more than the others. "Tell Me Why," for example, is a scorcher with big background vocals and searing fretwork courtesy of guitar soloist Rene Rieland and multi-instrumentalist Andersen (who plays keys, guitars and bass on the album). "Desperate Times" opens with creepy vocal passages that explode into heavy riffs, while "Piece of My Heart" boasts a dark undercurrent fueled by an ominous organ.
With Black on Black, Andersen succeeds at creating nothing ground-breaking, but also nothing mind-numbing. He does what he does exceptionally well, and there’s hardly a track here that gets boring or passes without notice. By some standards, that would be more than acceptable. Andersen, however, can do better.