APOLLO RA – RA PARIAH (No Remorse Records)

2015 reissue with remaster, originally released in 1989

Review by Omni: Apollo Ra was a heavy metal outfit from Baltimore, Maryland, originally comprised of vocalist Daniel John Miller, guitarists Bill McKeown and Chris Murphy, bassist Todd Channing Weaver and drummer Steve Albinak. They were initially signed to Shatter Records and they planned to record Ra Pariah as their debut album with producer Carl Canedy, better known as a member of The Rods and the producer of albums by bands such as Anthrax and Overkill. Murphy departed the band just before the recording process began and Andrew “Duck” MacDonald filled in as a second guitarist, having previously worked with Canedy. Unfortunately, Shatter Records folded during the recording sessions, but Canedy had enough faith in the band to help them finish Ra Pariah and release it as an album-length demo in the hope that another label would be interested in releasing it as their debut album. In spite of their perseverance and many live appearances opening for well-known bands such as King Diamond, Danzig and GWAR, this didn’t come to be and the 2015 reissue on No Remorse Records is actually the first time that this album has been officially released on CD and LP.

Apollo Ra offers a brand of 1980s power metal with melodic and progressive touches, similar to classic Queensrÿche or Crimson Glory. Miller’s powerful vocals will draw comparisons to the latter band’s infamous singer Midnight, as his soaring voice is also capable of both mid-range melodic singing and high-pitched screams. Songs such as “Crimson Streets” and “Heaven’s Just Another Way” showcase the different strengths of the band as musicians. The songwriting is generally excellent, and the band displays a penchant for crafting beautiful melodies and aggressive riffs. They are in top form throughout most of the album, but it must be noted that songs such as “Out of the Night” and “March of Fire” are not quite up to the high standards that the band reaches on the rest of the album. The lyrical themes are quite varied, ranging from street level to fantasy. The title track is perhaps the most interesting of these adventures, with its Egyptian-influenced melodies and lyrics telling of the Egyptian sun god Ra.

As a debut album, Ra Pariah shows plenty of potential, so it’s truly a shame that Apollo Ra didn’t manage to release it back when it was recorded. Fortunately, they achieved a cult following and it eventually saw the light of day. Canedy’s experienced production and an excellent remaster by Tom Borthwick at Sound Investments Studios for the reissue has this sounding convincingly like a classic heavy metal studio album and nothing like an obscure cassette demo from 1989. The No Remorse Reissue adds two additional songs that were also recorded in 1989 as bonus tracks. These songs feature guitarist Kevin Bulkley, who became the permanent second guitarist of Apollo Ra after the debut album was recorded, and they are a welcome addition to an already strong group of songs. Ra Pariah comes highly recommended as a look back at a band that could have been huge if circumstances had been different for them. Apollo Ra would continue to tour and play live shows after this album was recorded with further lineup changes. Ra Pariah remains their only album, although members of Apollo Ra would go on to record music more oriented towards progressive groove metal under the name Museum of Fear.

My rating: 85/100 (Good in its own genre, recommended for those hooked on it)