by Alissa Ordabai
Staff Writer –
When the press release proclaims “the metal world will never be the same” with the release of your new record, the pressure is on to provide evidence. Which Jeff Loomis tries to do on his sophomore solo release with iron-jawed resolve.
From the rapid-fire shred storm on opener “Mercurial” the album is an exuberant, extravagant, deliberately OTT affair. It seems that the faster and more notes Loomis plays, the more he expects to justify his PR’s declaration. Still, barrages of arpeggios and neck-break speed fretboard runs don’t prove to be a substitute for melody. While Loomis’s grooves and riffs at times are real barn-burners (see standout “Escape Velocity” for a riff that can get even a corpse’s blood pumping), equally strong melodies are proving harder to find.
Technically impeccable, although mechanistic-sounding drum parts add to the machine-driven feel of the album, as do showers of Loomis’s gratuitous notes which often obscure already weak, tentative melodies. Technique-wise the record is highly commendable, but at the same time nothing new. Variety from habitual articulation and soloing methods is provided by guest shred vets Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, and Tony MacAlpine. More diversity is injected by Christine Rhoades and Ihsahn who take on the mic duties on some of the songs, but guest appearances – although impressive – do not add compositional latitude.
There are, however, exceptions to the highly practiced routine of Loomis’s own creative process, and “Continuum Drift” (with Chris Poland guesting) is one such track – dynamic, full of tonal variety, and chops serving the transparently clear compositional plan.
Another convention-defying highlight is the flamenco-inspired “Rapture” – a finely articulated, touchingly emotional piece where Loomis departs from his personal formulas and gives priority to conveying his inner reality, as opposed to demonstrations.
To sum up, great riffs are never enough to make sure the metal world ceases to be the same, but at the same time enough to turn a primarily instrumental record into something more than a string of solipsistic exercises in fretboard fetishism.
Genre: Metal, Instrumental Guitar
Jeff Loomis – guitar
Dirk Verbeuren – drums
Ihsahn – vox (track 7)
Christine Rhoades – vox (track 4 and 8)
Chris Poland – lead guitar (track 6)
Attila Vörös – lead guitar (track 5)
Tony MacAlpine – lead guitar (track 2)
Marty Friedman – lead guitar (track 1)
Shane Lentz – bass
1. Mercurial (featuring Marty Friedman) (instrumental)
2. The Ultimatum (featuring Tony MacAlpine) (instrumental)
3. Escape Velocity (instrumental)
4. Tragedy And Harmony (featuring Christine Rhoades)
5. Requiem For The Living (featuring Attila Vörös) (instrumental)
6. Continuum Drift (featuring Chris Poland) (instrumental)
7. Surrender (featuring Ihsahn)
8. Chosen Time (featuring Christine Rhoades)
9. Rapture (instrumental)
10. Sibylline Origin (instrumental)
Label: Century Media Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 5/10