Released 17 August 2012 on Lion Music

Out of the dozens of shredders who used to flood the market with release upon release of sweeped arpeggios and shredded scales, precious few are left. Joe Stump is one of those few. Albums like “Speed Metal Messiah” and “Virtuostic Vendetta” proved that the instrumental genre still has plenty to offer, even (or especially) after grunge and nu-metal’s assault on music.

If you’re even remotely familiar with Joe’s music, this album will hold no surprises. After the brief intro “The Ritual Begins”, the album kicks off well and true with “Man Your Battlestations”, an uptempo Yngwie/Macalpine mashup. “Pistoleros” benefits from a lower tempo that allows the ideas to come to fruition.

Joe has favored a single coil type tone for years now, and I don’t think it’s ever been more obvious. This unavoidably raises the Yngwie content of the album, even if Joe is far more than a mere copycat. Musically, the album took me back to the first wave of instrumental shred releases. Macalpine’s “Edge Of Insanity”, Moore’s “Mind’s Eye” and of course Yngwie’s “Rising Force”.  “Shredlord’s Sonata” should help me prove my point…

One could argue that the compositions merely serve to showcase the guitar pyrotechnics.  Well… Duh! Instrumental albums were never about sing along epic choruses, now were they?  Even so, the lyricism of “In The Master’s House” or “Evil Beasts Below” puts to shame the naysayers who listen with trend-corrupted eyes rather than open ears.

“The Black Knight’s Castle” is a fierce barnstormer of a track that hints at Rainbow’s golden era, while “Enter The Coven” ups the stakes when it comes to heavy. The unaccompanied “Strat Out Of Hell” is a bit pointless. Like Joe forgot to put the song behind the solo. “White Knuckle Mayhem” starts of melodic but then proceeds to do full justice to its title. For “The End Approaches”, Joe once again pulls out all the stops in an epic metal tune that more than tips the hat to Yngwie.

It may be my advance copy, but overall production seems a bit weaker than on its predecessors.  The drums especially sound artificial and boxy. Nevertheless, this is another solid release by a guitarist who has risen to the top of his field.

Rating – 89%
Review by Sancho


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