ULI JON ROTH – METAMORPHOSIS

ulijonroth_metamorphosis

Out now on SPV
Original review first published on the old site in 2003.

Perhaps one of the greatest cult guitarists ever. Uli Jon Roth started out life as Ulrich Roth, lead guitarist of the Scorpions, he left in the late 1970’s and went on to form Electric Sun, who released 3 classic cult albums chock full of empassioned guitar work. Being a major influence on the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, James Byrd and Jake E Lee amongst others, Uli has seen his career enjoy somewhat of a renaissance in the new millenium. 2000 saw Transcendental Sky Guitar achieve worldwide acclaim mixing the classics with Hendrix, this saw Uli head out on a European G3 tour, headline his own mini touring festival Legends Of Rock and generally see his career get somewhat of a boost.

December 2003 saw Metamorphosis hit the shelves (after several delays) and whilst containing elements of / or the same similar idea as Transcendental Sky Guitar, Metamorphosis is much more pompous. Essentially Metamorphosis is Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with Uli’s SKY guitar taking the place of the violin, he is backed up by the Sky Orchestra (aka Bentley Klein ensemble) with Uli tagging his own 21st Century 5th Season on to the end. Crazy? Maybe but let the music do the talking.

Opener “Prelude To The Seasons” is an original atmospheric opener that after around 50 seconds gives us our first taste of Uli’s distinctive guitar tone. To be honest it does sound a little more processed these days than in years gone by but the fluidity in the sound is still nothing short of stunning. Track 2 to 13 are comprised of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, if you have heard the excerpts from Transcendental Sky Guitar then you will have some idea of what to expect. However, this is home to super production values, apparently everything you will hear here is pure room reverb (no plate reverbs or digital fx) rather various rooms of Uli’s home studio in Wales were used to maximum effect. In regards to the Four Seasons, if you have never heard them then you are missing out on some of the finest music ever written and this is as good an introduction to them as any.

Track 14 “Thunder Cadenza” sees the start of Uli’s original compositions entitled Metamorphosis. These tracks are still extremely classical in nature – no rock bass or drums etc, but the flair of the guitar will transcend through even the most hardcore rock affichinadoes skin. “Cry Of The Night” is home to a beautifully haunting melody and the orchestral backing make the whole effect mesmerising. You have to hear the phrasing here to truly appreciate the beauty of the music.” Summer’s Breath” sees the pace and intensity drop to an almost whimsical level, nice play between guitar and violin is in evidence, this paves way to the dirty blues of “Rodeo From Hell” (all 50 seconds of it) which then leads into the dark gothic “Les Adieux” which sees more great interplay between orchestra and Uli. Here Uli is really giving us some great fretwork. This breaks down to another beautiful melody and more examples of the Roth greatness at wringing out emotion.

“Springtime Euphoria” sees a new play on the Spring main theme, Uli really is letting fly here, making full use of the low B string on his 7 string SKY guitar, some nice arpeggios. “The Heart Of Chopin” sees the dark soulful side of Uli’s persona come in, again very immaculately performed with great blending of orchestra and guitar. Check out the vibrato here, absolutely stunning! “Dance Of The Water Spirits” sees the tempo pick up once again and you can almost visualise an epic fight going on over mystic waters, this would work terrifically well over a fantasy feature ala Lord Of The Rings. Transfiguration starts the ending of the opus with more trademark Roth vibrato leading into “Venga La Vita” which is home to another reworking of the seasons themes. Roth then throws in some truly wonderful guitar fills that run the whole range of the Sky guitar. Closing gambit, “The Morning Of Forever” is again very emotional with a dark hautning quality yet a brittle quality that is so enchanting. Completely orchestral it shows Roth’s skills as a classical arranger to the full.

Well there you have it, despite the focus of this review being on Uli’s new movement, Metamorphosis is home to a classic masterpiece and then another captivating body of work in Uli’s additions. This album proves that Roth may well have found his niche and whilst fans of his work in Scorpions and Electric Sun may wish for him to return to that path someday this kind of shows that this is world in which Uli now lives.

If you have never heard any of Uli Jon Roth’s work before then this is a good place to start, it will give you a very clear indication of where the man is at musically in his fourth decade of music and it will hopefully lead you on a journey towards Uli’s past works. Recommended.

Rating : 92%

 

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