TOBY KNAPP – THE CAMPAIGN (ARCHIVE)

Out Now – Shredguy Records
 
Toby Knapp is another contender to make a name for himself in the guitar virtuoso stakes. Freshly signed to Shredguy Records Toby is joined by other relative unknowns in vocalist Attila Csihar, Jeff Gruslin, Tom Cline and Dean Sternberg to sing on various tracks on this 9 track mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks. Home to a neo-classical meets early thrash and straight metal sound the album has a very rudimentary production where the programmed drums cheapens the end product somewhat. As a result some of the impact is lost with the dullish backing tracks. That said Toby’s guitar work is strong.

The instrumentals fare best on the album with opener ‘The Campaign’ setting things off nicely whilst ‘Towards Power Unimagined’ is first rate in anyones book. ‘Telekninesis’ is home to the aforementioned early thrash feel with some of flair of the likes of Exoudus shown. That said ‘Plutonium Race’ I suspect is from a different recording period as the sound quality is worse than the other very average sounding tracks. Sadly the momentum of the instrumentals is lost with the vocal tracks. ‘Conspire’ just sounds dated largely thanks to the weak vocal melodies and strained vocals of Dean Sternberg, a shame as there is potential in the music. ‘We Are Legions’ with its cookie monster vocals of Jeff Gruslin does however awaken the Carcass and Morbid Angel fan in me and is a nice slice of brutal metal. This is contrasted by the overly quasi musically accomplished post grunge of ‘Wicked’ with its Stone Temple Pilots feel! Dodgy vocals again come into play on ‘Reanimation’ thanks to the delightfully named Atilla Csihar and make the track almost unlistenable whilst we are ‘treated’ to Dean Sternberg’s vocals again on closer ‘Lack Of Inspiration’.

Despite the obvious skill Knapp has on the guitar, it’s a shame this quality control isn’t followed up in other areas i.e. production, mix, choice of vocalist etc. So despite my best intentions to focus on the positives the limitations of the weak areas are just too overpowering in places to ignore and a result the album comes out with a very average score. Hopefully Knapp can address the issues mentioned here next time as he has the 6 string goods to deliver going by his guitar work and musical compositions here.

Rating – 60%

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KIKO LOUREIRO – FULL BLAST (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

Out Now – Mascot Records

“Full Blast” is the third solo album from the Angra guitarist after the mixed bags of “No Gravity” and “Universo Inverso”.  I am pleased to report however that the new album is his most coherent and accessible to date, whereas the other two I felt were more about guitar chops; “Full Blast” demonstrates a stronger more structured approach and its pays dividends as a result.

Backed up by instrumental guitar favourite drummer, the ever impressive Mike Terrana, Kiko along with bassist Felipe Andreoli deliver strong driving tunes in the likes of opener “Headstrong” and “Se Entrega Corisco”.  There is a native Brazilian feel of “Desperado” and acoustic timbres of “Mundo Verde” whilst heavy prog tinges crop up in “Cutting Edge”.  The more melodic moments are catered for well with the soulful “Excuse Me”, “The Clairvoyance”, “Whispering” and “Pura Vida” and these represent the best tracks on the album. Some tracks aren’t as strong however with the likes of the experimental metal chug of “Corrosive Voices” being one to skip, yet I can’t help but feel the melodic numbers are the ones worthy of return visits as the others tend to merge into one standard instrumental routines.  One cannot call into question Kiko’s technique which is superb but his tone is quite processed and lacks some warmth in places – a minor quibble.

Overall “Full Blast” is as mentioned the best solo work to date I have heard from Kiko. Whilst its by no means the best instrumental of the year it is an enjoyable enough slice of guitar, well played, well produced yet missing the final killer touches to make it a must own release.

Rating – 80%