JOE STUMP – REVENGE OF THE SHREDLORD

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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MISTHERIA – DRAGON FIRE (REVIEW)

Mistheria is a name that may well be familiar to the more neo-classically minded readers of this site.  Or indeed anyone that owns Bruce Dickinson’s ‘Tyranny Of Souls’ album for it is Mistheria that provided the keyboards on that album.  Otherwise he is probably a known name amongst musicians and not a lot else.  In 2004 he released the ‘Messenger Of The Gods’ album, a strong album with some production issues and after working with Angel Of Eden the Italian keyboard virtuoso return with an all star cast for his new neo-classical metal work – “Dragon Fire”.

All certainly looks good from the off.  The guest list of the album is certainly impressive, for vocalists try John West, Mark Boals, Rob Rock, Lance King and Titta Tani for size.  The guitar front is equally talent packed with George Bellas, Roger Staffelbach, Neil Zaza and Emir Hot handling six string duties whilst the rhythm section is Twinspirits’ Alberto Rigoni on bass and drum legend John Macaluso (Ark, ex Malmsteen). Quite a line up and something of a neo-classical wet dream in terms of personnel.  Yet all these first rate names are nothing if the material is not up to par.  Mistheria appears to have played safe on the vocal front allowing each vocalist to pen their own lyrics and melodies and with the names mentioned why not.  Elsewhere the guitarists get free reign with solo ideas whilst Rigoni and Macaluso worked with charted out music based on Mistheria’s ideas and a good job has been done here too. 

Musically this is strong keyboard dominant neo-classically tinted metal. Opening trio of “Dragon Fire”, “Lies & Deception” and “Killing The Pain” hurtle along at a frantic pace and have strong vocal melodies and pulsating rhythms.  Indeed this is music on a par quality wise with likes of Artension and it should be noted this is the best I have heard John West since the early days of Artension.  Naturally there is a lot of virtuoso musicianship on display which each track being a hotbed of undisputed skill.  Yet it’s the quality of song craft that really shines through, particularly on the likes of the beautiful power ballad “Now It’s Never”, the almost Symphony X like delivery of “Fire & Flames” and the classic rock hooks of “The Power Of One” which sounds like a metalized version of early Foreigner with its strident piano refrain.

That’s not to say all is perfect.  The mix is found wanting in a few areas, notably the level of instrumentation.  Keyboards dominate this album (perhaps understandably) yet when guitar solos by some of the best names in the business are difficult to hear you have to ask why?  Also it would have been nice to have more rhythm guitars, as opposed to rhythm keyboards using distorted guitar sounds.  These sound very digitized and rather lifeless in this area, particularly when mimicking harmonic squeals.  The album cover is also not of the general standard to have come from Lion Music of late (Pangea not withstanding).  But if you can get past these issues you are left with a good album of good songs and performances.  Hopefully the next effort from Mistheria will not take as long to come out and hopefully resolve the issues mentioned.

Overall a good slice of neo-classical metal.
 
Hot Spots : Killing The Pain, Now It’s Never, Fire & Flames, The Power Of One.
Rating : 88%