Favored Nations Entertainment, 2011
REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/09/2011
I’ve often heard instrumental releases from guitar heroes and wondered just where lyrics would fit into the music. There is no room for that question on this release, as Tony MacAlpine is brilliant. I’ve followed his career from a distance, starting with his work through the M.A.R.S. (MacAlpine, Aldridge, Rock, Sarzo) release called Project:Driver in 1988. Like many other releases on the Shrapnel Records label, it showcased MacAlpine’s ability to compose riffs on both the guitar and keyboard. In the years since that release, his reputation as an outstanding musician has only grown. His latest, self-titled, release is his 11th.
Preparing to even record this release must have been exhausting. Truly only a very talented musician can compose these pieces. Credited with electric guitar, seven-string guitar, eight-string guitar, keyboard, drum programming, bass guitar (except track two where Philip Bynoe plays bass), Macalpine delivers riffs that are dizzying flurries. A lot of the songs sound like the kind of material that an aspiring guitarist would hear and be in one of two mindsets at the end. On one hand, there is a lot of inspiration to be consumed, especially after the 2:30 mark of opener “Serpens Cauda” and during the opening groove of “Fire Mountain,” before it ascends into shredding guitar territory. On the other hand, there is a lot of awe. I have only tried to learn the guitar on my own and very quickly became frustrated with the inability of my fingers to do what seemed so easy while playing air guitar. I have nothing but awe and admiration for pretty much any guitarist. Anyone that says “So and so sucks” probably has never tried to play the instrument.
For seven of the tracks, MacAlpine has ‘live’ drummers. Virgil Donati lays down the groove for three tracks while Marco Minnemann slays the skins on four other cuts. MacAlpine scored with both drummers, as Donati’s tracks are monstrous drum monuments while respecting the overall piece of music, and Minnemann is equally impressive with his powerhouse displays. There is lots of double bass syncopation.
The tracks to pay attention to are the aforementioned “Fire Mountain” and “Pyrokinesis.” Both are aggressive in their tempo with a gentle head bob type of feel. “Dream Mechanism” fits in that category as well. All three are about the same length. For a laidback but equally musically interesting piece, check out “Flowers For Monday,” which is somewhat calmer than the other material on this release. Positioned at track six of 12, it serves as a brief pause before the final tracks.
Altogether, this is a satisfying album. I can set this disc to repeat and have it in the background as I work on my PC. I sometimes, even after multiple listens, will rewind and ask, “How in the world did he come up with that part?” I think the ability to hear something new with each listen truly makes this an outstanding accomplishment of musicianship.