The Maze

Vinnie Moore

Shrapnel Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back in the mid- to late-'80s, when I was a happy young headbanger, there were a group of musicians who were working hard to become famous on the quality of their instrumental work, only to have their accomplishments eclipsed by the likes of Joe Satriani. I often read a lot about people like Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine, but I never went out of my way to pick up any of their albums. (Shame on me, I know.)

One couldn't blame either of them if they got frustrated with the scene leaving them in the dust so unjustly, and threw in the towel. But both have persisted in their craft, to their credit, to the point where Moore utilizes MacAlpine's keyboard talents on his latest album The Mazemy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 . A solid album overall, it does show that Moore's true genius comes out when he doesn't try to be a guitar god.

First, don't try to compare Moore to Satriani - or to anyone else, for that matter. Moore's style is one where he goes for the melody of the song in his solo breaks, resorting to speed only when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, one thing he does resort to is use of guitar "flashes" like we heard in a lot of '80s metal. Frankly, these are not needed; they sound out of date, and cloud the actual music.

Moore seems to do his best, surprisingly, when he's not trying to light up the speakers with his playing. "Never Been To Barcelona" is an outstanding, gentle piece which puts Moore on Spanish guitar (if that's not an actual acoustic he's playing, it's a damned great effect!) and dazzling the listener with his riffs and fills. It's technical, without being gaudy - and it's where he could easily stake a claim to fame.

Likewise, "Watching From The Light" is a light-metal track which highlights not just the guitar work of Moore, but the work of the entire band - MacAlpine, bassist Dave LaRue and seemingly omnipresent drummer Shane Gaalaas. If anything, putting the band as a whole ahead of the six-string pyrotechnics shows Moore to be a quality musician, and it works well for the track.

While the bulk of The Maze does focus on the guitar work, it still is enjoyable, if not spectacular. Tracks like "Cryptic Dreams, "Rain," "In The Healing Garden" and the title track all show Moore's talents, though one can't help wishing for more of a band effort on these tracks. While some of the tracks inch past the eight-minute mark, don't you dare label these as progressive rock; such a labelling in this case wouldn't be fair to either Moore or to the prog-rock genre. Moore's claim to fame was - and still is - rock guitar in the metal vein.

If you love good guitar work, you'll definitely want to pick up The Maze and absorb everything that Moore has to offer. But I truly believe that if Moore were to step away from the guitar-god limelight and just put out a record featuring guitar work like we hear on "Watching From The Light" and "Never Been To Barcelona," he will finally become the household name he deserves to be.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shrapnel Records, and is used for informational purposes only.