Chimp Spanner – At the Dream’s Edge

Posted in Album, Guitarists, Reviews on April 14th, 2010 by Alex

Gone are the days when a solo guitar virtuoso could woo the masses, fingers ablur over fret board weaving magical, note hungry spells. Sometime in the early 90’s (thanks in no small part to Mr. Cobain and chums) it became distinctly distasteful to peddle your talents in such an overtly self-aggrandising way. The old guard stuck to their guns in relative obscurity, while the new guard peddle their wares in power metal bands and the like. But surely, as the trends come and go through the years we’re due a resurrection of the solo guitar god?

Chimp Spanner is guitarist Paul Antonio Ortiz from Colchester, UK. Ortiz’s day job is making music for computer games, adverts, radio etc. In his spare time he is Chimp Spanner – the bastard offspring of Cloudkicker (Ben Sharp) and zany guitar supremo Steve Vai. Whereas Cloudkicker sits uncomfortably in the post-rock category At the Dream’s Edge delivers instrumental metal that borders on, but ultimately transcends, the solo guitar virtuoso tomfoolery of Vai and his Jedi master Joe Satriani. Whether Ortiz aligns himself with these esteemed, but ultimately uncool elder statesmen is unclear, but the comparison is unavoidable.

The Vai-esque lead guitar keens and flutters over a choppy ocean of Cloudkicker like percussive, polyrhythmic chugging. There’s invention and guitar wizardry here aplenty and some seriously tricky time signatures. Where Vai and his ilk are usually comfortable to let the widdly guitar do the talking Ortiz pervades his mad science through every instrumental layer, of which there are many. Although the Cloudkicker/Vai comparisons are the most obvious, this eclectic collection borrows from across the rock/metal spectrum, one minute death, the next ambient, the next melodic rock and there’s a clear debt to progressive noodling of Dream Theatre. It doesn’t always work, one minute “Yes, yes, yes!”, the next “No , no, no!” which, when taken as a whole, makes …Dream’s Edge an occasionally tiring listen.

That said level of musicianship on display here is nothing short of stunning and rarely overtly showy, and there’s no shortage of ideas. At the Dream’s Edge lacks the drama of Clouckicker or the wacky, post-Zappa personality of Vai – it feels a little clinical at times. This is definitely one for the musos as really doesn’t have much to offer in the way of an emotional fix, but it’s hard really to knock something this nifty.

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Classic Tracks: Oceansize – Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs

Posted in Guitarists, Tracks on June 29th, 2009 by Alex

Manchester’s genre busting musicologists Oceansize could broadly be classified as post rock. Their atmospheric and unpredictable music is frequently beautiful and always challenging. Boasting 3 guitarists, Oceansize create soundscapes that flow effortlessly between ambient and aggressive and produce a depth of sound few other bands can achieve.

Few songs have the ability to make me feel so emotionally charged as the immersive Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs from their startling debut album Effloresce. This surging epic begins with the subtly murmured lyrics suggesting the vagaries of drug abuse, before slow building into gigantic storm of frantic Jonny Greenwood style guitars. We are then soothed again by the song’s final coda of echoing guitars and washes of ambient sound. Perfect.

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Great Guitar Solos #3: Extreme – Get the Funk Out

Posted in Guitarists, Solos on June 26th, 2009 by Alex
Funked off

Funked off

It’s easy to discount Extreme with their almost infinite deficit of cool. Extreme were forsaken after the cringe inducing indulgence of III Sides To Every Story. Their über ballad More Than Words being covered by Irish boyband pansies Westlife was the final insult.

It’s sad, because Extreme were responsible for some original and technically brilliant songs. Get the Funk Out, from the trans-genre masterpiece Pornograffitti may be a lightweight gesture at aggression, but it actually packs a real punch. A storming funk-metal bass line and deceptively complex set of riffs build up to this majestic guitar funk-out. Nuno Bettencourt, one of the greatest rhythm/lead guitarists there is, delivers a centre-piece that is a left field evolution of the two handed tapping technique which defies belief. Behold.

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Great guitar solos #2: Megadeth – Tornado of Souls

Posted in Guitarists, Old, Solos on June 14th, 2009 by Alex

Struggling to keep up with Metallica‘s creative frenzy – 3 devastatingly original and critically lauded albums – and failing to live up to former glories of the genre defining Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, in 1990 Dave Mustaine finally managed to assemble the dream team and record the album of their career, and the first great metal album of the 90′s.

Thrash Metal - serious business

Thrash Metal - serious business

Rust in Peace is a pounding epic of fiercely technical speed metal displaying some of the best musical prowess seen in the genre. As guitar solos go, there’s many to choose from. Mustaine enlisted solo guitar prodigy Marty Friedman to great effect sparring from one guitar duel to the next. The guitar is king here – indeed, track 2, Hangar 18, is practically all guitar solo.

It is Friedman who has the finest moment on the exhilarating Tornado of Souls. Unlike many metal solos, which  often trade-in melody for technical trickery or brute force, there is beauty and subtlety here, and it is the very heart of the song. Often cited as one Friedman’s best solos, it’s probably one of the best ever recorded.

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Great guitar solos #1: Annihilator – Fun Palace

Posted in Guitarists, Old, Solos on June 7th, 2009 by Alex

Jeff Waters is one of the unsung heros of the Thrash era. This may be because of his silly fringe, or that despite Annihilator being responsible for some of the most technical and exhilarating music of the movement, they are also responsible for some real toss, including some very ill-advised balladry. That aside, Jeff’s guitar wizardry makes Kirk Hammett’s skills seem pedestrian and unimaginative, and Dave Mustaine’s sloppy.

Fun Palace is my favourite Annihilator song, which, un-coincidentally, contains one of my favourite guitar solos.  About 3 and quarter minutes in (just past the bit with the King Diamond style helium vocals) the song tumbles into the exhilarating build up from which the frenzied yet controlled solo bursts forth. This is more than just widdles, but a brutal and assured demonstration of pure skill and technical mastery. The fact that he can play it note perfect live is just plain irritating – Jeff you need to try harder at sucking.

Welcome to the fun palace? Bow down and worship the king!

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