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.