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TRACK LIST: 1. Summer Drive 3:53 2. Easy on the Ice 3:23 3. Tough Luck 6:26 4. Egyptian Inscription 4:23 5. Desert Sanctuary 5:33 6. Estimated Time of Arrival 3:30 7. Liquid Pension Embellishment 4:09 8. Bright Awakening 5:03 9. Morning Run 2:32 10. Disappear 4:16 11. The Progressive Society 3:48 SOLO PILOT: Adrian Weiss guitars With: Lars Zehner drums Marcel Willnat bass Thorsten Praest guitars &: Several more guitarists
Prolusion. German composer and guitarist Adrian WEISS has a solid background as a musician, with more than a decade as a recording and performing member of German progressive metal act Forces At Work. "Big Time" is his debut solo album, and was released in the fall of 2011.
Analysis. When metal fans encounter albums whose cover art depicts a guitarist and his trusty six-stringed companion, the reaction tends to be of two kinds only: a firm interest or a just as firm disinterest, in particular if it turns out that the album in question is instrumental in nature. These kinds of productions tend to be subjects of interest to a select and finite crowd, albeit a highly dedicated one, as can be documented by the sheer number of magazines devoted to the art of guitar playing in general and with an emphasis on metal in particular. Personally I have an ambivalent relation to productions of this kind. I tend to dislike instrumentalists whose aim appears to be showcasing their technical skills and diversity first, with moods and melodies added almost as an afterthought, but tend to admire those who manage to combine strong atmospheres and engaging melodies with a flamboyant display of virtuosity. That Satriani's two first albums are treasured items in my music collection will probably be as good as description as anything else as far as my personal taste goes. As for Adrian Weiss, I found his solo debut to be, by and large, an entertaining acquaintance. Some touches of Satriani present, but also items suffering from too much technical showmanship to make them really interesting to my ears. A saving grace for the latter is the manner in which the supporting musicians are given roles more prominent than as backing musicians only however, in sum elevating them to what I tend to describe as pleasant pieces of music: well made, well performed, but nothing out of the ordinary. But the majority of tracks on this disc are of a different nature altogether, perhaps a tad too technical for their own good at times, but made with an approach that mostly makes this aspect moot. The key words are diversity, intensity and expression, plus frequent alterations in pace. The pieces are rather often constructed and performed in a manner that, if not innovative, is at least unexpected. The pairing of exotic sounding soloing and backing riffs on Egyptian Inscription for instance, where both lead and rhythm guitar are given roles to play. That they switch back and forth between the exotic and a more common expression throughout strengthens the unfamiliar flavors of this piece. And the way an elongated sequence of shredding is placed as a subservient part of the arrangements on some occasions, with the supporting guitar and bass combo given a dominating role instead, is another welcome approach sparingly but effectively used on a couple of occasions. The smooth shifts, twists and turns in pace, intensity and delivery utilized on Liquid Pension Embellishment is another joyful experience to my ears, among the more intriguing instrumentals I've encountered in a while. This adds up to an entertaining album that ranges from the ordinary to a single piece of true brilliance, with quite a few engaging pieces in between, in total among the more interesting productions of this particular kind I've come across in the last few years.
Conclusion. Adrian Weiss has made an intriguing solo debut with "Big Time". He has a taste for diversity in pace, intensity and expression that suit an instrumental guitar-oriented album well, and is a clever composer who manages to construct good moods and distinct melodies, whilst also allowing his virtuous capabilities as an instrumentalist to shine through. That he provides ample room and space for this supporting cast of musicians is a nice bonus too, as far as such productions go. A well made effort that should interest both guitar aficionados and those with more of a passing interest in such creations both, as long as rock and metal oriented music of this kind is of interest.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 1, 2012
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