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Charles Brown (USA) - 2004 - "Thru the Flames"
TRACK LIST: 1. Rising of the New Moon 4:30 2. Eye of the Storm 4:40 3. A Journey in Time 4:40 4. The Journey Begins 3:33 5. The Gate of the Mists 3:59 6. Vertical Ascension 3:29 7. Winds of Eolus 3:30 8. Altar of Sacrifice 2:39 9. Absolute Zero 3:36 10. Radiation Zone 2:51 11. Thru the Flames 3:45 12. The Sunlight Never Dies 2:02 All tracks: by Brown. Produced & engineered by Brown. LINE-UP: Charles Brown - electric, acoustic, & bass guitars Matt Bassano - keyboards; drum programming
Prolusion. "Thru the Flames" is the fourth solo album by the US guitarist and composer Charles BROWN. His previous three outings: "Mystics", "Earth Voyage", and "Mystic Visions" were also released through Fossil Records. For more info, please check Related Links below.
Synopsis. In the CD press kit Charles lists about a dozen of famous Hard & Heavy, Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion bands and performers whose creation influenced him: Deep Purple, Blackmore's Night, Marillion, Steve Howe, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Pat Metheny, just to name a few. In that way, I had some unwitting misgivings about "Thru the Flames" prior to listening to the CD, but they dissolved shortly after I put it into my player. This man has an original vision of music and is a genuinely gifted composer, arranger, and musician. There are no traces of any direct influences on the album, and while there is nothing revolutionary as well, it sounds fresh throughout and is rather unique even stylistically. There are twelve instrumental compositions, and with the exception of two of them, which I'll describe below, the music is a very well balanced blend of both of the guitar and symphonic kinds of Art-Rock and Cathedral Metal, which is also progressive in itself in this case. I would never confuse Cathedral Metal with Hard Rock or any other Heavy Metal-related direction, and the texture of guitar riffs on "Thru the Flames" is typical for the said genre. (Generally, I don't find any reason in using generalized terms when defining a style.) So, there is nothing ordinary on this recording, and the music is much more complex and, more properly, progressive than that of any of the heavy music performers Charles mentioned among his teachers in absentia. Most compositions abound with plenty of acoustic guitar passages, going separately and in the context of massive arrangements as well, which has something in common with Steve Howe's early creation, but exclusively on a structural level. Altar of Sacrifice (8) contains an episode with inventive interplay between the synthesizer flute-like solos and those of bass and acoustic guitar. Some tracks have in places a classical feel to them, some feature light shades of Oriental music, and also the bits of Jazz-Fusion. Keyboardist Matt Bassano is also a tasty and virtuosi musician and is well matched with Charles. Thanks to the good programming of a drum machine and the well thought-out use of overdubs, the duo sounds like a full-fledged band, creating a lushly colored musical palette. The arrangements are always diverse and interesting. They develop intensively, with many turns and little repetitions. The remaining two tracks: The Journey Begins and The Sunlight Never Dies (4 & 12) were performed without drums and are free of any heaviness. These reflect Charles's interest in Jazz-Fusion and are also good compositions.
Conclusion. "Thru the Flames" is a very good progressive effort, and while heaviness is the integral part of the music, it will hardly turn away from the album even those exclusively to symphonic forms. My only serious quibble is in the songwriting department. A couple of tracks in the middle are a bit incomplete, and another one was ended too promptly and not that properly when was recorded. Nevertheless, those few flaws can't prevent me appreciate the material and enjoy it as well. Recommended.
VM: August 16, 2004
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