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(48:48, Magna Carta Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Vast Horizons 3:32 2. High Wire 4:19 3. The Phoenix 4:43 4. Grace under Pressure 6:04 5. Barney 4:24 6. Jubilee 3:41 7. Steve's Morsels 4:03 8. The Source 4:35 9. Delay Song 3:37 10. Maiden Voyage 5:53 11. Sweet Solitude 5:57 LINEUP: Eric Barnett – el. guitars Damien Sisson – bass Kevin Aiello – drums
Prolusion. The US trio POINTS NORTH was formed by composer and guitarist Eric Barnett back in 2006, establishing an instrumental progressive rock band, a long time dream of his. Joined by Kevin Aiello and Damien Sisson the threesome has been an active live unit for a good few years. 2012 saw the band signed to Magna Carta Records, which subsequently released their debut album "Road Less Traveled".
Analysis. When researching this US instrumental trio, the name of guitarist Eric Barnett has been the one most prominently mentioned, alongside references to various guitar awards and articles in magazines such as Guitar Player. And this is a guitar based album and a guitar dominated band, but with a few dimensions to it that are, perhaps, slightly uncommon. Instrumental progressive rock with the guitar at the core of the proceedings tends result in a lot of guitar soloing, as is the case here as well. Elegant, tender passages with a strong emphasis on melody sit side by side with sequences more energetic in nature where words like shredding and artists like Joe Satriani probably can be namedropped aplenty, Steve Morse too when it comes to that, alongside a plethora of the more or less well know guitar idols from the last couple of decades. But if listening beyond the more flamboyant guitar solos, there's another name and association that pretty soon will hit you, and whose references are somewhat unusual in this particular context, which are Rush and Alex Lifeson in particular. Some of the guitar solo passages and the major parts of the rhythm guitars, alongside standalone gentle plucked guitar motifs and harder edged riff passages, all of them have something of a trademark Rush vibe to them, honing in on their 80's sound first and foremost. And the contributions by Aiello and Sisson to some extent strengthens that impression, although none of them are as flamboyant and distinct as their counterparts in Rush. But tight, steady and with a good technical repertoire they create a foundation that on some levels is comparable with what Alex Lifeson is served in his band. The avid reader might also note that this CD contains a track called Grace Under Pressure, which isn't, as one might assume, a cover version of a Rush track, as the Canadian trio only has an album by that name, not a song. But the song given this title by Points North is, in fact, a homage to Rush, a piece where fans of Rush can have great fun in picking out where the different riffs and passages have their sources of inspiration. Besides soloing, shredding and distinct Rush influences, Points North also includes a fair amount of fusion into their music, often in dampened, careful sequences, but also occasionally in energetic bursts where bassist Sisson in particular gets to shine. Just prior to the release of "Road Less Traveled" Sisson unfortunately had to leave the band, as his tenure as the bassist in thrash metal band Death Angel occupied too much of his schedule to leave enough room for Points North. So if any readers wonder why Uriah Duffy isn't mentioned so far, it's because he didn't join the band until after this CD was completed. Just how much one will enjoy this CD is very much a matter of taste. Technically all aspects of this production are of the highest quality, and while the compositions may be a tad too uniform in style they are fine specimens of their kind, as long as one has a taste for music of this specific nature.
Conclusion. Tight and compact instrumental progressive rock is what Points North offers up on its debut CD "Road Less Traveled". The band has a distinct emphasis on melody, and in terms of style one might describe it as a lightly fusion-flavored blend of Joe Satriani and Rush. The CD comes recommended to fans of the aforementioned artists that find this description an intriguing one.
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