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Rob Metz - Overall Review

Prolusion. US composer and guitarist Rob METZ started learning his instrument at age 15, when he tagged along with a friend who took guitar lessons and paid a great deal of attention to the lessons, later striving to replicate what he'd heard while listening to his beloved Iron Maiden records. He formed a band soon after, who won a Battle of the Bands contest the same year, but it wasn't until a few years later that he found his calling as a musician. When a friend introduced him to Joe Satriani's works he decided that this was the type of music he wanted to pursue, and in 2006 his first instrumental guitar album, "Legion of Dreams, was issued. Following the release of this initial effort Metz kept expanding his scope as a guitarist and composer, getting more familiar with other stylistic expressions. And when Metz released his sophomore effort "Axis Shift" in 2008, this album attempted to document just that.


Rob Metz - 2006 - "Legion of Dreams"

(33:46, 'Rob Metz')

****+
TRACK LIST:

1.  Lost in the Machine 4:24  
2.  Cruising 5th Avenue 3:30    
3.  Uncle Ice 3:47    
4.  Ride 3:41    
5.  Ivory Dragonfly 3:03    
6.  Silverwheel 2:58    
7.  Warmouth 3:51    
8.  Nightshade 3:12    
9.  Reactor 45 3:06    
10. Island Unto Myself 2:14    

LINEUP:

Rob Metz  guitars; synthesizers
Doug Johns  bass 
Bill Cioce  drums 
With:
Rob Titti  piano (10)
Adam Mercer  drums (2, 10)
Analysis. Rob Metz makes no secret about the fact that he's influenced by Joe Satriani, but even if he had not done so most guitar aficionados would recognize the obvious inspiration given by this world-renowned instrumentalist on this effort. The trademark sound of Satriani's earliest ventures, a slightly subdued riff foundation with wandering atmospheric soloing above, are constant features throughout this disc. More or less flamboyant shredding, mostly in briefer bursts, is a substantial part of this venture, and a general positive mood and spirit likewise. One trait more peculiar to Metz as a composer is the addition of space-tinged synth layers though. A set feature throughout this album is atmospheric, synth-dominated opening and end sequences, while the middle part of the tracks has an elongated passage exploring the sound or theme in question in more detail. And it is in the creations where these elements are pushed more upfront that this album features efforts worth taking note of. While the other efforts are okayish in themselves, pleasing excursions but lacking the truly distinct features or strong atmospheres to make a grand impression, it's on songs such as Ivory Dragonfly and Nightshade that Metz excels on this CD. The former is a dreamy, almost ambient feature, creating a warm, rich fantasy-tinged mood both pleasing and intriguing. The latter is something of a stark contrast, with darker, brooding synths and a distinctly heavier and beefier guitar sound than found anywhere else on this release. Besides this, it's also worth noting that unlike many other guitarists creating albums to show off their abilities, Metz has chosen to use other musicians to perform the instruments he doesn't master himself, rather than sticking to the DIY approach or utilizing programmed instruments. This does give this album a richer and more wholehearted feel than many others in this genre.

Conclusion. On this initial effort, Rob Metz comes across as a guitarist and composer highly influenced by Joe Satriani and in particular his early efforts. And while quite a few of the tracks come across as rather derivative in nature and spirit they are well performed. The utilization of synths throughout does add an extra dimension to this disc, and while it might not appeal strongly outside of guitarists and guitar aficionados circles it will have an outside appeal, which is more than you can say about many other such excursions.


Rob Metz - 2008 - "Axis Shift"

(45:55, 'Rob Metz')

****
TRACK LIST:

1.  Cosmic Ascension 4:04    
2.  Flying Machine 4:10    
3.  Desert Song 5:22    
4.  Empire of the Moon 4:25    
5.  Ultraviolet 3:59    
6.  Eastern Wind 5:05    
7.  Primal Fire 3:20    
8.  Tradition 6:09    
9.  Dark Energy 5:24    
10. Silver Feathers 3:57        

LINEUP:

Rob Metz  guitars; piano, synthesizers
Jared Lees  bass; drums, percussion
John Gall  piano, synthesizers
Mike Dolsen  synthesizers 
Bill Cioce  drums 
Jay Tucker  drums 
Michael Swan  saxophone 
Fc Bester  synthesizer; guitars; programming
Analysis. One phrase I often encounter while reading music reviews, in particular in newspapers and glossy music magazines, is this one: the difficult second album. And while I haven't heard too many examples of this saying actually coming true, I find this sophomore effort of US guitarist and composer Rob Metz to be a rather good example falling under that description. Following two years after his debut album, Axis Shift does document progress in many key areas though. Metz's compositions appear to be generally better constructed, for starters. The songs have a better flow to them in general; changes in pace and expression are incorporated in a smoother and more easygoing manner, and the soundscapes come across as generally better planned and more skillfully put together. In short: the level of craftsmanship seems to be of a generally higher standard this time around. But while Metz's first production was an effort with derivative traits referencing to the early output of one Joe Satriani first and foremost, it was also an outing containing tracks with strong and distinct moods and atmospheres too derivative for comfort at times, but generally entertaining even if somewhat unconvincing at times. On this sophomore effort this particular derivative dimension has disappeared, but now with tracks less distinct in mood. Many efforts now comes across as generic in style and sound they could have been placed on just about any metal-tinged instrumental guitar effort of the last 20 years or so without appearing out of place. Some might describe it as a lack of identity first and foremost and while the various tracks aren't bad as such, they are too predictable in scope and sound to be intriguing, while the moods and themes explored aren't truly engaging in themselves. A few select instances of stronger and more sophisticated compositions indicate that there's stronger material to appear in the future from this instrumentalist, though. The aptly named Dark Energy is a truly engaging venture, and other efforts such as the Arabian-tinged Empire of the Moon and the horn-rock flirting Primal Fire showcase strong and distinct sequences and themes in between the more lacklustre segments.

Conclusion. While a pretty nice affair as far as instrumental, metal-tinged guitar efforts goes, "Axis Shift" isn't a production that will have a strong appeal beyond the scope of folks who are already fans of this stylistic expression. The songs are mostly predictable and pretty typical examples of the genre without excelling. A few compositions manage to seek out fresher sounding musical grounds though, and whilst this album may be found wanting in the innovation department the songs are well made up, and should cater to the cravings of those who'd like to get themselves a well constructed example of this genre rather than a well made one.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 20 & 21, 2010
The Rating Room


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