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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tony MacAlpine

Tony Macalpine

Review by Gary Hill

Tony Macalpine comes from the school of technical guitarists occupied by guys like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen. Macalpine certainly has the chops to pull of that style of hard rock meets classical, progressive and fusion. This album shows that he also has a sense that the genre can have a tendency towards feeling samey. It seems every time the disc is on the verge of lapsing into feeling like one long song, Macalpine changes it up. This is a fine release showcasing a real guitar hero.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Serpens Cauda

This fires in heavy and extremely technical. Guitar soloing begins over the top taking it into more of a fusion direction. At times this wanders almost to symphonic rock territory while at other points it’s closer to the metallic end of the musical spectrum.

Ölüdeniz

While the overall motif isn’t changed, at the start of this there’s a cool swirling, classically tinged keyboard dominated sound. It calls to mind ELP, a bit. Then it works out to some extremely technically, still classically oriented fusion from there.

Fire Mountain

The balance shifts further toward the metallic on this track. It’s a real stomper that still has enough crazy changes and technical jamming in place to make it fit as progressive rock. It also has some shifts towards more melodic music at points. There’s a section later in the piece that has hints of a modern King Crimson sound.

Dream Mechanism

More melodic than the previous one, Macalpine doesn’t forget how to rock, but just loses a bit of the metallic sound here.

Ten Seconds to Mercury

A fiery jam, this one is really pure fusion. In a lot of ways the sound is starting to feel a little monolithic by this point, but Macalpine’s guitar soloing never fails to impress.

Flowers For Monday

Macalpine certainly must have sensed the need for a change, and he provides it in spades. Here we have a mellow, acoustically driven piece that’s got a lot of classical music in the mix, but overall is pretty much pure jazz. It’s definitely a much need bit of variety.

Angel of Twilight

This cut pounds in very heavy, but it feels so heavy, at least in part because of the respite provided by the last number. This is one of the most diverse and purely progressive rock oriented pieces on show. It works through quite a few changes and turns quite classical meets hard rock at points and mellow and melodic at other points. It’s definitely a powerhouse and one of the highlights of the disc.

Pyrokinesis

Here’s a real screamer that sits somewhere between progressive rock, metal and fusion. The overall musical concept isn’t greatly altered, but this somehow works better than some of the rest. Well, at least it stands out on its own.

Blue Maserati

This one comes in slower and metallic and it’s got a killer rocking groove built into it. The guitar soloing here is among the tastiest of the set and the rhythm section seems to combine a rubbery King Crimson element with funk and blues. This is definitely both a change of pace and among the strongest pieces here.

Summer Palace

This has a fairly melodic sound and it’s a killer cut with a lot of changes and shifts in direction. It’s quite fusion oriented, but here’s where the sound is starting to feel a little monolithic again.

Salar De Uyuni

Fusion meets metal on this track. It’s a cool piece of music, but the whole “more of the same” concept is starting to get a bit strong. There is definitely a dark and heavy King Crimson type vibe that keeps it from getting too staid.

The Dedication

Here’s a melodic and rather classically tinged number to close things out. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a satisfying album.

 
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