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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

James Williams

Eclectic Shred

Review by Gary Hill

The title of this album really does a great job of summing up the disc. Williams does, in fact, shred, but this isn’t strictly shred guitar music. Indeed, some of the set lands there, but Williams knows when to make it mellower, too. Overall, this fits pretty well into progressive rock territory and it’s a diverse and effective musical ride.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
B17 Flying Fortress

Appropriately, airplane sounds open this. Then the guitar screams out as this pounds into being. As the title of the album suggests, there is some serious shredding going on here. Still, the cut has plenty of melody and flows as a real song, sort of an uber-heavy Joe Satriani kind of vibe.

Keltoi
At less than a minute in length, this is classical in nature and very much progressive rock with some classic keyboard sounds.
Dropa Stones
Seeming to come straight out of the previous tune, there are Eastern elements here and this seems more like Dream Theater in a lot of ways. It’s very heavy and crunchy, but also far more prog-oriented than the opening piece was. Of course, we still get plenty of the shred listed in the album title. There are some great twists and turns on this thing and it has a lot of killer melodic passages.
Unborn Massacre
This starts off in very classical fashion. It’s quite pretty and builds out dramatically while retaining that kind of neo-classical meets prog vibe. As it builds out there are operatic, non-lyrical vocals and this really does have a symphonic sounds. It’s also based on symphonic instrumentation and is bombastic and a bit like soundtrack music. Around the two and a half minute mark it drops back to a mellow and quite dramatic musical interlude. That section takes it to the close.
Auschwitz
As this powers out I’m reminded of something like Joe Satriani blended with Trevor Rabin. Yes, there’s shredding all over this beast, but plenty of melody, too. There are sections that are more metallic and others that lean more towards pure progressive rock. There is a dramatic movement later with keyboards (feeling like voices – or perhaps processed non-lyrical vocals feeling like keys) featuring more prominently.
Eclectic Shred
There are no big surprises on the title track, but rather lots of killer guitar dominated technical prog meets metal and hard rock. This isn’t exceptionally different than a lot of the other stuff here, but it never feels like a repeat. There are some particularly tasty melody lines at times on this cut. Around the four minute mark it shifts to something more tied to classical, jazz and pure progressive rock. After a while we’re taken back out to the same kind of music that preceded that section.
Cruise Control
Here we get a cool short tune that serves as a nice segue. It ends with a needle sliding across a record.
Maxwell’s Castle
Suitably there is a regal sound to this and lots of great symphonic elements that swirl across the tune. It’s a real prog rock meets symphonic metal and hard rock kind of thing. There is even some flamenco guitar sounds built into this beast later, taking it into some great territory with more pure classical elements. As it comes out from there, we get a short transition section that makes me think of Queen. Then it works out to something like Yngwie Malmsteen meets King Crimson before moving forward to more technical guitar rock.
Europa
The opening to this is more off-kilter than anything to this point. It has a lot of those same technical metal influences, though with symphonic progressions and some world music modes. That is, of course, through the first minute or so. Then it drops down to more Spanish acoustic guitar and layers of sound augment that in a mellow fashion. Then, a minute or so later, it powers out into a more metallic, but no less technical jam. While hard rock is clearly the order of business, the structure of the piece is very classical and symphonic. There’s another purely symphonic section near the end of the piece.
Journey to Andromeda
Technical metal meets hard-edged progressive rock on this smoking hot excursion. This is definitely the most complex and classically oriented piece of the whole set and it works through a number of varying motifs. There is some seriously cool mellow music built into this beast at points. We even get a keyboard dominated section in the piece that makes me think a bit of Rick Wakeman. Of course, at about ten and a half minutes in length, this number has plenty of room for exploration.
 
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