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Chris Poland is a great guitar player. There can be no question of that. And he proves it on this album. He constructed melodies and riffs that mesh both his jazz and metal leanings together into a unique blend. But this ain't no Jack and Coke. Not by a long shot. As I'm comparing to one of my favourite mixers, I'd say this is resembles my creation, namely pineapple and whiskey. It's an unusual mix that you recommend to all your friends but never really drink substantial amounts of (but you should still give it a go. Get a single malt and go crazy).
First and foremost, this is an instrumental album, so all focus is on the guitars. So, in this case, I'm gonna go ahead and talk about the drums first, which are handled by Mark Poland. And they are expertly handled, filling out the sound so you never really miss the lack of vocals. Take the opener, 'Club Ded'. The drums add to the drama of the initial chord strikes without being overbearing and ruining the music (St Anger is mentioned at this vital break. You know why). The production makes the drums actually sound organic; again, something not every band gets right (Beneath the Massacre, you are good but you don't sound good). The beats range from bass-snare stomps to double-pedal attacks, with occasional fills. For sure, Mark Poland doesn't break any boundaries with his performance here, because that's what Chris is there to do.
Now, after my digression on the drums, you may be wondering, 'Is the guitar not worth talking about?' No, that's not it at all. The axe has a warm tone for the more 'out-there' compositions, but is still crunchy for the thrash riffs Chris busts out on most of the songs. While we're on the matter, the thrash riffs sound cool, but- and I hate myself for saying it- are kinda redundant. They're not anything you haven't heard before, unless Exodus means nothing to you. You know, tremolo-picked palm-muted notes with power chords interspersed at certain intervals. Yeah, they're enjoyable, but they bring nothing new to the table, especially as they are neither as inventive or aggressive as Sodom or Coroner.
However, I don't believe Mustaine paired up with Chris because of his riffs. That wasn't his place in *that* band. It was his solos and flat-out weird playing that got him on that metal train, and that is where this album excels. Songs like 'Alexandria' and 'Heinous Interruptus' is where the real magic is. Spacey melodies that bring to mind Satriani and Vai dominate throughout, over the top of interesting rhythms and jazzy influenced riffs. 'The Fall of Babylon' and 'Khazud Dud' feature the almost obligatory acoustic section at the start, and move through heavy riffs to a soft chord section for the solo. Which is another thing. Chris Poland can solo marvellously. Being a solo album, you'd hope so. He doesn't focus on playing fast incessantly and try to play more notes than the Hot Shots Part Deux body count in a single song. Instead, his style is to put together smooth, flowing licks that can last for two notes, or for two whole bars. There isn't a lot of choppy alternate picking patterns here, which differentiates him from the masses of 80's shredders.
The bass on this album doesn't get a lot of attention, obediently following the guitar and not getting in anyone's way. It is not that loud, so don't expect your car to bounce around from Point A to Point B.
So, what is my problem with this album? It's this. The metal sections of the album aren't that compelling. Well played, obviously, but static. They just sit there and go through the motions. It doesn't get any emotion pumping through me, expect for a nod that says 'That's alright.' Not great, just alright. And I don't need that. There are countless metal albums that get a better reaction out of me that are waiting to be listened to, so why should I care about this? This album shines on the minority sections that showcase what Chris Poland is actually good at, which is probably what the whole album shoud have been.
In the end, the best track on this album is a bonus track on the re-release, titled 'The Heavy Guitar Jam.' This song contains everything that a Chris Poland solo album should have: jazz weirdness with a special touch. It's a winding jam, with a guitar that tries all sorts of zany stuff, drums with a life of their own and a bouncy bass that can be heard and that slides, bends and slaps all over the place, until all the instruments wind down to a stop. The song feels alive, and isn't constrained by any generic riffs. And that is the ultimate flaw with this debut effort. It's too much pineapple. There are more impressive instrumental albums that convey the strengths of the guitarist, but this isn't so bad if you want background music with a little gallop.
From what I understand, this is the most famous album from Megadeth alum Chris Poland. As a big fan of his work in Megadeth, I placed this album into my CD player with high expectations. I’ve listened to plenty of instrumental shred albums before with mixed results, but this just had to be good. Chris plays guitar and bass while his brother Mark provides the drums: what could go wrong? Not a whole lot, I’d soon find out.
Things begin fairly predictably with “Club Ded,” a generic but energetic opener. Poland knows his way around a metal riffset (have you ever heard an album called “Peace Sells?”) and sports a dangerous guitar tone, but his songwriting is more interesting when he focuses on that other style of playing he’s known for, a little thing called jazz fusion. Tracks like “Alexandria” and “Heinous Interruptus” showcase the lesser heard side of Poland, the side that got him in with Mustaine in the first place. There’s no lack of metallic crunch on the album (it is, after all, Return to METALopolis) but where his playing is concerned, Poland excels when he strays outside of the thrash metal box that his fans are accustomed to hearing him in. Lots of exotic ideas are presented here (“Row of Crows” kicks ass) so for fans of guitar technique owning this is a must. (Note: the re-release has a pair of bonus tracks. One’s a neat bluesy thing, the other’s one of those fourteen minute jam things that Satriani/Petrucci/Vai, etc are all about, despite how boring they are to listen to. Some rippin’ leads, but it’s just too damn long.)
In addition to the dazzling guitar work, “Return to Metalopolis” actually features a solid rhythm section, something that is often ignored by your various virtuosic types in order that they might cram more sweep arpeggios into their otherwise tepid “songs.” Mark Poland’s drum set sounds a little artificial to me, but his playing is tight, grooving right along with Chris’ well-written bass parts. Naturally the guitars are always the focus, but it’s nice to see that they aren’t skimping out on the backbone.
It’s a pretty good album, all things considered. If you’re already jaded to instrumental guitar records, this one won’t stir the waters, but anyone who finds value in these kinds of records will discover some great music and a nice helping of impressive technique as well.
Chris Poland may not be the best guitar player in the world but then again...who is? Its all a matter of preference to the listener...one thing about Chris that clearly separates him from the more notorious shedders is the fact that he definately focuses on guitar tone and feel when constructing solos. I am a big fan of this album simply because its fresh and more origional sounding than the virtuoso players from the "Sharpnel" label. I've heard people constantly stating how this album reminds them of Peace Sells...well guess what, he was the guy who did the solos on Peace Sells. Once a guitar player develops a style of his own, there are certain aspects of his playing that clearly give him a distinctive sound. Thats like saying the Guy who played on "Fair Warning" sounds like the guy who played on "1984"...wanna know why...thats right...same fuckin' guy. Furthermore, Mark Poland's drumming is anything but generic, and even though this is a guitar orientated album...the drumming is actually the focal point for me. Mark's drum skills are awesome and the sound of his kit is crisp and clear.
Anyone who aquires this album and reads a release date of 2000...remember thats a reissue date, this thing was actually released in 1990...so yeah, the drumming generic? I think not!
While thinking about getting this instrumental album, I must say that the one thing that made me interested and ultimately led me to pick it up is the fact that Poland was a part of Megadeth. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to change much when he went and did Metalopolis. The riffs (if you can call them that) are all ideas taken from Megadeth tunes and the soloing is everything peace sells is, except more boring.
Chris Poland is a jazz/fusion guitarist at heart and he really doesn't do anything too hard rock or metal on this album, it's more of a slow paced shred album (you have to hear it). His leads sometimes can be somewhat impressive, but as for him being one of a virtuoso, forget it. He is much too lazy on the guitar, and not all that creative. The songs have absolutely no distinction between each other. One song leads to another, and so on, so forth. It's incredible that anyone would even release this cd, due to the fact that Chris is not a very versatile a guitarist, definitely not suited to do his own thing in metal. I suppose if Chris had vocals and structured the songs to fit the singing, it would have been a more refreshing album. Instead this album really flops. Nothing is memorable about this album, and even for fans of shred albums and listening for pure guitar talent will be disappointed. I'm sorry that I even picked it up, because I realize Chris must've done shit all for Megadeth in the early years.