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This is what shred guitar is all about: an ostentatious exhibition of spectacular guitar skills
through amazing songwriting. 'Jason Becker', only 19 years old (!) at the time of this album,
proved to be not only an amazing guitar virtuoso but also a sophisticated songwriter.
'Niccolò Paganini', the classic Italian composer, probably left a serious amount of
influence over Becker. I could easily imagine most of this album being recorded
without guitar/bass/drums, but with violins instead and end up sounding like a
classical piece from the 18th century.
The production of this album is just great. The electric guitars have a crunchy, bright and
heavy tone which suits Becker fast arpeggios and heavy riffs flawlessly. At the drums
department we have 'Atma Anur' (also collaborated with 'Tony MacAlpine' and Becker
former group 'Cacophony') playing some fluid and heavy patterns that provides a solid
rhythm for the guitars. There are also some synth parts played by Becker which have
quite atmospheric tone and strengthen the melodic sense of this album.
The album opening track 'Altitudes', begins with tranquil synth choirs, followed by a
moderate lead guitar that welcome us to one of the most adventurous instrumental
albums ever made. Suddenly comes in some beautiful relaxing clean guitars with a
very melodic theme, and then...kaboom! The electric guitars explodes in with breathtaking
arpeggios alongside vibraphone type of sound in a majestic melody that creates
an exciting harmony. From that moment, I realised that Jason Becker is one of a kind.
'Temple Of The Absurd' is an extravaganza of neoclassical shred featuring 'Marty Friedman'
doing some lead guitar, quite a catchy track. The title track is probably one of Becker most
famous songs, featuring highly technical sweep pickings and dueling lead guitars section
in a continuous fast tempo that will explode your ears.
Each song in this album has it's own character (which is quite uncommon in shred albums)
and each one is truly a highlight. One of my personal favorites here is 'Air' which has no
electric guitars at all. It open with a mysterious synth introduction and followed by some
bright dueling clean guitars. There are many beautiful interludes as the song progress and
as I sayed earlier, I could easily imagine this pieced played by violins and being composed
in the 18th century.
'Perpetual Burn' is a must have for neoclassical metal fans, guitar players and instrumental
music fonders. It takes several listenings to fully appreciate this original and complex album,
which is without a doubt a milestone in the shred era.
Becker's long been a shredder that I've really liked; I'd gotten floored by his tunes in year 8- before that Hammett's guitar work was the epitome of technicality- and getting turned onto this and Tommy Emmanuel (great australian guy, not exactly metal but worth checking out) was pretty exciting indeed. I'd lost this when we moved, but having found this again recently I decided to give it a spin.
And, whatdya know, it's actually still pretty good. Becker could sure shred it up (His duet with ol' marty on Eleven Blue Egyptians being a good example) and he could/can still write some pretty interesting instrumental compositions. Unfortunately, while Becker does everything right, his well meaning efforts were effectively ruined by the major problem with this genre.
No, it's not overplaying. I'm not saying anything like "Ehhh Becker mistakes his phallus for his guitar" or any similarly retarded shred jokes. Becker was an effective songwriter- as tunes like the rather pretty "air" and "Mable's fatal fable" attest- so that's certainly not an issue, and besides complaining of overplaying on a shred album is like saying that Sunn O))) doesn't have enough blastbeats. No, none of those are problems. The problem is simple- Becker's guitar tone and the really, really bad production on here.
Sure, a thick, creamy (innuendo!!1) tone wouldn't be all that great for this. Becker should not aim to sound like Clapton. However, as with most shredders- I'm aware that I'm making a rather huge generalisation here, but whatever- his tone is utter ass, sounding kind of like a digitalised, cheaper version of Van Halen's tone mixed in with some cats squealing. It's not *that* bad when he's shredding up a storm, but when's getting his balladry (or, err, neo-classicalry) on it's awful. Awful! Good examples would be the paper thin clean tone that makes the otherwise excellent "Air" a huge cringe-fest, and the terrible, cats in a washing machine tone that permeates the beginning of "Opus Pocus", which combined with the cheesy synths makes for some of the most overwrought music ever written.
And it's not just the guitars, either. The production is pretty much terrible for everything; the drums ultra dry and strangely seperated in the mix; the bass a characterless "bonk" that comes in once in a while, and the synths... Damn. I am aware that they didn't have high quality synths back in the late 80's, but surely something else could've been done. They could've bought in session string players. They could've added another guitar part. But they did not need those terrible synths. Truly, truly awful.
Now, I realise that I've spent a good deal amount of time on the production. It's for a reason, though. This is an otherwise excellent album that would be classic- truly deserving of a 95%+ average on Metal Archives- if it wasn't because of it. Becker shreds and solos like an animal, and he's just really freakin' good at it. Once you get past the terrible intro, "Opus Pocus" shines through with some really nice guitar leads- very melodic and concise, marvellously entertaining- and the use of dynamics in the song- give the whole thing a flowing, strangely liquid feel that makes it a must hear for any fans of instrumental music.
Most of the material is top notch. 'Temple of the Absurd' mixes some adept shredding with some pretty nice, kinda thrashy rhythm that give me wood, 'Dweller in the Cellar' has a terrific mellow intro, pauses for a bit on a kind of awkward doomy thing and then picks up with a nice slow tempo jam, featuring some really good lyrical guitar lines and whammy workouts. Admittedly that tune is a bit unfocused- certainly a problem that most instrumental music has from time to time- but overall it's nothing intolerable and it's a great tune all round.
I guess Becker seems to really excel at the melody, and that's why this record is so good, and alternatively why the production is so frustrating. His shredding is fine, but when he gets all slower his guitar tone is as fun as getting stabbed in the face with an Framer super-strat. What should end up as an emotional, lighters in the air sort of tune (The first song is yet another good examples of this) just becomes quite unenjoyable and terrible, and there's plenty of moments such as this.
Still, terrible production (did I mention that the drums sound shit? I think so, but it's worth mentioning again) aside, this is a pretty solid shred album that I think most people will really, really like. Perhaps this will inspire you to play guitar well enough so that you can overdub all of his solos? I don't know. Anyway, this is well worth getting, if you can get over the terrible guitar tone/general production that seems to be in every single shreddy album I've ever heard.
Neoclassical shred metal can easily get boring. Most of the time you listen to someone like malmsteen and you can show your respect and admit that the guy is a hell of a player, but the songwriting is boring and repetitive. However Jason Becker, despite his young age at this point, was many levels above the competition as far as shredders go.
We all know the story now. Jason Becker was one half of super shred duo Cacophony, sharing the spotlight with fellow guitarist Marty Friedman, who later on joined Megadeth and pursued a solo career. Jason Becker was about seventeen years old when he did the first Cacophony record and was eighteen when he did Perpetual Burn, and I simply cannot imagine what would he could have given us more had he not been struck with ALS(Lou Gherig's disease). The man can no longer speak or breathe on his own, let alone play guitar.
Jason Becker was one of the greatest guitar talents in the history of music, and this album showcases this fact to great lengths. The virtuosic playing is absolutely mind-blowing and out of this world, yet it is the music rather than the playing which captivates me every time. Becker used his great skill to create music that was pretty, sometimes beautiful, some bits that just rocked out, and he even had elements to his music that made it comical. "Mabel's Fatal Fable" comes to mind, with the weird whammy bar intro that just makes you sneer when you hear it for the first time. As far as technique is concerned, every song is filled with shredding passages that have all the elements in them; sweep paicking galore, alternate picking, artifiacial harmonics, tapping, wammy bar dives and tastefully, slosly executed playing at times as well.
The compositions on here are fierce. "Altitudes" is probably his most famous song. The way the arpeggios stream seemlessly over the rythm melodies is simply fantastic and fits perfectly. "Air" is a competely acoustic(although it does sound like clean electric guitar tracks) track which is entierely fingerpicked, giving it a very warm and celestial feeling. This song just takes you on a trip through paradise it seems so serene. "Eleven Blue Egyptians" is another standout with the inclusion of Mr. Marty Friedman. This song has a very middle-eastern flavor to it, ranging in mostly harmonic minor scales until everything slows down into an awesome blues meltdown. It's pure bliss to hear two of the world's best guitarists just wail away mindlessly on a four bar blues scale.
"Opus Pocus" closes things with style,showcase a lead melody, or them if you will that carries the tune throughout its entirety. This is just another solid composition from one of the world's greats.
Besides the guitar playing, Atma Anur delivers a very solid performance behind the drum stool, going through complex time signatures and melodic changes as though he were ripping through a standard rock beat. His deft touch accompanies Jason's extravagant playing perfectly and ever so tightly.
Jason Becker was a player among players, a natural who's career was taken away from him way too quickly. Anyone who gets their hands on this record should cherish it because it's not just another shred record... this one's got class.
Jason Becker, although terribly underrated, might be one of the best (if not, the best) artists in the Neoclassical/shred genre. I've yet to come across something more beautiful, complex, or inspiring as this album. Becker, currently battles ALS, can no longer play guitar, and thus his musical genius is locked away in his mind. Every person that’s ever taken an interest in masterful guitar work must hear this CD.
Altitudes begins with an atmospheric and somewhat saddening keyboard introduction, followed by some amazing soloing from Jason. The drums are bluesy and hypnotic. The song then explodes into a masterpiece of arpeggios, keyboards, and drum work. One can only wonder how hands can possibly move this fast. This song is one amazing piece of guitar work after another; it’s totally relaxing and uplifting. The end of the song is mind-blowing. This riff is unbelievably haunting yet complex. One of the best songs I’ve ever heard.
Perpetual Burn throws you right in with a blast of sweeps and arpeggios. The riffs in this song are so complicated and difficult, yet they are playing with surprising ease. I cannot imagine how Jason possibly came up with these songs, since they’re so fast. He has so many ideas packed into each song, they’re almost too hard to keep up with.
Mabel’s Fatal Fable is my favorite song on the album. It’s chaotic, incredibly fast paced; a delightful piece of insanity. The solo around one minute is amazing. After that the guitars drop down to a heavier riff with another solo above them. It goes on and on, yet never gets boring. The end of the song is equally as chaotic as the first, with some strange half-spoken segment somewhere.
Air also begins with a keyboard introduction. It literally throws your focus back and forth. This piece is entirely clean. The song then moves to a beautiful riff. Although somewhat slow in the beginning, this song puts the listener in a state of quiet and peace. The song then picks up speed slightly, and gives a more upbeat feeling. This piece of classical brilliance is almost too good to be true, I’ve never listened to something more thought-provoking. Becker is, without a doubt, a modern-day Chopin.
Temple of the Absurd tosses you back with heavy riff and some more soloing. This is by far the heaviest riff on the album; pure speed metal at its best. This song is total insanity, and very entertaining to listen to. Very headbang worthy.
Eleven Blue Egyptians is also pretty heavy and crushing. The solos paint scene in historical Egypt. Very triumphant and upbeat song.
Dweller in the Celler begins with a mysterious introduction and some soft drumming. The guitar slowly makes its way into the song, and blends wonderfully with the atmosphere. After a wail from the guitar, the song slows down and rolls on with a demolishing riff.
The last song, Opus Pocus, ends the album on a high note. Becker is a kid at heart, and exemplifies it through this song. The gorgeous keyboards and insane guitar work create an amazing sound. The song takes a turn around 2 minutes, and bursts into a complex web of guitar mastery. Becker successfully ends the album in a victorious way, as if he has accomplished something difficult yet great.
Not one song on this album allows the listener to become disinterested. Each song is unique, beautiful, and the work of a great artist. Jason Becker is a truly inspiring guitarist, who, through his music, paints a picture of the complicated aspects of his mind.
This album makes most of the other "shredder" albums obsolete for me. Perpetual Burn has some of the best guitarwork I've ever heard. Anyone who has not heard Altitudes needs to quickly get this album or DL it. This is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I've ever heard, if not number one. My favorite instrumental behind only Orion. It's slow with Jason seeming to warm up for the first 1:20 of it, then it heads into the best guitar passage I've ever heard. It's so soft and serene, putting your soul in a mode of relaxation. Some of the guitarwork on this album is Mabel's Fatal Fable, with it's odd intro kicks off into arpeggios of Yngwie-like virtuosity, yet I still find it more enjoyable than most Yngwie. At about 1:10, it shreds for a few seconds somewhat like Post Mortem, then Jason comes over with classical shred leads. Temple of the Absurd starts out with guitars and drumming. Awesome shredding and groovey drumwork make this song. Somewhere in the song, the drums do a slow standard beat and a guitar is lining up against it with Sixtuplets, creating a good feel. Next great track is Eleven Blue Egyptians which is just awesome. Great riffing and soloing, with a real Egyptian feel to it. This album closes with the awesome Opus Pocus.
This is a very important album in the world of shreddom. Jason Becker was above most of these guys. There are few albums that are like this, and this is a monumental mark of the classical-shred genre.