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These days, Roope Latvala is hopelessly outclassed by his Finnish guitar colleague Alexi Laiho, only known now as Children of Bodom's rhythm guitarist. Many Bodom fans do not know just how great of a guitarist Roope is, and I find this rather said. But for anyone looking to discover just how talented Roope is as a guitarist, one can either go to four whole Stone albums or, if they are truly inquisitive, be like me and start doing some massive bartering for their own copy of The Latvala Bros Play The Wooden Eye.
Disregarding the long as hell title (which I'm not going to repeat), this album is a true piece of art. I find it truly amazing that an album like this could have come out and no one before the Latvala Bros thought of making an instrumental metal album like this. This is an album that you're average old school "80s only thrasher" will listen to and like and all those people who worship John Petrucci like he's a god trapped on earth or something will like. Together, Roope and Jussi create music that is artistic, clear, aggressive, and highly technical, and it all comes together in a package that just sounds great.
Obviously, the center of this is Roope's guitar playing. After hearing this album, I whole heartedly agree that Roope Latvala is the best guitarist to come out of Finland, and not Alexi Laiho. Sure, Alexi is a good guitar player, but could Alexi ever be this artistic and adept as Roope shows he is on this album? The answer is not by a long shot. Every aspect of guitar playing that one could think of,, from heavy and fast melodies to ripping lead guitar is on here. Roope's style is his typical one here, wicked fast legato with some sweep picking and a lot of string skipping and alternate picking to complement the legato. Here though, he also does a ton of sweep tapping and regular tapping as well. Lots of shred here in the vein of people like Michael Romeo, Marty Friedman, Steve Vai, and it can even get a bit like Joe Satriani at times. To top it off, the rhythms on this album also provide a ton of heaviness and raw aggression to the music on this album. It only takes one listen of some of the songs that this is not another recording by one of hordes of horrible Steve Vai imitators. This is something else entirely, and that is (mostly) due to Roope's masterful guitar playing.
Jussi's drumming is alright. Nothing very fast here, but he is very technical. His style has much in common with that of Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. He's not very fast, but the way he holds a beat and how he adapts to all the musical progression here is stellar. Not to many good fills but Jussi is very varied, using all drums at his disposal with ease and great skill. If only he had a bit more speed then I could truly say that this guy is a great drummer. For now though, he'll remain at merely above average. Still, don't think Jussi's a bad drummer and his skill is a turnoff. His drum work is no reason not to get this album.
The bass work is alright. Some decently technical stuff but nothing crazy. You cannot really hear it much, it's just lost in the mix. It's like a ghost on this album. It pops up at some points, but most of the time you cannot here it and that is kind of a loss. Roope's a decent bass player and he plays some good material. I just wish maybe they showed that a bit more prominently.
There are a few downsides to this album though. The biggest I think is that when you listen to it, you can tell that the Latvala Bros was only a studio project. This music was not played with the intention of playing live, so many studio perks are taken advantage of. Roope overlays all sorts harmonies, tapping parts, and legato runs to create stuff that no guitarist could play live alone no matter how hard they tried.
Also, because the album is not mixed great, the rhythm guitar tone sometimes overpowers the lead tone at certain points. Like I said before, the bass is also hard to hear due to the not so great mixing and mastering job on the album.
The final thing is, the synthesizers could have been left out. Though they do not appear much on this album, they really did not need to be there. Roope and Jussi are all that are needed to make this album sound great. The synthesizers just seem to get in the way and do not really provide much for the music. Luckily, they are not hear in many of the songs. In fact, they are only in about two while the rest are raw.
A great album for fans of thrash or shred, this is one piece of instrumental metal that you simply cannot miss.