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God Of Shredtastic - 95%

corviderrant, October 17th, 2008

Michael Angelo Batio, a name synonymous with jaw-dropping, mind-boggling, inhuman speed and gymnastics, and for years I dogged him for it, thinking he was all flash and nothing else. Then I purchased an instructional DVD with him as the teacher on it and was proved wrong by his intense knowledge of theory and his in-depth explanations of his writing and techniques all delivered in a matter-of-fact, down to earth, and witty manner. Then I went and scored this album and was simply blown away. There is no polite way to put it; MAB is THE God of shred-tastic. As a friend of mine who is not a guitar player put it after watching MAB do his thing on his double necked guitar on YouTube: "This guy's status as a human being has just been revoked--NO human being can do that!"

This is a covers album, mostly, and to my ear this is how covers ought to be done. MAB takes the songs and keeps the basic structure while adding and elaborating to the song in his own inimitable way, and it turns out as fresh and innovative as opposed to the usual boring interpretations most folks content themselves with when they cover songs by other artists.

Case in point; his "Tribute to Randy", a heartfelt medley of "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" which features an imaginative melody of his own on the verses of "Crazy Train" instead of just playing the vocal part verbatim on guitar, and his take on Randy Rhoads' fantastic solo sections on "Mr. Crowley" where he keeps the basic feel and adds to it in his own manner that makes it his own. Another excellent example of this is "Zeppelin Forever", a deft and imaginative medley of Led Zeppelin tunes where he makes them seem new and exciting again with his inspired playing--he even at one point in this medley plays a solo that suggests what Jimmy Page would've sounded like if he were a shredder! He somehow manages to evoke that loose, sloppy Page feel while shredding without copying or sounding unimaginative or just plain bad. That takes some skill and some doing and illustrates the depth of his ability. Of course, he opens the album with high octane shred mania with his take on Deep Purple's "Burn", one of my favorite songs of theirs, and the notes are a-flyin' on this one. As mentioned, even his takes on "Dream On" and "All Along The Watchtower" are exciting since he really takes them to another level of creativity--the latter in particular is almost unrecognizable as Jimi's composition.

The two originals on here are no exception to this rule. The title track and "Pray On, Prey" are both highly progressive and complex without seeming overly so (are you listening, Dream Theater?). it bears mentioning too that his rhythm section on this album are outstanding as well. They don't curl up and cower in the face of his onslaught of mad note spraying, they are right up there supporting him and even doing some slick bits of their own throughout. The clear, full production even makes certain you hear them all very well, a nice change from the usual approach of huge guitars and drums with the bass buried deep.

All in all, this album made me a convert to MAB's cause of creativity and serious shredding in the context of good music. I had him totally wrong and I regret not giving him a chance sooner. I do believe this album is only available through his website, so bop on over there and give him a shot, this will not disappoint unless you are a total Neanderthal Luddite who thinks mallcore/metalcore thunder thud is the height of creativity and anything else higher is "wanking".