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This album blew me away. I totally did not expect such a multi-dimensional group of songs. That's right, we have actual SONGS here. There may not be a singer, but we still have SONGS here. Not random noodlings of a bored guitarist (like Rising Force's debut) but actual songs, with development and progression. The sound here is surprisingly progressive given Batio's past history, and unlike his work with Nitro, the guitar playing is melodic, natural, and fitting of the music. The music is very deep and evocational music, which I give high marks for.
But what really gets me is how his guitar styles have almost grown into multiple personalities. He uses it as a singer, a keyboardist in addition to the usual shredding wall of notes. You can here the distinct difference, with the "singing" guitar simple, restrained, and elegant, mimicing the phrasing of a professional singer, and the "keyboard" guitar melodic yet machine-like, carrying the melody whilst still blowing your mind with utter technicality. Then there are the moments where he goes all out, which is the traditional MAB we've grown to know. In those times, he sometimes whips out the dual guitar, but mostly does physics-defying sweeps, arppegios, solid escalator-like lines, and apocalyptic drops travelling up and down the fretboard. If you're not familiar with his style, your jaw may just hit the floor.
As you may know, given my past reviews, I usually don't give glowing reviews, at least not recently. There are many myths about MAB, most of them centering on accusations that he has no ear for melody, and just robotically shreds with endless walls of notes with no sense of direction or tonality. While that could be applicable with his past work in Nitro, have you heard Nitro songs? They're pretty fuckin' stupid songs, and one would be hard-pressed to find any sort of melodies to base your solos on. Here, though, that myth couldn't be farther from the truth. MAB is in his top form here, and what we have here are very melodic, emotional, and well thought out songs. The soloing is tasteful, effective, and always mindblowing, if not from the utter technicality, the elegant restraint shown at times. It's really great, every single song (except the ballad Peace -- more on that later) is awesome and will get stuck in your head. It's not necessarily metal all the time, and most of the time is progressive-sounding hard rock. Really, the only thing that this has in common with most shred music is that the primary instrument is the guitar. Other than that, this is hardly shred. The guitars are the main instrument, but this isn't a bored guitarist shredding over a repetitive, uninspired set of backing music. These are songs that happen to use a guitar in lieu of other instruments. It's still done tastefully and in balance, and musically sounds way different than most shred.
The reason I've mentioned progressive is because the songs, while cyclical, are not typical verse-chorus-verse songs. There are passages that could be considered "verses" and passages that could be considered "chorii", but the form is far from verse-chorus-verse a lot of the time, and the songs are structured more as a journey with repeated themes, but no real pattern or form. That is not to say that this is chaotic or unplanned; nay, it is well thought out music with well thought out passages that are ingeniously written. This is far from simple music meant to show off a guitarist's chops. This is actual music. Don't let the "shred" label deter you. This passes muster (and then some) as actual music, stands on its own among the multitude of styles and knicknacks in the world of metal, and is definitely worth a place in your CD player.
If you're one of those closeminded 'tards who hates technicality and can't see past it, then this obviously isn't for you, and you knew that before opening up this review. If you're willing to be open-minded and don't mind hearing a full length where the guitar is always the predominant instrument (because I'm not gonna lie, it is), then you should definitely give this a try. The drum machine might turn you off at first, because it's definitely a tad dry sounding, but I got over that very quickly and it doesn't detract from the music one bit. Other than that, this is a flawless full length. Don't let my comments about the ballad, Peace, deter you, either. I just don't like ballads, and I'll admit I'm closeminded about shit like that. I can still respect the musical value of it, and it fits in snugly with the rest. Now, quit reading this review, and find some way to procure this underrated gem. You'll thank me later.
Yes... probably the best album among all shredding/instrumental/progressive/whatever albums ever made. It simply combines technique, emotion and some nasty soloing in one.
This is not a thrash metal album, for sure, it's simply innovative, relaxing music from a very good artist.
Michael Angelo has a really good style of playing, he never gets boring or too technical, nor too repetetive. The production is pretty good and all the instruments are equally present in the mix, a thing certain artists simply fail to achieve (Malmsteen, Stump)
The greatest thing of all is probably the emotion that this music is filled with, and it gets there without resorting to wankery or cheese.
The best tracks are: Peace and No Boundries for sure, though the others are not worse in quality either.
A worthy album, indeed made by a master.