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Upon reading the only review for this album, I felt an instant need to give this a different point of view. Sometimes people condition themselves to expect a particular sound and are disappointed when the album doesn't deliver exactly that. The one thing that sticks out is that this band is constantly refered to as progressive, and mentioned with Dream Theater and Queensryche. This, to me, seems wholly unwarranted. Racer X have always been a balls-out rock band with some of the most exciting musicians around. I hear tinges of progressive influence, but as a whole, this is simply a heavy rock band. Now, that said....
Anyone familiar with Paul Gilbert will know to expect blisteringly fast and intricate playing. But his songwriting often gets disregarded amongst all the shredding. This album is the best example of his songwriting skills. The opener could be a Judas Priest song if those guys knew how to shred 1/10 as well as Mr. Gilbert. Jeff Martin has a solid falsetto range that certainly rivals that of Halford or any of his non-senior citizen peers. Also, Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis does more than an adequate job behind the kit. Nothing flashy, but certainly well thought out and perfectly executed drumming. But altogether with John Alderete, you have a monster unit that finally made an album consistant from start to finish.
The two instrumentals on here are absolutely amazing. Speaking from a guitarists point of view, there is no better. If you can play these songs on guitar, solo's and all, you have mastered rock guitar. While King of Monsters is a fast paced, energetic song, Viking Kong is the more stylistic of the two. Drawing upon his bag of tricks, Gilbert plays some absolutely genius classical passages with a technique that cannot be duplicated. If the whole album were instumental, it certainly wouldn't bother me, as Gilbert is wholly entertaining in and of himself. But it's not, and that's good, because Martin makes good use of his space on songs like Mad at the World. Possibly the best Racer X song, it is the song that Eddie & Alex wish they had written. Great down to Earth lyrics, beautiful yet rockin' chord structures, and a pace that just simply moves you. Speaking of moving, check out the cover of Godzilla (Blue Oyster Cult). The way Martin screams over the intro melody, pure testosterone. That must have taken a couple of tries.
All in all, this is a hell of an album. Certainly head and shoulders above anything else under the Racer X name, or even Paul Gilbert. Anyone expecting serious complex passages, intricate time changes, and 20 minute songs should stay away. This is a shred album, rock on the outside, but performed by musicians who spent way too much time honing their craft and too little time drinking and fucking, much to the benefit of the enlightened listener.
Check out Mad at the World, if you don't like this song, get your head examined, you may have serious brain damage.
I don't know what I was expecting to get out of Racer X's "Superheroes", but whatever it was, I certianly didn't get it. As the title of this review suggests, this album is wholly uninspired. Sure, Paul Gilbert is a talented guitarist, but his shredding skills are entirely wasted here. Let's go to the video tape...
The title track busts out of the gate in typical shred fashion with a lick so blistering that it almost loses it. After some equally typical breaks, the riff presents itself as tight but unoriginal. In fact, the rhythm section sounds as though it could easily be replaced by a cheap drum machine. When Jeff Martin starts singing, it sounds more like he's whining about the fact that he can't hack it like he could 20 years ago. The only saving grace is Gilbert's fretwork, which, needless to say, does not make up for the general lack of quality.
The decond track, "Let the Spirit Fly", opts for a mid-tempo groove, which, after the first track, actually seems better. The vocals stay out of the nose-bleed section, too, which was a relief. Unfortunately, Martin makes use of some vocoded vocals, which just suck (not always, just here). Gilbert's licks are few and far in between, but decent when they poke their heads out.
The third track is a cover of Blue Öyster Cult's "Godzilla". Just...no. The only thing this track proves is why it's a bad idea to tread on sacred ground (or, at least, why you must tread very carefully).
"King of the Monsters" is an instrumental track which lets Gilbert's guitar finally shine a bit more. It uses slow-fast-slow-fast composition to give the listener bursts of precision shredding padded with some heavy, rolling riffs. The fretwork is nice, showing some cool neo-classical influences at just the right times. Although it is a tad repetitive, it is still one of the high points of the album.
The rest of the album, save the last track, is quite unremarkable and not in need of much comment. Essentially, the listener has to sit through confused composition, mediocre riffs, and lamentable vocals in order to get some scraps of shredding that aren't worth the wait.
For the last track, "Time Before the Sun", the band takes a much more progressive approach (which is a good thing). Acoustic-like strumming, infused with an eastern flavor lead us into a rather hypnotic riff complemented by surprisingly decent mid-range vocals with only slight distortion. The song continues to play off the eastern minor/diminished progression, repeating it while Martin alternates between lower and higher singing styles. A few minutes in, we finally get a nice juicy solo that we can enjoy for more than 45 seconds. After the solo, the song returns to the eastern flare and rocks out on that progression for another few minutes.
The last track is a good listen, but it doesn't fit with this album *at all*. It sounds more like it belongs on a second-rate, Dream Theater worship CD (which is actually a compliment, as I hold DT in very high regard). However, it does help you to forget the last four or five tracks.
Overall, I give the album a big "meh".