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When listening to one of guitar virtuoso Ron Jarzombek's more recent projects- Blotted Science's 'The Machinations Of Dementia'- I could not have been more blown away by the sheer technical ferocity of the man's vision and composition. As much a brilliant mathematician as he is a guitarist, Jarzombek has impressed me with everything I've heard of his, and Spastic Ink's debut has been no exception to that. Although not a entirely emotive piece of work, 'Ink Complete' is a musician's dream listening experience, and should see fit to stretch lobes of even a Calculus major.
The first thing I notice with the music of Spastic Ink is that it is a fair bit less heavy that what I've heard of Jarzombek's work before; the album is worked through by lead guitar, bass, and drums. Occasionally, the electric guitar will be overdubbed a few times for harmonies and added rhythms, but for what turns out to be incredibly complex music, it is surprising that there are only three instruments and musicians at work here. Of course, my reason for going into this was to hear some more of Ron Jarzombek's work, and its clear he does take the spotlight here in most cases. Whether he is making intensely mathematical chugging riffs, shredding or doing thoughtful and melodic leads, the music of 'Ink Complete' draws around virtually whatever he does, with the other two musicians taking more of a support role. Bassist Pete Perez and drummer Bobby Jarzombek are both worthy of praise however. Bobby nicely compliments the constantly changing time signatures by adding plenty of fills and intricacy that makes his performance here much more than for the sake of merely keeping time. Pete Perez is the least remarkable member here, feeling as if he is often overshadowed by the wizardry of Ron and Bobby. His skill is evident in the moments he is really able to let loose with his playing.
It does feel as if Spastic Ink would be a much more enjoyable project if it was somewhat more band-oriented as opposed to being so highly guitar driven. Also, what Spastic Ink makes up in their technical and compositional wizardry here, they do lose in emotional appeal. Although one can listen to this album and see it has being a technical masterpiece by all accounts (as virtually everything Ron Jarzombek has done turns out to be) but there are only a few scarce moments in the album that really caught my feelings. Chief among these would be the second track 'A Morning With Squeakie', which is relatively quite melodic and upbeat. The real crown here however goes to 'The Wild Hare', which is a playful masterpiece both in composition and instrumental feeling.
An excellent album, and while Jarzombek has clearly done better, 'Ink Complete' is a wonderful piece of technical progressive metal.
Do you constantly ponder the existence of far more superior technical metal bands than Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment or Spiral Architect? Well, here it is: The most ridiculous album of the decade, possibly the century.
What you will discover about this album is that it may appear to be seemingly impossible to follow the song structures. There MAY be one or two bars in this album that are in 4/4 time, but other than that possibility being in question, I honestly believe these guys don't know what 4/4 is. However, the remaining time signatures will leave you absolutely astonished. These guys are basically the epitome of technicality when it comes to odd time signatures, simply because they have the ability to make 17/6 or 11/7 timing seem simple, if you can comprehend that. And as for the progressions of the songs: Each song’s key signature modulates pretty much every bar and, as you will notice, there is not a single long-running key or melody either. But, it doesn’t ruin it; au contraire. What this does is add to the amazement of the pieces. But in essence, the last thing you want to see this band as is a novelty. Unless you want to dive into their actual novelty material. Which is probably just a representative of how bored they were whilst writing the album. Hell, to give you an idea as to how much boredom they experienced, the track "A Wild Hare" actually syncs up perfectly to a mixture of scenes on Bambi, with Ron's guitaring covering Thumper's dialogue. But that's just awesome.
This has been mentioned in past reviews and I have to resubmit the same statement: It seems that no matter how many times you listen to each song, every time you listen to it (expecting to finger-tap to every part correctly) without a doubt, you will always discover parts that you forgot were there. Every time. Every time you listen to a particular song, there is a different light being uncovered. But this doesn’t divert interest in any way, it merely adds to the curiosity as to what can be discovered next. I have listened to this album probably over 25 times since I got it a couple of weeks ago, and there is still so much to discover, no matter how many times I listen to it.
What is apparent on this album is that it can be taken as wankery, or it can be taken as just a simple statement saying “Yep, we’re better than you. So stick it up your ass.” I take the latter option, as these guys not only do not wank (the guitarist actually doesn’t play anything amazingly fast, neither does the bassist), but they also simply try to extend their limits and abilities in order to cover corners of the musical spectrum that no band has covered yet. And they execute it WELL, which is what is of the HIGHEST priority in this genre.
Bobby got the spotlight of the decades in Halford, Demons & Wizards and Sebastian Bach & Friends, but in this album, he shows all previous performances up with superior ease. The sheer technicality and intensity of this guys theoretical as well as practical abilities and knowledge is beyond comprehension. Although speed is not a hugely protrusive aspect of his performance, he will aurally and mentally fuck you over, making you bleed liquid question marks from the entrance and exit wounds on both sides of your head after paying attention to what this guy does on this album. He delivers clean, crisp and almost excessively precise timing and time modulation with change-overs and progressions. What he splatters on the side dish of this already delicious concoction of technical superiority and ass-hammery is a very diverse ability in grooving, intense fills and quirky polyrhythms. The result of seven years in the making of this album is clear on what Bobby drums into your face. This - guy - is - a - nutcase. To compliment his superior ability with drumsticks, the production has mixed a very strange level of frequencies for the drum tracks in this record. It seems like a very unorthodox method of levelling the frequencies (you will notice this also when you hear it) for drums, but in a way, it makes the sound very unique and most certainly very original. But aside from that...goddamn. Please let me give birth to your children.
Bobby's brother, Ron Jarzombek, is quite simply a hybrid guitarist. He's the executor of ... fast ... playing, and ridiculously complex progressions. Being the driving force behind this ensemble's technical integrity and melodic mastery, he presents himself capable of executing the bare necessities of a technical piece, playing on a strict wankery diet, and composing chaotically intricate guitar pieces. Other than the drums, the intricacy of Ron's melodies will absolutely stun you. It really takes a guitarist to understand what is going on here in this album on Ron's behalf. There's really a lot to take on in this department. He throws in a lot of balladic sections in various pieces, to accompany and compliment the cacophony of off-beat and off-key screams and sweeps, that seem to successfully border the very appropriate licks and down-plays, that seem to ravage every major and minor pentatonic in existence, and even the ones that are non-existence. To put it simply, Ron is the kind of guy thar can play an F flat or a B sharp on guitar. But whatever. This guy is basically a living, walking, talking sign, in human form, that says in bold letters: "If you play guitar and you're not Ron Jarzombek, You shoul probably kill yourself".
And finally, the bass:
Now, seeing as I'm no bassist, it would make me more pretentious than experimental when it came to reviewing the position, ability and insanity of this guy, Pete Perez, on bass. But I can safely say this, without being liable for assholeship: This guy is ridiculous. Pete has spent most of his metal career in Power/Heavy metal bands, so this is probably an odd turn for him as well. Although Spastic Ink is on hold, I still doubt Pete has ever been a part of anything that demands as much technical ability and theoretical knowledge in music as Spastic Ink does. And to put it plainly, this guy certainly matches up to the requirements. The very concept of single-handedly individualising the counter-part position of Ron's guitar work is beyond comprehension. A lot of tech-prog bands will bound the bassist with the inescapable position of following the guitar's bass notes note-for-note, with the occasional 5-second solo or 10-second off-beat bar, but not this band. Pete is one of the three shining stars in this ensemble, which is what every member with this sort of ability deserves. Not only can Pete follow every counter melody that Ron throws at him, but he can also effortlessly accentuate the pin-in-thumb drums with pro-as-hell ease, using an array of ridiculous hammer-on legato techniques, sweeps, licks and hell-based arpeggios. He's also not afraid of using a bit of funky slap-bass here and there for that extra raunchy touch. In retrospect upon listening to this album again, I've concluded that any bassist that isn't Pete Perez (other than Billy Sheehan and Victor Wooten) should more than likely just pack it in and go home. And by "go home", I mean kill yourself. Enough said.
Production-wise, this album is a very unique one. The guitars and drums especially. For the reputation and rank in the metal world that Ron and Bobby Jarzombek sit upon, they seem to have added an almost amateur touch to the production. The drums are mixed in a way that makes the high-end seem more extreme than the other frequencies, but it still maintains a brilliant sound in its own quirky way. The guitars also bare this distinct frequency, but also seems to compensate for this apparent "flaw", by showing its face as being quirky and unique. It's tastefully done, and it holds a strong position of individuality in this sense.
Fuck it, to put it as simply as I can: This album is fucking insane, and you need to get it. It is certainly not an album for the simple-minded or the faint of heart, though. You’ll need a pretty strong musical head, and a good heart to be able to appreciate this album and love for what it truly is: A band that will always be better than you.
100 fucking per cent for this one. Get it at all costs, because this is it. This is “that” band that tops all others in technical progressive metal. And this album is bound to drop a few jaws and untwine a few pairs of pants.
Additional note: The track "A Wild Hare", actually syncs up perfectly to a mixture of scenes on Bambi, with Ron's guitaring covering Thumper's dialogue.
From the get-go, I have to say that I’m not a big fan of progressive metal. I heard a bit of Pain Of Salvation and I didn’t like it. The big issue for me is the vocals. I can tolerate clean vocals occasionally, as long as it doesn’t dominate a song. I love screaming and growling much better. This is why I love this album so much…it’s an instrumental.
I have a few instrumental albums in my collection, with Behold… The Arctopus, Liquid Tension Experiment, and Mastery to name a couple. However, all those instrumentals can’t quite match the skill and replayability of “Ink Complete”. Why? One reason… even after repeated listens, you still don’t really know exactly what you heard. After a song, you may think, “yeah, I know it now!”, but after a subsequent listen, you will immediately forget about that hidden cymbal hit, or subliminal bass line, and you’re back to square one. Even with no lyrics, this is probably (for now) one of the best progressive albums ever.
The technicality conveyed here is astronomical. While bands like Meshuggah are great at being technical, Spastic Ink are excellent. But while the album is full of technicality, they’re not being pretentious. They’re just good at what they do.
Even during the album, they limit themselves to certain musical patterns. For example, the song “See, And It’s Sharp!” limits the guitar to using just C and C#. Where other bands of any genre would crumble, Spastic Ink flourish, turning this limitation into a four minute-plus work of art. Another example is “Suspended On All Fours”, where, as the linear notes state, it is “based on a pattern of four suspended notes”. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but that’s what make this trio so freaking talented. I can completely agree with wEEman33 here where Spastic Ink achieve “complexity through simplicity”. They can take any limitation they want and still make a decent song out of what’s left.
All of the instruments are played with stunning tightness despite the album’s technicality. I guess the best part is that you can actually hear the bass! And it’s not just filling in either…it has an equal part in how the songs sound. Not to mention that Pete Perez is a bloody good bass player, too! How these three (yes, the band is consisted of just three people. Just goes to show that you don’t need 10 people to make good music) come up with this music, using start-stop riffing (“A Morning With Squeakie” is the best example of that), super-technical time signatures and music limitations, and still making it interesting without a vocalist, is beyond me.
I could go on and on about the music, but I think you get where I’m going with this. Even if you like technical music, but don’t like prog metal, still pick this up. It’s definitely worth the money.
Best tracks: Well, almost all of them, but I’ll say “A Morning With Squeakie”, “See, And It’s Sharp!”, “Harm And Half-Time Baking Shuffle”, and “To Counter And Groove In E Minor”.
So, what do you think of when someone mentions the word “technical”? Maybe your mind conjures up Meshuggah with their crazy polyrhythms, Liquid Tension Experiment’s endless wankery, or perhaps Coroner’s fanatical style that attempts to squeeze in as many notes as possible while thrashing at light speed. Yeah those guys are pretty technical, but their overall level of technicality is miniscule compared to that of Spastic Ink. From a musician’s standpoint, every member of Spastic Ink is so tight, so proficient, and so blindingly fast that one might initially suppose that “Ink Complete” is the work of robots created by scientists for the sole purpose of perplexing the minds of listeners across the world. But on the contrary my friend, while Spastic Ink has composed one of the most painstakingly mechanized albums to date, there are still odd bits of humor sprinkled here and there and an overall sense of haphazard fun that permeates from this delightful piece of plastic, giving it a distinctive, human touch. For example, “A Morning with Squeakie” is a musical interpretation of a squirrel’s daily peril in the park as he searches for food and tries to avoid becoming another animal’s snack. In addition, “A Wild Hare” is a meticulously conceived elucidation of a 1942 animation classic that was created by transcribing violins, violas, cellos, basses, flutes, piccolos, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, harp, percussion/timpani, lightning, and a singing female bunny, then arranging them for guitars, bass and drums. Ron Jarzombek also copied down the pitch and timing of the hare’s dialogue (including words, laughs, sniff, gulp, throat clearings), and fitted it into keys and times structures of the themes in the film. Then there’s the four and a half minute song “See, And It’s Sharp,” in which the band limited themselves to two notes (C and C#) and the simple 4/4 time signature. Here Spastic Ink displays the age-old paradox of achieving complexity through simplicity.
Clearly this record is designed to appeal to other musicians who understand the challenge coupled with creating and playing such complex pieces of art. Therefore, it is expected that everything will probably fly right over the listener’s head during initial spins. But don’t give up, because that moment of epiphany will come when you’re able to envision the squirrel’s every action just by focusing on the music. And when it does come, you’ll move on to the next track, until you’ve brushed off the web of bedlam that originally covered the enigma know as “Ink Complete.” I would compare this album to a Rubix Cube: though at first mixed up, all the information is tangible, so you just have play with it for a little while until it all comes together and forms several distinct colors.
The only minor quibble I have with this re-released version is the inclusion of a twenty-five minute bonus track that contains some live recordings, tunes recorded at slower speeds, solos played super slow, a few songs that didn’t make it onto “Ink Complete”, etc. While it’s interesting to listen through once or twice, I usually find myself hitting the stop button after “Mosquito Brain Surgery.”
Two reasons you should buy this and not download it: 1) Unless you have a copy of the liner notes, you will have no clue what is going on in the songs, and will not be able to fully appreciate the immense challenge that Spastic Ink faced when creating this album. 2) The band is not able to support themselves solely through their musical career, thus is one group that you have truly helped by purchasing some of their work (as opposed to say, Metallica who sell so many records that one or two copies doesn’t make a lick of difference in their grand financial scheme). So, if this review has piqued your interest, I urge you to head over to www.lasercd.com and order this CD ASAP. Also make sure to check out Ron Jarzombek’s solo album “Solitarily Speaking of Theoretical Confinement,” the second Spastic Ink CD “Ink Compatible,” and Watchtower’s “Control and Resistance.”
I can't give it a hundred. What I CAN do, however, is commend this INCREDIBLY talented band for this psychotic schizophrenic craziness.
I don't even know where to start, and neither does this fucking band. Everything is so weirdly put together, and incredibly done, that you can't help but marvel at the technicality.
A Wild Hare, Just A Little Dirty, and The Mad Data Race are the three ultimatum songs.
The drumming, guitars, bass...everything is just so...fucking...awesome. The drummer is all over the place. The guitarist is a fucking nutcase. The bassist is amazing and...wow. If you don't have this in your collection, you're a moron.
A Wild Hare starts with a grindy little guitar driven intro, but the drums are very unlike grind, and the tone of everything is really high. If these guys wanted to, they could be like Estradasphere and just play every fucking genre, because they're that talented. Just on a whim, just like that.
The Mad Data Race has the most crazy drumming ever. This guy goes ape on his entire fucking set, and he never really stops to take a break. Having stamina like this is incredibly amazing. The drums and guitar are so far apart from having a rhythm, it's like they recorded everything in seperate places and couldn't hear what each other were playing, and just glued it all together, but somehow it ended up going together incredibly well, but also not, in a way. It's hard to explain, you just need to listen to the songs.
Just A Little Dirty is almost impossible sounding to even attempt to play. If you want to wow your friends who think metal is just a bunch of screaming crap with no substance, let them hear this (even though everything is instrumental), and see if they still think that. If they do, kill them, and kill them quickly. One helluva release, and I will run to the store and obtain Ink Compatible when it hits shelves later this year.