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Actual Music. - 89%

hells_unicorn, February 19th, 2009

Among the more stylistically eclectic yet melodically direct guitarists in the instrumental metal field, Tony Hernando has opted for upping the aggression factor here and provides his audience with a dark set of riff monsters and somber melodic odes that rival Jeff Loomis’ rather intricate solo offering last year. Influences are far reaching, being mindful of the forefathers such as Malmsteen and Petrucci who elevated shredding into an art form, yet also mixing some bone crushing power/thrash to the format to make the style worthy of a few good bangs of the head and throwing of the horns.

Each one of these 11 well thought out musical chapters could be classified as instrumental compositions that listen like songs. There’s nothing here that really listens like it’s too long or too short, though many of the melodic passages heard tend to sound a bit restrained and maybe a tiny bit too repetitive or gradual in their development. The character of the guitar sound on the rhythm tracks walks a fine line between sounding modern and a tiny bit doom oriented, while the riffs themselves invoke images of several old and new influences, from late 80s Ozzy Osbourne to last year’s sophomore effort by industrial thrash/groove act Machinery.

All things considered, the character of this album is consistently heavy from start to finish. Occasionally things get a little bit quirky and progressive like the droning “Side Effects”, which pretty well lives up to its name and stands out as a sort of momentary gaze into an avant-garde side of Hernando’s character. This gets particularly unusual during the middle section when he completely drops much of the arrangement and goes into this jazzy sounding bass and drum section where he cuts away from being restrained and blazes a couple quick solos. But aside from this and a couple of pleasantly woeful classical guitar driven parts like the short and heavily Spanish sounding “Tomorrow/Es Rain”, things stay aggressive and riff happy.

As far as naming any songs that really dominate the field, the quality of each mixing of thudding grooves, up tempo gallops and fast picking sections is pretty evenly distributed, differing perhaps in which individual guitarist one tends to resemble. The opening song “Eyes Of Orion” is a pretty obvious blend of Yngwie’s classical motives, Satriani’s melodic sensibilities and light fluttering arpeggios (contrasted with Malmsteen’s heavy, Beethoven-like ones), and the wicked low end guitar tone of Rusty Cooley. Slower songs like “Totem” and “State Of Mind” bring a sort of “Facing The Animal” meets “Zero Order Phase” feel to the equation, keeping a bottom heavy and simple rhythmic undertow to an impressive set of lead guitar waves set upon an ocean of sound. But the one that really brings home the poundage is “Land With No Sun”, which uses several bits and pieces of thrashing goodness to basically paint a landscape that resembles a dark planet locked in a perpetual state of total Armageddon.

If there is one thing that this album definitely demonstrates, it is that simplicity and complexity need not be mutually exclusive. Indeed, one can balance out melodic hooks, simplistic rhythmic backdrops and technical excellence rather than relying on one for the entire time. Granted, taking one approach or all of them together doesn’t necessarily make one better than the other in a general sense, but individually this stands strong as a version of the eclectic take on things. If you enjoy guitar oriented Instrumental music and you like the first half of the term heavy metal to stay remain the emphasis of what you’re hearing, look no further than these “Actual Events” of musical intrigue.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 20, 2009.