Storchi – Outside Review

Score8/10
GenreProgressive Metal/Fusion
CountryIsrael
Runtime44:51
Release Date10 October 2019
Record LabelDutch Music Works

I don’t know what’s in the water over there, but Israel has pumped out some seriously good prog albums this year. The unforgettable Lotus Graveyard by Tillian is just one example, and I still listen to that record on a regular basis. The latest addition to this effort is the debut album of Storchi, entitled Outside. It brings an interesting combination of prog metal, fusion, and club jazz, finished off with a deep-rooted Middle Eastern feel. If you want to listen to something with its very own distinct sound, look no further.

Aside from the raw skill its musicians display (more on that in a minute), Storchi’s best quality is its blatant uniqueness. While, at times, Outside beckons to a sound similar to Mahavishnu Orchestra and 70s/80s fusion in general, the sound it ends up with can’t be compared too closely to these because it is simply very individual. The music is driven by the flute, courtesy of Danielle Sassi, which carries all of the melodies over top of the guitars, bass, and drums, which constantly transition between intense metal riffage and light grooves.

There’s a good ratio of metal to jazz here, with most of the songs leaning more one way than the other. For example, ‘Surroundings’, ‘Hidden Truth’, and ‘Lights Out’ are far more metal, whereas ‘Paracosm’ (after the first third of the song, anyway) and ‘Midnight’ are almost entirely ethnic jazz tunes. It becomes evident in the album’s first minutes that Outside will be a dynamic experience, but that’s a bit of an understatement.

And now we get to the musicians themselves who, strikingly, are all teenagers, which blows the shit out of my mind because I can’t play anything half as good as these guys. The guitarwork is great, with some notable soloing in ‘Paracosm’ and ‘Hidden Truth’, and the bassplaying follows in like fashion. The flute, of course, is excellent throughout the album’s entirety, but my favourite part of Outside is that fucking drumming. Noam Arbel proves himself to be quite the beast behind the kit, and he bangs the shit out of the highs and patters away on the lows with tasteful precision. Right off the get go I was impressed with this guy, but on the fifth track, ‘Midnight’, I was fucking blown away. Seriously. The five-minute drum solo constantly reminded me of drummers like Joe Morello and (to a lesser extent) Buddy Rich. Damn. Not too bad, if you ask me.

There are also a handful of guest musicians lending support on piano and string instruments, but the core of Outside‘s energy comes from its main quartet. While a couple of the arrangements could do with some trimming and touching up, this album is an all-around blast and I’m damn excited to listen to what Storchi lays down next.

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Yurei – Saudade Review

Score8.5/10
GenreProgressive Metal/Fusion
CountryCanada
Runtime39:52
Release Date4 October 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Yurei is the instrumental progressive metal project helmed by the Brazilian-born composer/guitarist Gabriel Castro. As you can imagine, this brand of prog is largely influenced by latin music. Their full-length debut, Saudade, is no exception to this; it brings all the rich vitality that latin jazz offers but with a massive metal bite. While this combination isn’t necessarily anything new, especially considering the recent influx of fusion-styled instrumental prog that’s almost become an expectation of modern prog at this point, the arrangements are fun, the technical skill of the musicians is through the roof, and the drumming is a fucking godsend.

One of the things I like the most about Saudade is the fact that it’s a great album whether you’re just a casual listener or a musician. Yeah, fancy jazz chords and complex rhythms are super cool, but a lot of prog artists forget that technicality isn’t everything. Fortunately, you don’t need to know dick-all about music theory to enjoy this album, but you’ll still love it if you do.

Upon the first few minutes of listening, an overtone of early/mid-00s fusion is created and remains for the entirety of the album. To paint a bit of a picture, Saudade sounds similar to Dave Weckl‘s 00s stuff combined with whatever the fuck Japan was doing with GameCube soundtracks at the time (but without all the symphonic stuff). Needless to say, Saudade is served with a pretty hefty dose of nostalgia. Nostalgia that listened to way too much funk drumming.

But don’t let all the jazz/fusion comparisons be the only thing that forms your opinion of Yurei, because these guys are just as much metal as they are fusion. Saudade‘s melodies are led by some killer lead guitar work on top of super heavy, syncopated grooves. The hefty guitar tones allow for a good amount of aggression, but the expressive lead guitar keeps the sound from becoming too dark. There’re also various synth tones scattered throughout the background, which are mainly used to create fluid atmospheres rather than to pull any attention away from the guitars and drums. All in all, the album contains a fair balance of groovy jams and floating, emotional ambiance.

Any fan of prog metal, jazz, fusion, or videogame soundtracks will dig Saudade a lot. Between fantastic metal riffage, soaring solos, reflective synths, and ridiculous drumming, there’s no reason not to check Yurei out.

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Torben Enevoldsen – 5.1 Review

Score8/10
GenreShred/Fusion
CountryDenmark
Runtime51:50
Release Date11 Jan 2019
Record LabelPerris

Having had a fairly successful solo career and a handful of side projects, Danish guitarist Torben Enevoldsen has released a fifth addition to his solo project: 5.1. 5.1 is all instrumental, like the rest of Enevoldsen’s solo releases, and often sounds like he just ripped off Jeff Beck’s arms and used those (which is especially apparent in the funky ‘Say What’).

Guitar feature albums are always a difficult endeavour. Oftentimes the record ends up being nothing but a big guitar solo, with endless shredding and a lack of melody or tasteful phrasing. It’s also tough to strike a balance between the lead guitar and rhythm section; the guitarist could be the most talented musician on the planet, but, if the rhythm section is weak, it could kill the entire setup.

Enevoldsen’s playing is exquisite. His melodies are smooth and lively and his phrases flow like water. His playing style is far closer to jazz fusion than metal. On the flip-side, his fast, chugging solos would give many metal guitarists a run for their money. The balance of the guitar playing couldn’t be better.

One issue I have with the album, however, is the rhythm section in the first and last thirds of the album. In the first four tracks, there isn’t much going on besides the straight beat. There is a clear pickup in ‘Inside Out’ (which is also the most metal-sounding track on the album) that carries on through the next four songs and into ‘Hangar 84’. ‘Hangar 84’ is undoubtedly the best song on the album. The proggy staccato intro is remarkable and the rest of the song is full of energy from the entire band. The rhythm section then simmers back down in the final four tracks.

That may seem like a nitpicky complaint for a feature album, but for a release from an artist of such caliber as Torben Enevoldsen, I don’t think it’s too much to expect a bit more colour in the background.

The only other aspect I don’t like about 5.1 is that half the songs conclude by fading out. That drives me insane. I think it’s just lazy songwriting, but maybe I’m missing something. Write a damn ending; it won’t kill you.

It’s safe to say that Torben Enevoldsen’s 5.1 is a phenomenal display of guitar shredding. Despite it’s flaws, the album is quite enjoyable and will likely have you coming back for another taste.

Torben Enevoldsen – Hangar 84 (Perris Records)

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