Toby Knapp – Blizzard Archer (Moribund Rockers!) (February 8)
Waxen’s Toby Knapp puts on his Yngwie and drops the equivalent of a Shrapnel shred record, all instrumental guitar and band work.
The vibe is very much akin to Yngwie meets Chastain with a bit of Project M.A.R.S. thrown in for good measure. Moments come off practically Iron Maidenesque (“all hands planted”) in their dual guitar harmonies, and the entire affair is both firmly planted in traditional melodic/power metal roots and filled with shredding.
The important thing to take away here is that while Knapp is working a more aggressive, grounded take on the Yngwie school of playing, the album never suffers from what shredheads are well familiar with – the awkward song structures for the sake of incorporating some untoward, ill fitting experimental phrase or lick, the sense of boredom that creeps in over the course of a given album sans vocals.
A few managed to escape this (Vinnie Moore on Time Odyssey, perhaps Jason Becker on Perpetual Burn or even Joey Tafolla on Out of the Sun), but most of the ones we remember and revisit on a regular basis were full band setups: Racer X, Steeler and Alcatrazz, Phantom Blue, Project M.A.R.S., Eat ‘Em and Smile era David Lee Roth…and Yngwie’s first three solo albums, the better part of which were full band with vocals.
The solo instrumental albums? Some amazing players, occasional killer tracks…but they tend to gather dust (seriously…when’s the last time you ran to give Joe Satriani or Steve Vai a spin? It’s been multiples of decades for yours truly…)
But Knapp grounds himself in the right influences, putting his best foot forward by emphasizing melody, song structure and enough modulation, discrete phrasing and implied key change to retain listener attention…and then tagging on the flash leads, rather than building some half-assed tinkertoy structure to support whatever new lead trick he cares to throw down at the moment. Selah.
The only tragedy is that it’s taken this long to dig through the backlog sufficient to finally get to covering this album…because like Tafolla or Becker,* Knapp actually bothered to craft an album full of hummable ditties amidst all the driving metal aggression, well polished productionwise and covered with some nice leads to boot.
* sorry, not Moore. Time Odyssey remains something of the inspirational pinnacle for these ears, little comes close.
If you’re into good playing, Malmsteen, Shrapnel or any of the bands and players aforementioned (and a few not, like Marty Friedman), you’d be a goddamned fool to pass this one up, no bones about it.
Throw me a pick, willya? Killer stuff, it’s actually inspirational if you’re a player with even a modicum of taste.