Chimp Spanner – At the Dreams Edge – 4.5/5
An album that was first introduced to me by fellow Lifer Zakharov with the intention of making it more widely known there after sending it to me in private, why he hasn't done so seems a little baffling as this one man show – everything written and performed by Paul Ortiz – seems to have stumbled upon something rather unique, even if the influences from the underrated game “Mirror's Edge” seem undeniable. Perhaps most aptly described as a combination of Prog/Tech Metal (with a decent dollop of Djent) and Ambient Electronica; Vangelis' beauty married with Sikth's technicality, and whilst it seems like a combination that's unlikely to work, it is in the context of which this 'concept' exists that I can't imagine anything else would.
Whilst never explicitly mentioning any overarching story I find it difficult not to fabricate one from the shifting tones in the atmosphere, telling a tale of a whitewashed world filled with metaphorically padded walls; a matrix-like prison that its residents aren't even aware of. This is a dystopia unlike the infamous Blade Runner world but hidden behind closed doors but rotten at its corrupt core, and as the protagonist – the listener – explores deeper into the depravity, hacking into the government computers to discover just what they've been hiding, you embark on this epic journey. Hunted for what you know, tracking down any evidence of what you've learnt and struggling to unveil the dark secrets you've discovered before it's too late and the government succeeds in silencing their adversary. But of course there are no lyrics; no hard concrete evidence of what the story genuinely is, which oddly enough simply adds to its beauty. It means that you can simply listen and be inspired by the shifting tones in a strong enough manner that it still forms a story individual to yourself; the varied tempo and styles just begging for each little bit to be worked out in the context of the entire album.
The meshuggah-esque djent forms much of the background in the more aggressive passages and maintains much of the rhythm, constantly twisting and turning and never quite yielding to expectations, and in the background – or perhaps more aptly described as working side by side with the guitar work – comes the electronica elements, forming that sweeping futuristic atmosphere, maintaining the immersion and constantly setting the landscape for the events depicted by the guitars to take place. His proficiency at guitar couldn't be understated, but more than his raw technical ability comes his ability to actually compose pieces like a soundtrack; the hacking sequence in 'Bad Code,' respect for those that died in 'Ghosts of the Golden City' or the fight scene in 'Harvey Wallbanger;' hope and hopelessness; despair and determination, his playing can display immense knowledge around the fretboard but its never without purpose, or used as simply a way of flaunting himself, happily showing the willing to take a step back and allow the electronic background take hold as an equally important component to the sound he's created. The longer I listen, the more I realise I can think of anything quite like it.
Highlights: Supererogation, Bad Code