T-Mac is back with his first official solo
album since 2001’s Chromaticity. It’s his
13th solo disc in a career spanning 25
years. This self-produced new release is the
heaviest thing he’s ever done, and it’s full of
jaw-dropping shred, soothing classical flourishes,
skull-bludgeoning rhythms, and epic
8-string guitar action.
With a 10-year hiatus behind him—and
having worked off and on with Ring of
Fire, CAB, Steve Vai, Planet X, and Devil’s
Slingshot—MacAlpine now returns to
center stage. As a
classical pianist who
multitasks in jazzfusion,
metal, he brings a
unique and harmonically
of view to his compositions.
Planet X bandmate and drummer
extraordinaire Virgil Donati guest stars on
three tracks and their chemistry is super
strong. The technical, melodic, and rhythmic
concoctions these guys create together
make for an intense listening experience.
Drummer Marco Minnemann plays on
“Fire Mountain,” “Dream Mechanism,”
“Pyrokinesis,” and “The Dedication.” He
brings to this record the kind of super chops
and musicality that made him a finalist for
the Dream Theater drummer auditions.
MacAlpine handles the rest of the drum programming,
and gets some of the best guitar
tones of his career using his 7- and 8-string
Ibanez guitars through a Hughes & Kettner
TriAmp. What he lacks in sonic earthiness,
he makes up for with a smooth clarity that
highlights the nuances in his playing.
MacAlpine moves seamlessly from high-intensity,
alternate-picked passages to rubbery
legato lines, angular harmonies, and brutal
riffs. This is offset by the peaceful serenity
of compositions like “Flowers For Monday,”
a lovely Di Meola-esque duet for acoustic
guitar and piano. “The Dedication” quotes
19th-century German composer Robert
Schumann, and once again demonstrates
MacAlpine’s knack for blending Romantic-era
classical music with his own artistic vision.
On first listen, it’s a very hard and in-yourface
record, but with repeated listens, one
can’t help but notice the harmonic sophistication,
passion, and the high level of intricate
compositional prowess. Tony MacAlpine is
one of the best instrumental records of the
year, and it ranks right up there with his 1994
disc, Maximum Security.
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