Album review: BEN RANDALL – Before The Rain

BEN RANDALL - Before The Rain

Thoroughbred Music    [Release date: 02.04.21] www.benrandallguitar.com

For me, it’s always been about the guitar.

Back in the day, from the moment I heard Paul Kossoff’s wailing Les Paul on the early Free albums, I was hooked. Koss, Blackmore, Iommi, Peter Green, et al all moved me in mysterious ways.

And here’s another to add to the list – Ben Randall. One time plank spanker with Power Quest and Code Of Silence and collaborator with the likes of 25 Yard Screamer and Chasing The Monsoon, who has used the past two years (and the year of lockdown in particular) to pull together an epic solo guitar album of mercurial playing and astonishing virtuosity.

Although genre-bending in a way, Randall’s oeuvre places him at the centre-point of a triangle that has Joe Satriani, Carlos Santana and Yngwie J Malmsteen at its angles and ‘Before The Rain’ is not so much a debut solo album as a collection reflecting a decade of music making.

Drawing on his time with Paul Logue and Code Of Silence as well as his aforementioned collaborations, Ben has re-mixed, re-recorded and tweeked where appropriate, and put together fourteen tracks to captivate guitar nuts everywhere.

The opening track ‘Never Again’, was recorded as a demo with Chasing The Monsoon for what (eventually) became their fabulous ‘No Ordinary World’ album but was not included on the final release for some reason and features plenty of wailing guitar over a pounding beat.

The two 25 Yard Screamer tracks couldn’t be more different – ‘Mechanics Of Illusion’ features a great riff and lightning fast shredding, whereas ‘Ghost’ settles everything down with its laid back vocals, exquisite guitar and progressive rock tropes.

There are five tracks from the brilliant Code Of Silence – ‘Dark Skies Over Babylon’ album but not as we know it, Captain.

Randall has stripped out the vocals on all but one of the tracks and placed the guitar at the heart of things.

As a result, what were outstanding tracks anyway take on a new lease of life. ‘Seventh Seal’, ‘Black Abyss’ and ‘Midnight Cathedral’ sound re-born with the emphasis shifted onto the instrumentation and the guitar soaring over Scott McLean’s excellent keyboard work.

The vocals return on the unreleased single edit of ‘Dark Skies Over Babylon’s title track with Gus Monsanto and Joanna Ruiz combining to great effect on what was probably the album’s most commercial track.

And then there’s ‘Tame The Tempest’ in my opinion the best track on DSOB – with one of the finest power-riffs you’ll ever hear, Randall somehow takes it to another level with jaw-dropping guitar pyrotechnics.

The six Randall compositions display many facets of his playing – ‘Before The Rain’ and ‘Way To Burn’ are tracks Satriani would never have left off any of HIS albums, whereas ‘Love Finds A Way’ has Santana-like jazzy overtones and funky percussion.

The short ‘Reflections Of A Broken Dream’ is an effects-pedal workout and ‘Reasons For Believing’ is a guitar wig-out that reminds me of why I fell in love with the guitar in the first place.

‘Way To Burn’ and ‘Closer To The Truth’ bring the album to a fitting finale with more scorching riffs than you could shake a stick at and testament to Randall’s skills, not just with guitar in hand but also as a composer and arranger.

With Steve Kitch, The Pineapple Thief’s keyboard whizz, on mastering duties, the album sounds just as you’d want it to – right in your face and with the guitar front and centre.

All told, a breathtaking guitar album of the highest order from a player with other-worldly skills and, what’s more, an absolute blast.    *****

Review by Alan Jones

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