Album review: ADRIAN WEISS – Easy Game


CD Baby [Release date 06.07.14]

Just in case you dozed off listening to too much AOR, or you’ve have been concussed by too much metal, you may have missed the emergence of a whole new school of prog-metal instrumentalists including the hugely impressive German guitarist Adrian Weiss, who surely stands the vanguard of a new legion of axe slingers.

He’s been around of course, having paid his dues in the mid 90’s with the proggy Thought Sphere and metal outfit Forces At Wok before joining another metal outfit Gloryful in 2014, round about the time of this release.

In a world of Vai, Satriani, Paul Gilbert, Tony McAlpine, Vinnie Moore, Becker, Malmsteen and the like, Weiss job is to find a meaningful context for his peerless shredding. ‘Easy Game’ exuberantly confirms he has the chops, the intensity and the compositions to carve out his own niche.

‘Easy Game’ is his second solo album and an enjoyable musical journey that I nearly managed to overlook, but here’s my overdue appraisal.

It’s a step up from his previous ‘Big Time’ debut album, even if the opening slapped notes of ‘Awkward Silence’ soon give way to a familiar  blitzkrieg of ripping notes, undulating melodies, mangled tones, and expressive shredding.

The music of the bare-wire tension opener is the polar opposite to its title, as it pushes every last air molecule round the room until an unexpected drone like outro.

The band is essentially a power trio featuring Adrian Weiss on guitar, drummer Lars Zehner and bassist Marcel Willnat, while the album also features an array of special guests including Demian Heuke, who adds acoustic on the contemplative ‘The Last Days’. This is one of the few tracks where the music seems to directly reflect the meaning of the song title.

‘Easy Game’ can also be approached on different levels, Sometime the listener locks into the songs or the mesmerizing solos, while other times we’re suckered in by his tone shapes and tension breaking shreds that usher in another musical direction, or lead to a perfunctory conclusion.

Fellow guest Christian Muenzner also helps bring contrast to the wah-wah intensity of ‘Hacienda’. His twang guitar figure is juxtaposed with Adrian’s incendiary shred and almost provides an unexpected sense of humour. The moment is quickly superseded by the songs relentless drive, before a fleeting stop-time moment brings back the filmic twang motif. Stirring stuff!

‘Instant Relief’s feverish ascending shred and crystal harmonics bring real presence to the album, while the more laid back bluesy feel of ‘Aim To Please’ draws the listener in, before he unleashes waves of intricately woven lines that leap out the speakers like a sonic shower.

In complete contrast, the metal influenced ‘Immediate Measures’, makes a more instant impact with a snaking guitar line over a busy rhythm section.

Weiss retains our interest throughout a complex album with his restless exploration, varying arrangements, different tempos and a rainbow of tones. His wide range of solos also make ‘Easy Game’ more than the mere sum of its shredded parts.

One moment he’s Jeff Beck with fusion elements, the next he’s exploring some imaginative progressions and then there always power metal to fall back on.

In that context, it’s surprising that his biggest asset here is his use of restraint, his choice of solos and subtle dynamics which help build pieces step by step, rather than revealing their entirety in the very first solo.

A good example of this is the eastern flavoured ‘Camel’s Dance’ on which he explores both ends of the guitar neck as part of some fluid and graceful soloing.

‘Night Owl’ strips things down to a sonorous tone with lots of space to let the piece breathe and to remind us that for all the album’s bluster, there’s a feel player at the heart of it all.

He finishes in tandem with fellow German guitarist Manuel Korsakow on the melodic, tic-toc rhythm of ‘Offbeat Frankenstine’, which is a beautifully crafted end to a splendid album.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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