ANDY JAMES‘s newest record, Exodus, comes at a time in which solo guitarists and tech metal extraordinaires are all the rage, meaning the fact that James manages to stand out based on technical prowess alone is an accomplishment in itself. The former SACRED MOTHER TONGUE guitarist has pieced together a collection of tracks that serve as a perfect showcase for his technique and versatility as an instrumentalist, yet the lightning fast shredding is not the album’s peak, but simply one aspect of a bigger musical spectacle.
Technical as Exodus is, the album rarely gives the impression that ANDY JAMES is showing off, it rarely feels as if he’s cramming in as many notes as possible into each solo. The solo’s dominate the record, but rarely feel overbearing. The playing is fast, but each note serves its purpose and is clearly placed with forethought. There are odd times that could perhaps have benefited from a little bit of silence, but Exodus never strays into ‘guitar seminar’ territory, each song is memorable in its own right as just that; a song.
The album opens in the strongest possible way, Ever After’s atmospheric clean intro quickly builds into a dual tapping section which certainly sets the tone for things to come. A whole host of guitar wizardry follows, separated by heavy riffs very reminiscent of ANDY JAMES‘s SACRED MOTHER TONGUE work. The second track, Made of Stone strays closer to the realm of generic heavy metal, albeit with one of the more memorable leads following on from less inspiring intro. Hurricane, the albums fourth track, is one of the standouts, adding a much more distinguishable clean tone for the songs introduction, setting an eerie atmosphere to lead into an aggressive beatdown of a track filled with low djent riffs and tremolo picking from the high end.
Some of Exodus’s second half runs into slightly forgettable territory, but returns to its summit towards the end with a finale as strong as its intro. Victory features some of the most impressive guitar work on the album, along with an exceptional guest appearance from Rick Graham. Exit Through Ashes serves as an outro, with a solo guitar playing out the album in a more reserved manor to earlier tracks, with a synth backdrop adding an extra layer to the mix and providing a perfect sendoff to the album.
There are moments where Exodus could be mistaken for an instrumental SMT album, and that’s largely down to the fact that there isn’t anything particularly new on show here. The record is packed with moments of brilliance, and moments of absolute guitar madness, and doesn’t fall into the trap of being too technical for its own good. The issue that arises is that many of the SCAR SYMMETRY-esque riffs and solos feel like they’ve been done elsewhere. Take nothing away from ANDY JAMES, Exodus reinforces the fact that the man can play just about anything, and there are tracks that show just how impressive he can be. Exodus is without a doubt a very good album, but it’s a very good album coming from a very great musician, and just a little way of being taken to the next level.
Exodus is set for release on May 5th via Urban Yeti Records.
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