A multiplicity of expressions emerges.
Necessity can often be the catalyst of creativity, and for many artists that have been condemned to a state of de facto house-arrest since the early spring of 2020, the studio has become a deliverance of sorts. But while many in the metal world have largely stuck to what they know, guitar impresario and Firewind mastermind Gus G. has been continuing to forge his craft with an eye to more eclectic territory. Naturally versatility has never been an issue for this Greek-born master of shred, as his past stints with Mystic Prophecy, Dream Evil, Nightrage, Arch Enemy and Ozzy Osbourne has seen him effectively run the gamut from more traditionally geared metallic expressions to the more extreme territory of thrash and melodic death metal. Yet despite this impressive resume of past accomplishments and the correspondingly large portfolio of recorded albums bearing his signature guitar lines, there is new ground being broken by this sonic miner of precious ores.
Although Gus’ activity as a solo artist dates back 20 years to the release of the all instrumental “Guitar Master” LP, it didn’t truly become a consistent endeavor until 2013, and then was largely a more commercially geared blend of rock and metal featuring a varied cast of guest vocalists. Thus his latest studio effort dubbed “Quantum Leap” comes off as a surprising left-turn into territory normally reserved to the likes of Paul Gilbert and Joe Satriani. In keeping with these aforementioned icons of guitar-oriented instrumental music, this is an album that prioritizes melodic symmetry and brevity, culminating in 11 proper songs where the guitar takes on the role of vocalist as much as it does a technical showcase. In terms of overall aggression and heaviness, it tends a bit more towards the classic Firewind blend of power and older heavy metal practices than previous solo efforts, but the well of ideas that has been poured into the mix is wider in scope and richer in atmospheric texture.
The stylistic curveballs thrown by Gus are hard to miss, as while these songs are quite artful in their approach, they are also pretty blatant departures from his usual material. Right off the bat, the opening rocker “Into The Unknown” hits the speakers on a fairly nuanced note, sounding more like a quick-paced progressive rocker with a lot of moving parts that has been adapted to a groovier template. Interestingly enough, the follow up numbers “Exosphere” and title song “Quantum Leap” dive even further into progressive territory and is a bit flashier despite being shorter length. Even the more metallic cruiser with a heavy edge “Chronesthesia” has this sort of lofty, intergalactic tinge to its tonality that is reminiscent of the more kinetic moments of Dream Theater’s mid-90s material, with Gus himself often rivaling Jon Petrucci in the technical department. If nothing else, the first half of this album puts about as much stylistic distance between itself and what Gus is known for while still being recognizable as his handiwork.
Generally as things progress, the flavor of these songs become even more varied, yet also a bit more stylistically distinctive. The easy-going, almost bluesy balladry of “Enigma Of Life” hearkens back more to rock-based swagger that often adorned Gus’ mid-2010s solo outings, while the synth-wave meets metallic luster of “Night Driver” almost sounds like an outtake from the Rocky IV soundtrack. On the other hand, the metallic edge of crushers like “Judgment Day” and “Demon Stomp”, to speak nothing for the thrashing fury of “Fierce”, land pretty closer to recent Firewind territory minus the vocals and plus a few intricate guitar gymnastics. But when all is said and done, the sheer excellence of the closing song “Force Majeure” towers above the rest, buoyed by some spellbinding input by guitar great Vinnie Moore to complement Gus’ stellar shred work. On an album that generally takes a more gradual road to a brief apex point, this song brilliantly throws caution to the wind and presents a full four minute session of technical extravagance.
While this is the sort of album that would seem to be molded after the recent output of Marty Friedman and Tony MacAlpine, Gus has done a more than ample job in tailoring this usually inaccessible format to appeal to his existing audience. By his own admission, he’s not the biggest fan of instrumental guitar albums given the template employed sounds to his ears more like an endless succession of guitar solos with little sense of overall structural development. This attitude is clearly reflected in the mostly moderate length and melodically infectious character of these songs, shored up by a series of solid performances by the guest rhythm section provided by bassist Dennis Ward and drummer Jan-Vincent Velazco. As an added bonus, a collection of live performances of songs from the last album’s tour have been included on a second CD, each displaying Gus’ majestic licks in a solid power trio context. Power metal trustees and instrumental music fans alike can agree on this one, which is no small feat for a virtuoso who has generally focused on appealing to the former
Released By: AFM Records
Released On: October 8th, 2021
Genre: Hard Rock / Heavy Metal / Instrumental
- Gus G / Guitars
- Dennis Ward / Bass
- Jan-Vincent Velazco / Drums
“Quantum Leap” Track-listing:
1. Into The Unknown
3. Quantum Leap
5. Enigma Of Life
6. Judgement Day
8. Demon Stomp
9. Night Driver
10. Not Forgotten
11. Force Majeure (feat. Vinnie Moore)
1. Fearless (Live)
2. Mr. Manson (Live)
3. Letting Go (Live)
4. Cold Sweat (Live, Thin Lizzy Cover)
5. Force Majeure (Live)
6. Money For Nothing (Live)
7. Thrill Of The Chase (Live)
Following a brilliant outing in Firewind’s 2020 eponymous LP that was sadly hamstrung promotionally due to the lockdowns, six-string sorcerer Gus G. switches gears for more varied and abstract territory, culminating in a solid display of technical flair and melodic ingenuity within the instrumental medium