“A Place to Breathe” is the latest release from Syncatto, a (primarily) solo project of Artificial Language guitarist, Charlie Robbins. Charlie has a very distinctive approach to the instrument that finds him flying all over the fretboard with various sweeps and legato phrasing. The evolution of his playing from 2015’s “A Place to Hide” to the present is nothing short of breathtaking. He has incorporated so many new elements in to his playing since that release. Most notably, his use of flamenco music melded with frenetic progressive metal guitar. This was most prominently displayed on his prior EP, 2019’s “Coloratura” and is on full display again on “A Place to Breathe.”
Charlie wastes no time putting his jaw dropping riffs on display with the first track, ‘Let Us Dance’ which may or may not be a sequel to the flamenco gem on “Coloratura,” ‘Look, I’m Dancing‘. A sauntering flamenco riff sets the stage and is followed with a riff that Polyphia fans will call their new jam. In fact, the whole album has a strong Polyphia feel, and that’s not a bad thing.
With this release, Charlie has incorporated some assistance with some fantastic violin / string work from Coen Strouken. The additional color really brings the music to life and provides a more organic sound to the flamenco prog metal soup. “Let Us Dance” features a tasty piano solo from Daniel Levy from Unprocessed as well. The track ends with an absolutely ridiculous slide riff from Charlie that simply must be heard to believe. He really throws the kitchen sink at the listener and this is just track one.
The flamenco guitar work stays on point for the next track ‘Split‘ that also incorporates another nice facet of Charlie‘s playing that is his rhythmic, thump based playing. The juxtaposition of the flamenco and Abasi like thumping is a real standout. This is progressive guitar that demands…no… commands your attention. The music moves swiftly and effortlessly through the various movements but at no time ever feels disjointed. As a listener, it’s like you are mainlining these creative riffs directly out of his brain. And there are so many of them that it just does not seem fair.
‘Up & Down’ has a heavy Artificial Language feel and contains an infectious melody that cascades and soars through the song’s multiple passages. Similar to Scale the Summit, Syncatto could be classified as adventure metal. Never content to stay in one place, the music is always climbing and exploring different worlds while avoiding the dark, minor feel that is the standard trope for most heavy music.
‘Get It!‘ brings the flamenco guitar back to the forefront and allows the music to really find a groove. Time even shifts a bit as the rhythm seems to ebb and flow through the track. It’s worth noting again the absolute leaps and bounds Charlie has made as a guitarist over the past few years. “A Place to Breathe” is a release that puts him up with the current giants of the prog metal instrumentalists such as Plini, Intervals and Scale the Summit. Syncatto should absolutely be included in the same conversation as those giants of the genre.
“Red Velvet” features more sublime violin from Coen Strouken. Here Charlie pits a sprawling Spanish riff against a staccato, djent riff. “Red Velvet” flows directly in to “Ocean Grip” and features some prime riffing that Charlie is known for with manic sweeps and runs. Several guest soloists are featured throughout the album including Lucas Moscardini from Odeon on this track as well as a lovely sax solo from Ryan Yamaoka. The guest spots really help to bring Syncatto to a full band feel that this genre hopping music deserves.
The battle between the flamenco and djent guitar wages to it’s glorious conclusion in the final track, “Mobius.” “Mobius” is likely the heaviest track in the collection and features some of Charlie’s best rhythmic work on the album.
Another notable aspect of this release is the production. The music here has a lot of bite, diversity and such an organic presence. “A Place to Breathe” is a truly fresh and innovative collection of guitar based music that is not afraid to leap boundaries. If you have any interest in progressive guitar, you definitely should check out this release.
Released by: Independent
Released on: June 25th, 2021
- Charlie Robbins
“A Place To Breathe” Track-listing:
- Let Us Dance
- Up & Down
- Get It!
- Red Velvet
- Ocean Grip
The latest Syncatto release, "A Place to Breathe," is a glorious collision of flamenco, djent and progressive guitar insanity that brings a truly fresh and innovative approach to the progressive genre.