Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Arqum Iqbal ~ H&Q Featuring Arqum Iqbal

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: heavy metal, british, prog metal
Label: Imperial Suqre Music Studios
Year: 2011
Home: California

Members: Arqum Iqbal ~ guitar
Joe Rullo ~ drums


British born guitarist AI has previously released an album called Controlled Chaos. Sadly, chaos seems to be a key into how he presents himself & his music ... which impacts how I do my work & represent his music to my readers. The problem is that this review ends up becoming more of an education on what not to do & less of an endorsement. This sometimes happens as I follow the rule of first impressions as a guide post on what I free form. For a guitarist who blogs regularly about the recording process of H&Q Feat AI, particularly the single "Destroyer" which oddly belongs to the aforementioned album, there's a general lack of information on his website & on the album itself, such as who plays on it or even that one of the songs is a cover of the Sex Pistols. With legal royalty requirements as they are one expects at least songwriting credits to concerned parties. Though, nobody gets any songwriting credits here in AI's chaos, so there might be other covers I'm not familiar with. Yeah, it reads that AI was born in England, is inspired by Joe Satriani & Steve Vai - though you won't hear anything like either of them from the fingers of AI & what guitarist isn't on some level - & has put out numerous solo albums, but no where will you find the name of who is singing on this album & the drummer only gets mentioned in some blog photos by first name, while AI's own biography isn't even updated to include any mention of this new release ... though it does share both the unneeded original album cover art & the final far cooler version. Further, the name of the album itself is confusing. Is this an AI solo album or is it a new band called H&Q, that seems to be duo not a band, with the name of the album being Feat AI? Or, is H&Q Feat AI the name of the album, in which case who puts their own name as "featured" on an album & leaves off the name of the artist? Okay, the New Yardbirds released their first album with only the name of the album Led Zeppelin printed on it, but that was a mistake & it's not like it was Led Zeppelin Feat The New Yardbirds. Just look at the cover art here to see if you don't agree that it looks as if H&Q is the name of the band & Feat AI the name of the album, even though from what I can gather this is an AI solo album. What's more confusing is that "H&Q" is a song on Controlled Chaos ... right next to "Destroyer". Controlled chaos is the self-fullfilling prophecy here ... leading me to yet again recommend that some musicians not do everything themselves. I intend to best represent musicians on this blog. I avoid outright ripping artists apart on this blog, which some music critics love to do to show off their literary prowess to some nameless editor out there. I publish my own books & am here to share music that is different & interesting, not show off. I don't even care if this is my best writing. It's about the artist not me. Though, I do have things I look for in a band. Not everything gets written about. Some bands aren't interesting & others just don't interest me. If I can't say something positive to balance the negative I won't write, unless being shit is the goal of the band. Other times, like now, I find myself being more detrimental than I prefer to be & it hurts me to do so, but I feel there's such a thing as an educational reviewer. Learn from the mistakes of others & let me show you what this third party is seeing. I'm happy you think your music is the greatest on earth, but remember every band says that. That means nothing to me & neither does it mean anything to most reviewers so I'm not looking at your PR. I could whitewash over the mistakes that pop out at me, but that does nothing for the listener who may feel I've given a bad recommendation, nor does it do anything for fellow musicians reading this. I should ignore one's website, but when the CD was sent with no one-sheet or letter & doesn't have a lot of information I have no place else to go. I give my apologies alongside my philosophy. Those who read these reviews know that I research a bit of my artists & share additional information in my reviews to paint a better or bigger context. Sometimes I think it's important, sometimes its not. Yes, I can probably write to AI looking for some clarification, but how many people on itunes are going to write asking who is who? None. Some won't care, but more often than not if you hear a singer on an album you like you want to know who it is, or maybe you want to get into your favorite guitarist & find out more about their recording output. I should be able to find all this out without any strenuous research. Yeah, yeah, it's all about marketing. It has nothing to do with music. I know, I'm a musician myself outside of a businessman & reviewer. & no blogging doesn't fulfill all marketing goals ... it's just one PR tool. I know that updating a website takes time. I often get behind on mine, but I often go through it making sure it's accurate & has all the information everyone needs in addition to advertising all my stuff. Let alone, I'm also adamant about giving credit where it's due & I pay all royalties. That overly winded diatribe being said its about time I talk about the music ... but at least we should all be ont he same page now. I'm sorry, but I return again to chaos. A little more control would be helpful. Here I mean the word control in terms of focus. The best part of the album is not that which I expect AI wants the listener to focus on, while the distractions are what he says is his forte. I mean, the best part of the album is the unnamed vocalist while the least interesting is the guitar playing. Maybe they are both AI. I don't know. I can't find any pictures on the blog of a vocalist so it must be AI. Inspiration Steve Vai is amazing for his emotional prowess on the guitar. It cries, sings & haunts. It doesn't just riff, riff, riff. It's about emotion not a flurry of wild notes. AI seems to follow the belief that a flurry of notes is enjoyable. It's really not. A riff may make a song's foundatoin, but a feeling behind the riff makes the song something special. Most great riffs, whoever the band, that have gone down in history have an emotion behind them. Anyone can fly on the fretboard with practice, but I'm reminded of former guitar teacher Al Pitrelli who often said make it melodic. AI also counts Marty Friedman, Al's predecessor in Megadeth, as an inspiration. AI is as angular as Marty, but Megadeth also has powerhouse difficult rhythms that are missing here. While lacking in texture AI also has no subtlety. He's just plays without direction trying to showoff. The guitar is often thrust upon the songs instead of driving it. Perhaps this is predicted in the opener "Holidays In The Sun" by the Sex Pistols. I'll confess I'm not a fan of the Sex Pistols & don't even know most of their stuff, but this sounded so much like them I looked it up & discovered it is actually their song. I'm glad I did as my original draft of this blog mentioned how he sounds like that. How embarressing that would be for me!Here it's sans the sloppiness with lots of wild guitar, but what guitarist wants to show off by covering a band not known for its instrumental prowess? Few musicians have covered the Sex Pistols with any real success in my book. Sadly, the best part of this song is the singer, which reminds me of a rougher Jon Oliva making it better than the Sex Pistols could ever sound. Overall, the highlight of the album is the vocals without doubt. More than a few songs actually sound like Jon Oliva's Savatage during its primal days Sirens days (for example, "Into The Fire"). The two highlights of the album are the acoustic "Right Direction" & the similiar "Tired Scene". The solos are taken on acoustic guitar, which, due to the nature of the instrument, reign in AI's excess & provide some missing focus let alone being really cool. The overdubbed electric solos later in the songs pale in comparison. Check out the brief disjointed acoustic solo at the beginning "Tired Scene" for example, compared to the ending electric solo with more than its share of awkward notes. I would have done the whole album like this, but at this point I've already given too much advice for anyone's good.



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