Style: prog-metal, instrumental
Home: Seattle, Washington
Members: Matthew Meadows ~ all instruments
When I first met MM he was promoting his debut album Etherati, an expressive step into largely instrumental solo guitar rock music coming out of a background of classical dance & computer programming & hacking it out with modest bands that was just as much about going through changes in his own life & personal self-discovery as it was about making music or entertaining others. I can modestly take some credit of being one of the first music folks to give him some personal one-on-one support & advice, for no real reason other than I liked his attitude when he sent his CD to me to review ... & sometimes the name of the biz is reaching out to help just because you want to & not because of status, income or particularly arrogance. It came at a moment when MM was burned psychologically & financially by flashy music PR companies that solicit a lot of money to return less than fancy rejection letters. I also threw to him the label that his music was metal & not some guitar fusion hybrid he'd been calling it ... the adoption of the middle ground moniker 'metal-ish' marking the beginning of an upswing in finding new listeners & getting the attention he'd been seeking. I'd later have MM on my rock interviews podcast to share his story & in turn help other musicians paying it forward. Now, over a year later, as MM has delved into new musical territories including the land of soundtracks, I finally sit down & review his album as I once intentioned. I'm slow but I get there. Patience wins the race they say. Of course, every time I review an album by someone I have a personal connection with I find myself on a very very skinny tightrobe that's both brought accolades & overly harsh criticism. If I say a good thing about the album readers say I'm pandering to a friend & not being honest ... if I say bad then I'm being overly mean to show my arrogance. A few great readers know that I take the same fair approach I do to all my reviews. That being said, MM's Etherati, even in light of the music he's created since & our across country friendship, is a great little debut. Other reviews online will echo my honesty. I read a band interview the other day who said there's no new music. There's only so many chords, scales, ways of playing & song structure. On some level I believe this ... thus, for me, it often comes down to feeling. Is the musician giving me something more than notes in a can but actually a part of their personality? Can I hear a vision? MM eschews traditional riffage for an atmospheric solo guitar trek, based on bedroom improvisations turned into songs, that are certainly his own vision & personality. The mysteriously named Etherati opens with a simple handdrum & tinkling chimes in the distance before a heavily echoed guitar drones softly like a camel through the Egyptian desert. Eventually the traditional guitar attack takes over the battlefield with duel driving riffs, a simple electronic beat & MM intoning about seeing a mysterious irresistable mistress. "The Mistress" & the four songs that follow tend to have a sparse feeling generally ... or, they have all the normal traits & feels of a metal song but yet there's an element here that isn't about headbanging. It's like if Leonard Cohen went from crooning to rocking out onstage. His audience isn't about to go hair waving & fist pounding crazy but is probably more likely, after the initial burst of excitement, to be in hypnotic silence of interest at the edge of the seat to get a closer look & listen. MM welcomes us to meditate with him & not just rock out as his guitars weave in & out unconventionally creating a pallette of sound that is more than just solo after solo. While MM's playing might have been compared by some critics to Yngwie Malmsteen, potentially due to some of the fast runs (i.e. "Falling") though for me he's actually much more like Steve Vai who tends to put emotion over technique, this is not a showcase guitar album. This is not a 'look what I can do really fast' album. Yes, this is a showcase album on some level as the songs do cover a range of styles going from ethnic feeling ballad (i.e. "Falling") to lullaby (i.e. "Circles") to riffing rock (i.e. "The Turk", "Gravity"). The album also include instrumentals & two vocals (i.e. "Falling", "The Mistress"). MM isn't the strongest singer with a bit of a thin voice, while the vocals pull some of the focus away from the guitar creating more of a rhythm/solo/rhythm approach than the instrumentals. But, in his showcase moment MM isn't trying to be the next guitar hero with Whirling Dirvish technique & showmanship ... this is quite a humble release over all from his soft textures that lay as the foundation of the fast riffing to even the sparse packaging. MM is drawing on the story telling experience as his years as a professional classical dancer to paint a story through guitar rock of where his life over the year & a half it took to create this EP. He gives us some wild moments but also some mystical lyrical journeys creating an end result that feels like so much more than just a typical rock album. As I friend I say check it out but as a critic I can honestly say the same thing.
(featured on the Roman Midnight Music CD Reviews & Interviews podcast: episode 20 "Interview: Matthew Meadows," June 2011, click here to listen)