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) (last update 5/23/2017)

February 5, 2013

Allan Holdsworth With I.O.U. ~ Metal Fatigue

(Click on heading to visit official website)
Style: rock, jazz-rock, British
Label: Enigma Records
Year: 1985
Home: California

Members: Allen Holdworth ~ guitar
Gary Willis, Jimmy Johnson ~ bass
Paul Korda, Paul Williams ~ vocals
Alan Paqua ~ keyboards
Chad Wackerman, Mac Hive, Gary Husband ~ drums

I'm not a great guitar player by any means ... I can hold down a basic rhythm though ... but I know enough to have an understand of what a guitarist is doing. Which is why I have often enjoyed Steve Howe's playing particularly in Yes. I don't know what he's always doing & it's certainly not predictable. I feel the same with Steve Vai. What is he doing? What's going on here? Where are those notes coming from? Now comes AH. I have no clue here. This guitarist is out there. & it's not like he's a speed freak whose just playing faster than my ears can catch it all, far from it. I remember reading interviews with guitarist Rev. Kriss Hades of Australia's Sadistik Exekution, a true speed freak who is the bridge between Venom & the Norwegian death metal scene, whose always citing AH as an inspiration. I know what some of you reading might be saying: you mean that guy in Bruford? Is that who AH is? If all you know is Bruford, & I'll confess that's what I knew AH through first, then do yourself a favor & pick up Metal Fatigue. You will drop everything once you hit play. Trust me ... I did, actually, I was in the kitchen eating but luckily not cooking. Is this what they call art rock or math metal? No, but AH is a grandfather with his pallette of unorthodox & seldom heard scales. Actually, in some ways I'm reminded of Gabriel era Genesis, particularly on the few vocal tracks. Early Genesis also had experimental guitar voicings but this is far more rock than 70's prog. There's also an almost synth sounding bass creating a Dire Staits-esque 80's foundation by AH's plethora of awkward chord voicings. It's got the prog roots but isn't prog. This is like no guitar album you may have heard. Air guitar to this album brings the art of invisible six strings to a new level. I found myself imagining what his hands were looking like as they moved across the fretboard. It's a mere six songs, but the creativity more than makes up for the small number & the songs are on the longer side. At times this sounds more like a soundtrack, other times it's a guitarist's album. For fans of Bill Frisell, Steve Hackett, Jeff Beck & Steve Howe, & others that don't immediately come to mind, as these are very individual players who craft similiar genre sounding & note bending albums that don't fall into a neat little commercial rock or a in your face guitar rock mold. But, one thing is clear - it's sad that AH doesn't get more recognition. You really need to check this album out & change this trend. I've not listened to any other solo albums, so I can't speak about them in comparison. But, if this is all I or you ever hear it will be enough. As it is, it's known as a landmark release for AH, so my audio instincts are correct as how great this is. There's only two weaks parts that need mentioning. The vocals are fine but not that interesting. They provide texture but one wonders if maybe just an instrumental album would be a better route, considering half the songs already are. While "The Un-Merry-Go-Round" is a overly lengthly ballad of fourteen minutes, in cassette form this is one of two songs on Side B for those in the musical nostalgia group, & is slow & obviously long & not lacking the diversity you might expect from such a long piece ... but every album needs a ballad, at least there's just one of them here. In closing, I have to do something I never do, or with great infrequently, & that is quote wikipedia. It's description of AH playing, if I haven't sold you yet, should seal the deal on what make AH's sound a must hear: "He has a distinctive playing style that involves a strong scalar sense, combining elements of jazz & progressive rock. The harmonic structure of his pieces can be highly abstruse, with frequently shifting tonal centres, & his soloing follows from a self-taught advanced modal framework derived directly from his unusually voiced chords. His phrasing almost always features striking yet subtle transitions between notes that often work contrary to the listener's expectations of consonance & dissonance, with wide & unpredictable intervallic leaps. In his solos he predominantly uses various legato techniques such as slides, hammer-ons & pull-offs (the latter being a personalised method which works more akin to a 'reversed' hammer-on); all of which result in an extremely fluid lead sound."

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