The latest solo album by ex-Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis is that wonderful thing – a guitar album that isn’t just warp-speed flurries of notes, technically brilliant but emotionally disconnected. What Loomis has done, together with a remarkable roster of guest artists, is to produce an album that will appeal to musicians and non-musicians alike; a collection of heavy (and not so heavy) songs that together constitute a remarkable work.
It kicks off in suitably heavy style with a thundering riff and double kick drumming, before the soaring mid-section and sitar-like interlude make clear why the first song is called “Mercurial”, and really serves as a statement of intent for the rest of the album. Loomis is interested in technique, tone and structure, each song revealing more and more of his interests and abilities. This is a release which rewards multiple listens, with the intricacy of some compositions needing time to really sink in.
The variation of styles is big; in fact, it’s so great that initially some songs might cause the listener to think they have somehow happened upon a different album altogether. The contrast between the super fast technical prowess of “Escape Velocity”, the claustrophobic, heavy “Surrender” and the atmospheric, emotional sound of “Chosen Time” is certainly surprising. Perhaps it won’t be quite so surprising to anyone familiar with Nevermore, and it definitely isn’t a bad thing. Despite this being a solo album, Loomis clearly has a vision far beyond his own fret board. The clue is in the song titles – “Mercurial”, “Tragedy” and “Harmony”, “Continuum Drift”; each expresses something about the musical content.
The breadth of musical creativity is perfectly encapsulated by the aforementioned “Continuum Drift”, an ever-changing soundscape combining melody, mood and tempo changes with more technique than you can shake a stick at. Loomis fires your intellect and your emotions.
Underpinning it all is the stellar musicianship of everyone involved and particularly Loomis himself. Whatever the song, he leaves the listener in no doubt just how good he is. If you love the guitar you will love this album.