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Angel Vivaldi - Synapse

Angel Vivaldi
Synapse
by James Peterson at 05 December 2017, 7:45 AM

I’ve been familiar with ANGEL VIVALDI’s presence in the music scene since one of my ex boyfriends (who I recall was really into tasteful guitar playing and composing like I am) introduced me to him a few years back. I admittedly hadn’t delved into a full release of his since then (I’ve loved songs here and there), but I’m really glad I gave myself the chance to here. Throughout this album you’ll find the following musical elements in spades: tasteful shred galore, melodeathy riffs and hard-edged grooves, atmospheric layering, emotional melodies and harmonies, and impeccable playing technique that serves the songs. This certainly isn’t a “wank” record, but let’s keep diving into analyzing what it is as opposed to isn’t for each song on here.

Starting off the record is the track “Adrenaline,” and already (as any solo guitarist album would) it wastes no time in showcasing some pretty dank shred licks over driving skank beats. The aforementioned melodeathy riffs also start to show up in this song, and there’s a very nice triplet based hook to be found here over an enjoyable chord progression. An atmosphere akin to what you might find in an OMNIUM GATHERUM or post-2000s era DARK TRANQUILLITY song sets the tone of the following song “G.A.B.A.” and continues throughout. The solo just past the middle is filled with a ton of emotive character and the song ends on a really infectious groove.

The chord tonality that opens “Serotonin” was one that I found instantly grabbed my attention, and many chords throughout the meat of the song express the kinds of moods you would hear in a post rock song. It definitely is a more rock-driven piece, which can also be said of “Adenosine" (though in that one Angel manages to make his leads emulate the feel of symphonic strings for some stretches, with other moments bringing to mind the work of a band such as ANIMALS AS LEADERS). The name of the song evokes in the listener thinking about the things that serotonin influences in the functionality of a person, and the music mirrors this quite well. It also wasn’t until I got to a bit past this point on the album that I realized every song on the album centers around the concept of neurotransmission, and this made me even further appreciate that every song on this album has at least a little something to offer on it’s own, whilst the record as a whole is very cohesive. Especially for given that “Synapse" has to tell its story only through music and without lyrics. It certainly achieves this. However, it does lean a bit more towards the cohesive side, and a lot of moments blend together and moments that really stick out and are exceptionally memorable are a bit on the rarer side but still present.

“Dopamine” hits you right in the gut with its very up-tempo grooves and warm keyboard lines. This song really brings a sense of excitement, and I love the way the leads and rhythm lines interplay off one another, as well as how the hard panned left and right leads harmonize after a particularly stellar solo. “Endorphin” and “Oxytocin” follow in much the same fashion in terms of level of intensity of the music, with the most particularly noteworthy part of the former being the hook that comes in at the middle and the end. Easily one of the strongest moments on the record. I love the way the latter starts off with held out power chords while the keys and drums overlay this with 16th note flurries before the song settles into a great groove (like many of the other songs on here do), and building back in intensity to a very claustrophobic climax. Being a song about the hormone responsible for bonding and familial love, the arc of the piece really makes sense. This one is also more on the poly-metric side than a number of the preceding songs though, which is great if you’re a colossal fan of late but great (that’s an understatement… more like the best that ever existed) bands like XERATH or MEANS END like I am.

Those aforementioned two bands also have pretty heavy, clear and loud mix and master jobs, and the same can be said for this “Synapse” album from Angel. Given that he makes these albums himself, and the fact that I have a pretty good ear for detecting the presence of a drum machine vs. a real drummer in my years of listening to records, I have to say it sounds like he’s using the former here. Which is fine considering these are solo efforts, so I can ignore my usual qualm with drum machines in general which is that all the hits will sound the same. It sounds like extra unnecessary compression was added to further this though, which I’m not too keen on. The guitars sound great, though, and have a bright cutting quality to them, along with the razor sharp tone of the synth lines that occasionally pop in and out to play tasteful arpeggiated sequences all over the record.

In conclusion I have to say that while I did really enjoy this album all the way through, I wouldn’t say it compares to what I believe to be what I consider the best solo guitar album (and one of the best albums in general I’ve ever heard) “Hollowed-Out Planetoid” by JOSH MIDDLETON PROJECT… a project that oddly shares the same initials as me. But then the title track to “Synapse” came on and completely reminded me of the sound on that Josh album and blew me away. The atmosphere and emotions Angel is able to convey here in this last song make it sound like he worked with Josh to write this song, even though I’m obviously sure he didn’t. It’s got some of those great atmospheric and ANIMALS AS LEADERS-esque ideas in it as well. You can check it out below, and I’d definitely say the fitting rating to give is a light 8 on this thing.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Adrenaline
2. G.A.B.A.
3. Serotonin
4. Dopamine
5. Endorphin
6. Oxytocin
7. Adenosine
8. Noradrenaline
9. Synapse
Lineup:
Angel Vivaldi - Everything
Record Label: Seek and Strike Records
     


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