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Joe Stump - Diabolical Ferocity

Joe Stump
Diabolical Ferocity
by Ian Yera at 17 December 2021, 2:38 PM

It's been a long month for this reviewer and I've had some… different stuff on my review plate. I didn't immediately recognize the name Joe Stump, but when I saw the cover art I was like "oh yeah the neoclassical shred in a traditional metal context guy". Now granted there are many names that fit that description these days and the more obvious example of that style is Yngwie Malmsteen, but I'm going to be honest I haven't listened to a new Yngwie album in several years. I mostly recognized it because of the artwork and cover font. Joe Stump may be playing in something of a tired genre, or trope whatever you want to call this sort of neoclassical shredding style, but he's got the three most important things you need in this style. He's got good hooks without vocals, He's a really good guitar player and seemingly a good improviser (hard to know from studio work), but most of all he's got good production values and a solid engineer crafting his music. It's not that I don't like this style, but it's very hit and miss for me, not to mention it can be very samey and repetitive, especially when artists dip into the same tired tropes played out by Yingwe and a million other talented guitar players.

Okay so right away the riffs smack you in the face and the mix gives them plenty of room. The drums sound really tight and really just kudos to the sound engineer because they kind of did everything right. It's the right balance of wet and dry, it has a little bit of that raw sound that gives it a 90s vibe and like I said the drums sound really good which is usually the hardest part of mixing and mastering. So yeah, a really good job on that front. The riffs are melodic and tasty, but the whole thing is set at a pace that just maintains a great momentum. This is a great way to combine European and American styles of heavy metal by the way. Neoclassical Metal will always sound European by default (duh), but the raw sound of the guitars and the layers underneath the guitars remind me more of USPM. Also anything with an organ in it will automatically peak my interest. I think generally the pacing of the songs is what keeps this interesting, there are faster songs and slower songs, but each song individually has a nice arc with a variety of tempos in many cases and a good mix of fast shred, typical power metal moments and excellent solos/bridges. Joe Stump certainly isn't reinventing the wheel or anything, but he's using the tropes of the genre to make something that is both generic and really good. Tropes aren't always a bad thing, a good songwriter can take tropes and make something special with them and I think that's what Joe is doing here.

Throughout the album I was expecting the album to lose my interest. As an example, “King of the Underworld” is centered around a really boring riff, despite probably being my least favorite song on the album the breakdowns and solos are enough to keep it from being a net negative. What I’m trying to say is that even when Stump indulges in my least favorite aspects of the genre, he’s talented and creative enough to keep his music interesting. Then of course we get songs like “The Snake Charmer” which is longer and more complex (and centers around a phrygian scale) which has both mid tempo parts and speedier parts. The guitar solos are a little more style focused and tasteful rather than mindless shredding which is a nice change of pace in an album that could have been nothing but mindless shredding. Speaking of that kind of speedy mindless shredding, songs like “Burn it Down” and “Sneak Attack” fill that niche wonderfully. Actually “Die by the Sword” is probably the biggest offender in the mindless shred aspect, but your enjoyment of this will obviously hinge on how much you enjoy neoclassical guitar playing, and how much you enjoy Baroque music. As a lover of Baroque music I’ve always been a fan of the neoclassical shred genre of heavy metal. Luca Turilli was my first exposure to that sort of guitar style, but then I stayed for Michael Romeo. I suppose that’s as good a segway as any; bands like Rhapsody of Fire and Symphony X take that kind of shredding and construct actual songs and melodies around the sublime technicality of the playing. Stuff like this is fun, and I actually do see myself revisiting this album again, it just never quite elevates beyond fun to me. I enjoy what Joe Stump is doing here and I like how he’s indulging in a very well trodden style of music and pulling it off with aplomb, but it would take a lot more for this to reach greatness. Nevertheless, thank you for surprising me Joe Stump, as a critic I always like to be surprised and pleasantly so in this case. I look forward to Joe’s future output.
Songwriting: 7/10
Musicianship: 10/10
Memorability: 7/10
Production: 8/10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1 Ignition
2. Burn it Down
3. King of the Underworld
4. The Snake Charmer's Fate
5. Nacht JS Bach
6. Sneak Attack
7. Die by the Sword
8. Viking Pillage
9. Maximum Damage
10. Forever Moore
Lineup:
Francisco Palomo - Keyboards & Drum Programming
Joe Stump - Songwriting, Guitars
Record Label: Lion Music
     


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