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Michael Abdow - Heart Signal Award winner

Michael Abdow
Heart Signal
by Mark Machlay at 19 May 2020, 4:22 AM

Michael Abdow is most notably known for his work with progressive metal group FATES WARNING and Ray Alder’s solo work. He is an American born guitarist with a style that can be described as a melting pot of traditional and modern progressive elements while emphasizing melodic songwriting through virtuosic intensity. He has spent over a decade gigging heavily in the club scene of the American northwest and has had toured internationally with previous mentioned acts. As a well-seasoned session/gigging musician, he has become well versed in the various jazz, rock and metal styles of the modern variety and is highly regarded for his soulful character and absolutely monstrous technical capabilities. He has been set through his paces, wearing various hats as a sideman, studio musician, collaborator and band leader.

On Abdow’s most recent release, “Heart Signals”, he aimed to create moments in each piece that holds the listener’s attention and attempts to illicit an emotional response – as the title suggests. He admits, “it’s my deepest dive yet into these elements and what I imagine in an instrumental progressive album.” With the addition of Tony Franklin playing fretless bass, it really gives his fourth solo record a good amount of depth and meat in the mix, a welcome change from the mix of his previous efforts. Tracks run a wide range of moods and feels from the technically jaw-dropping “Heavy Drifter” featuring an amazingly clean tapped intro, the proggier “Nature of Play” with its odd-time, discombobulating riffs, and the more poignant “Cherry Blossom Descent” that sits in the more emotional piano and clean guitar area but still has a decent amount of drive delivered by the bass and drums.

Technically proficient progressive instrumental music is on full display on this gem. This is an album you sit, listen to the whole way through and experience. Some pieces contain recurring melodic or rhythmic texture, but the journey and emotion is more influential and motivated than a hard and fast structure. Sometimes you’ll sit in a TOOL-like groove and rock out with some fast shred licks. Other times the keyboard and clean guitar leads will improvise over a simple rhythm that drips with emotion and longing. Personally, I prefer my instrumental prog to be more structured but the title of the collection begs for the musician and listener to “stop and smell the roses” so to speak and evoke passion and emotion. In the style of romantic composer’s exploration and discovery into feelings, this could be seen as a contemporary of a Chopin or Brahms. Heavy in skill with composition written to show that, this release proves true progressive exploration is not dead and thankfully so. While this may not get as many spins as more structured guitarists such as John Petrucci or Joe Satriani, when I feel in a Steve Vai, Buckethead or even David Gilmour mood, I will probably find myself reaching and longing for more excellent music from Michael Abdow.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Weight of the World
2. Heart Signal
3. We Live Here
4. Heavy Drifter
5. The Hand That Takes
6. Cherry Blossom Descent
7. Synthetic Origins
8. Nature of Play
Michael Abdow - Guitar, Bass, Keys
Tony Franklin - Fretless Bass
Shawn Deneault - Drums
Record Label: Couch Cat Records


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