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Neal Wakefield - Living Shapes Award winner

Neal Wakefield
Living Shapes
by Daniel Fox at 26 December 2013, 10:55 PM

When a guitarist of the caliber of Tom Hess (RHAPSODY OF FIRE) is your mentor, it is hard to imagine you would not walk away from those lessons without a tremendous gift. Young guitarist Neal Wakefield recently released his full length album which, in length, is more like an extended EP (forgive the redundancy). Aside from directly learning under Hess, influences such as Satriani, Vai and Petrucci are sure to instil some wickedly intense lust for instrumental perfection. In terms of guitar work, that is essentially what this album is.

Properly a Progressive Metal track, "Vivid Shadows" takes one aback with an infectiously catchy, yet melodic and rhythmically complicated riff – the kind one would only find in Progressive Metal. The vocals sound like a strange mix of Dave Mustaine and James LaBrie. I did say strange. But it damn sure works. But, let's face it, the subject of this album is to showcase the virtuosic work of Neal's guitar playing; the leads sing their own lyrics. "Silky Road" is a mellow and breezy piece that sounds like it came straight off SEVENTH WONDER'S "Mercy Falls". Under 3 minutes, it is short and sweet, but all the way progressive and intensely and intelligently melodic; in essence, a 2:50 minute guitar solo. That is, by the way, not at all a criticism. "Digital Minds" was rightly chosen as the album's single for its rich catchiness in the vocal and guitar melodies, and the subtle, yet rhythmically complicated riffs that lay the foundations.

"The Ride" begins with a short, eerie voiceover, and a groovy, delicious bass riff much like that in MUSE's "Hysteria", who's framework sets the majority of the arrangement for the entire song, which as a whole is, interestingly, quite bass and groove oriented; a nice, and for some, welcome break from the guitar-dominated-proggy goodness heard previously. "Light Song" comes across as deceptively more mellow, with a lighter air about the intro, but the progressive, melodic riffage makes a return, with a somewhat heavier, crunchier feel about it. "Nexus Point" appears to carry on this trend but adding an atmospheric flair to the mix, and a diverse range of subtle-yet effective melodic and rhythmic progressions. "Looking Glass" is completely different to the previous tracks, and therefore one of the standouts. Much more divergent from any form of metal, it feels a lot more like a variation on jazz; perhaps the Satriani influences are creeping through. At only two minutes long, it is, regardless, still a beautiful piece of guitar work.

My only criticism is that I wish the album was longer, because music like this is too good to come in small albums; each of the songs offer something unique and special. On the flipside, it's obviously a good thing that a listener would be left greedy. New talent Progressive Metal at its finest.

4 Star Rating

1. Vivid Shadows
2. Silky Road
3. Digital Mind
4. The Ride
5. Light Song
6. Nexus Point
7. Looking Glass
Neal Wakefield – Guitars
Seweryn Blasiak – Drums
Radek Tadel – Keyboards
MarQus - Vocals
Record Label: Independent


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