Michael Abdow – Heart Signal (Couch Cat Records)

Wednesday, 29th April 2020
Rating: 8.5/10

Following up the very impressive E.S.O. instrumental album, Michael Abdow on his fourth full-length Heart Signal continues to push his impressive blend of progressive, ambient, and eclectic influences through this material. Probably best known to our readers as the live touring guitarist for Fates Warning, his resume also includes work with acts like Frozen and Last Chance to Reason over the years. Assembling a stellar trio for this record with bassist Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, The Firm) and drummer Shawn Deneault (Santa Mamba), these eight tracks prove that instrumental music can be moving and memorable, appealing to a conventional music fan just as much as the seasoned, schooled musicians.

Boldly opening with a twelve-minute plus “Weight of the World”, the song includes everything from baby laughter to spacious guitar layers of an acoustic/electric variety, Tony executing his bass lines with progressive tact as the arrangement fluctuates between calmer, circular movements and slightly commercial sequences. Michael just knows where to put the proper phrasing and faster picking maneuvers in the song, his lead break between 4:10-5:10 riveting while otherwise using specific effects to create this interstellar experience right after. Those who love some eclectic progressive blends with a lot of Fates Warning-esque aspects should enjoy tracks like “We Live Here” and “The Hand That Takes”, where you can hear additional nuances of jazz, Latin, and djent interplay depending on the direction the three-piece takes. The serene, softer feel of “Cherry Blossom Descent” gives Franklin and Deneault white space to free float their obvious groove and intricate prowess at their respective instruments – a tip of the cap for Michael as he doesn’t want this record to merely be a guitar virtuoso fest. Dream Theater/ Rush fans will love the shorter, intense “Synthetic Origins” – and the closer “Nature of Play” lives up to its namesake, the trio dancing around all sorts of genres and decades of progressive rock/metal.

Considering the wide scope of instrumental music back on the landscape for rock, metal, or otherwise – Heart Signal is another record to invest in, because Michael Abdow wants to provide his listeners with solid songs that contain enough melody and hooks beyond the obvious progressive nature of the compositions.

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